Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Game #45

What Losing Streak? Habs Win on the Island

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday January 15th, 2008
Opponent: New York Islanders
Venue: Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-1 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Rick DiPietro (L)

Habs goalscorers: Tomas Plekanec (2), Alexei Kovalev
Opposition goalscorers: Richard Park

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 Period in which we only conceded 1 shot of the season (1st)
1st Game in which we only had 1 penalty against us (2 PIM)

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

Early in the second period, with the score at 1-0 the Islanders were on the verge of getting right back in the game. We were on the PK and the Isles PP was working the puck around really well tiring our penalty-killers out as they couldn't get off the ice. The Islanders had two fabulous chances on this PP, both within about a second of each other, but somehow Huet was able to make successive great saves and keep the puck out of the net. Seconds later we went and scored a shorthanded goal courtesy of Plekanec. Huet gave the Habs the chance to go up by two rather than having New York tie it up at one.

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

Cristobal Huet

He may not have been hounded with too many shots all night, but don't let the total number of shots fool you into thinking that New York didn't have their chances. Despite a meager sum of 18 shots the Islanders actually managed a fair number of quality scoring chances and it was Huet who refused to letthem get into the game at all.

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)...


Tomas Plekanec
- It was a big game for Tomas, he had 2 goals and ended +3. He has been on fire during the Habs latest winning stretch and is a big reason for the Habs' and Kovalev's success. All aspects of his game looked great tonight, he was even effective in the face-off circle again

Bryan Smolinski
- This was Bryan's best game (of 3) since coming back from injury. He showed that he is actually an offensive centre with some talent to show for himself. It was quite obvious tonight that his speed is not what it once was, but all game I noticed that he still has great vision and can still make a great pass

Alexei Kovalev
- Alex played a great game bagging yet another 2 points and he also finished an impressive +3. This wasn't a game I felt he dominated, but he was still a big reason we won. It is nice when a player doen't need to play too much above his average to have a huge impact on the game. He was pretty much on for our entire PK and along with Plekanec he was highly effective


Mike Komisarek
- Mike played a great defensive game tonight. He wasn't called upon to shutdown one or two superstars (because New York doesn't have any), but instead basically shutdown the entire Islander offence. Whenever Mike was on the ice the Isles didn't look threatening. He also excelled in his two favorite areas again - shot blocks and hits

Francis Bouillon
- Bou had another great game playing alongside the young Josh Gorges. He played the man very well tonight and only threw his weight around when he had to. He is very good at not getting caught out of position and although he may play a 'simple' game he sure plays an effective game on the blue-line


Cristobal Huet
- Huet was yet again one unlucky break away from a shutout. He was unable to control a rebound, which 9 times out of 10 would have been cleared away, that led to New York's only goal. His lateral movement and positioning tonight looked very sharp. I was actually quite surprised that he did let in a goal because his body language and focus had me believing he was unbeatable. The confidence he showed tonight allowed the team to do what they had to do for the win knowing that he would take care of the rest

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

The season continues. He now has 20 goals and 43 points, but more importantly has played good or better in almost all of the Canadiens' games this year. He made a smart play at the end of the game when he had a 3 - on - 1 with Pleks and Kostitsyn. The net was empty and he could have dropped the puck to Plekanec at the blue-line to give him a chance at the hat-trick, but instead he took it in and scored himself. Had he left it for Tom at the line it may not have been a sure goal and had the Isles gotten the puck it could have been a 5 - on - 2 the other way. Win first hat-tricks and shutouts second. The Habs have been playing smart hockey all year, thanks in big part to the constant attention to detail by #27.

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good

Overall Comments

This game was your typical Habs-Isles game - low-speed, low-excitement and low-scoring. The bottom line is that when we hold the Islanders to this self-imposed game-plan it often means 2 points for us. This is a team that has a hard time scoring and that was very obvious tonight. Their goaltending is solid, but is indeed quite beatable. If Huet outplays DiPietro in these games we can be confident that 2 points will be in the bag. There wasn't much rough stuff at all which for the Habs is never a bad thing. I view these games (especially when we score first) as games that we must spend as little energy as possible, grab the win, avoid giving them one point and quickly get out of town.

Latendresse gets more chances than any other Hab, but as we saw again tonight can't put in gimmes when it counts. He has had the luxury of quality passing for the past 3 weeks courtesy of his captain, but not finding the back of the net has cost him his job on the 1st line. In all, I am guessing he has missed 5-10 sure-bet goals over that time period, costing Saku that many sure-bet assists. The good news is though, Latendresse plays his best when on the third line as he has never been a pressure-driven player. Another piece of good news is that this now means that Higgins is back up with Saku, a move that will surely help both of those players in getting back on the scoresheet.

All I can think of when I think of last year's Habs are wasted opportunities. So far this year we have been seizing every chance we are given and we have ridden that good fortune all the way to 4th spot in the Eastern Conference (points-wise). We are only 1 point out of the second best record in the East and only 8 points behind perennial leaders Ottawa. Ottawa lost tonight, yet again, to Washington giving the Caps 4 wins in as many games against the cream of the East. That loss gives me hope; if a team like the Caps can beat Ottawa, does that mean we can? The 'New' NHL has allowed crazy things like that to happen which makes me wonder if something as crazy as the Habs winning the conference could happen? With 5 games left against Ottawa things could change in a hurry (in the other way too of course). At some point we are going to have to learn how to beat that team and I say better now than later. If this is truly a league where anything can happen then it is a league where we can win the East. It is also a league where we, with more or less the same team, can miss the playoffs by one point to New York. But, best of all, it also means that it is a league where we could win the cup. The first step is making the playoffs and we'll see what happens from there. All I know is that, as of now, we stand a very good chance of having that happen.

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