Thursday, January 10, 2008

Game #43

The Habs' Dominance in Boston Continues

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday January 10th, 2008
Opponent: Boston Bruins
Venue: TD Banknorth Arena, Boston, MA


Team Stripes


Final Score: 5-2 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Tim Thomas (L)

Habs goalscorers: Tomas Plekanec, Maxime Lapierre, Alexei Kovalev, Mathieu Dandenault (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Aaron Ward, Milan Lucic



2007/08 first
There's a first time for everything, so they say. What they didn't tell you is that every game, something happens for the first time, you just have to look harder in March...

1st Multiple Goal Game for Dandenault this season
1st Game Back From Injury for Bryan Smolinski (Missed 14 Games)
1st Shot on Net for Huet this season



Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

With the Habs up 2-0 in the third Komisarek made a play that surely saved us letting up a goal (or a 'chance en or') and won my pick for play of the game.

The Bruins were coming in on a routine 2 - on - 2 when Markov, on his pivot, wiped-out. This fall created a 2 - on - 1. Like we are told from childhood - 'leave the shot to the goalie and as the defender take away the pass' - Komi stopped the pass. When the player with the puck saw that Huet was giving him nothing on the shot he decided to pass it. At that moment Mike put himself into a ball and stopped what would have been an easy tap in. The timing of this potential goal could have hurt the Habs, instead the timing of Komi's great play worked in our favour, because instead of 2-1 Kovalev soon made it 3-0. Huet must be given much credit on this play too for taking away any chance the lead player had at a shot.



Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Mike Komisarek

Mike was fired up tonight and played one heck of a game. He blocked shots, made hits, took abuse from the Bruins and most of all prevented most chances before they became legitimate. If the league would ever recognize a defensive defenceman with any kind of award (as they claim they do) then Mike would have to get consideration this year. The people voting for such awards don't actually watch games they simply look at +/- and points and it is the latter category that will always hurt Komi. If these voters, the 'experts' of the league, were ever to watch a few games they would see that we may have one of the league's top defenceman (that plays defence) hidden beside the exceptional Andrei Markov.



Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...

Forwards

Alexei Kovalev
- Had a very good game in the offensive zone. At times looked a little sloppy, but seeing as this is highly abnormal and the fact that most other players on both teams also looked sloppy at times I'll blame the ice. Teams know to watch him on the PP, but no one actually does; actually I should revise that - all they do is watch him

Mathieu Dandenault
- His speed and hard work and good attitude after being benched last game all paid off for him and the team tonight. At the end when it looked like Boston may tie it up Mat put 2 goals in to squash any hope they had at a comeback

Mark Streit
- Streit made 2 absolutely fantastic passes tonight that both led to goals. He just may be the 4th best passer on the team behind the big 3 (Sak, Kovy, Markov). I suppose if you want to be a National Team Captain you have to be able to pass. Streit now has a whopping 28 points and is on pace for 53! Who would have thought after a very impressive 36 points last year he would out-do himself. Played well enough defensively, again, to have a top 4 spot on the team

Defencemen

Mike Komisarek
- The only weakness this player may have is offence, but with Markov at his side it is hard to tell, and frankly, it doesn't matter. The 07-08 version of Komisarek plays a mature, responsible game. There were times tonight where he could have gotten sucked in to a fight leading to 5, 10 maybe even a game of penalties. Last year's Komi may have done this (a la Rivet/Souray), but unlike having #44 or #52 gone for the game losing Komi for a significant portion of the match is a massive hindrance

Roman Hamrlik
- I particularly liked when he came to Saku's aid in a scrum. He even took a cheap-shot from Thornton (Boston's fighter), but didn't let it escalate. Didn't do much offensively this game, but played very well in his own end. Let's not forgot that he is back with the old Breezer and it takes a certain type of skill to finish a game in the + beside him (Hammer was +1)

Goaltender

Cristobal Huet
- He looked confidant and composed the whole night. He didn't face much serious action, but made saves when he had to. The 2 goals against him were both bad bounces, but like in the past few weeks he didn't let bad luck turn into a loss. Puck-handling was weak again tonight as he continues to struggle with the concept of 'STAY IN THE NET'



Eyes on Kovalev
Did he flit and float? Someone ought to keep track...

Tonight neither Kovalev nor his line stood out too much, but like good lines elsewhere they got the job done. The three players combined for 5 points on a night where I wouldn't say they were even our best all around line. That is what great players and lines can do for you - quietly win games. He has now surpassed last year's goal total and is creeping up on his 47 total points. With 39 games left I am quite happy to say he should have no problem having his best season as a Hab. This is a guy who wants to play another 1000 games - how does 13 years at 10 Mil / year sound?

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good



Overall Comments

The Habs have owned Boston since the lockout, and in a playoff series right before the lockout, and tonight was no different. Apart from a 15-25 minute period spanning the 2nd and 3rd periods the Habs were in complete control and played quite well. Like Topham always says, 'outplay the other team for 31+ minutes and you'll get the win', tonight there was no problem there. Our stats vs. Boston since the lockout are amazing, if that word even fits. In 21 games we are 17-4 and this season so far we are 5-0. Should we hope they get into the playoffs? I think so, I wouldn't mind facing them instead of Pittsburgh or NJ.

The Habs have now scored 135 goals in 43 games, that is 3.14 goals/game, good for third in the league behind only Ottawa and Detroit. Our defence isn't as impressive, but at 2.83 goals against/game (2.64 in our last 14 games) it is at least respectable. I have always thought with a cast of Huet, Markov, Streit, Komi and Hamrlik that defence would be what carries this team and I still believe we haven't seen the best yet. As long as we keep scoring a lot (7 straight games with 3+ goals) we may not need our D, but I am sure that down the stretch the 5 aforementioned players will be a big factor in our success. As for goals scored I couldn't be happier; we are scoring a lot and a lot of players are scoring. Does it matter that Ryder and Koivu don't have many goals if it means abnormally high totals for Kostitsyn and Latendresse? Not at all. Not everyone can have great years at the same time. As long as we are scoring, and more importantly winning, personal stats will not mean a thing.

The Eastern All-Star team will be announced tomorrow and I can't help but wonder if any Habs, other than Markov, will be added to the team. The league still uses the lame rule that each team needs a representative - sorry Huselius and Leclaire, hello Legace and Horcoff (the West roster was announced today). With only 21 spots available per conference pickings will certainly be slim. That means that there will be 6 players chosen from teams that already have a player. Regardless of this silly rule I thought I would take a look at the 2 Habs I think deserve to be there.

The first player is Cristobal Huet. He ranks 2nd in the East in Save% and 4th in GAA. Only Tim Thomas and Martin Brodeur (already selected) are in the top 6 in each of these categories so I believe Cristo deserves his shot. Look, however, for the NHL to choose either Lundqvist or DiPietro, along with Thomas, to save them from finding other 'All-Stars' on their respective teams.

Our other player that I think deserves strong consideration is Alex Kovalev. Numbers aside wouldn't you agree that he is one of the most exciting players in the league right now? His numbers are good and will be the only reason he gets consideration (as stupid as the Norris trophy voting), but even if his numbers were down I would say he should be there. His numbers, in this case, actually help my argument. He is 9th in the conference in goals (19) behind 8 sure bet All Stars; Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, Lecalvalier, Heatley, Alfredsson, Staal, Sundin and Jokinen. Kovalev also leads the league in PP points which, considering the league's promotion of and emphasis on the man-advantage, would be another great reason to have him there.

The Habs surely have 3 players that deserve to be at the most boring game of the year, but thanks to the league's rule I wouldn't expect anyone other than Markov to be in attendance at the annual 'NHL One Player Per Team Game'.

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