Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Game #64

Habs Get The First Win of The Price Era

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday February 26th, 2008
Opponent: Atlanta Thrashers
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 5-1 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Kari Lehtonen (L)

Habs goalscorers: Maxim Lapierre, Christopher Higgins (2), Andrei Markov, Sergei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Ilya Kovalchuk



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 Game without Huet in the organization since 2004
1st Multiple Goal Game for Higgins this year
1st Time in NHL history to have 3 Belarussians play for one team
1st Win in Regulation vs. Atlanta this season (4 GP)



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

The game was 1-1 and I was sitting there wondering if this was going to be a third straight home loss. Koivu's line had a different plan and got the ball rolling with a beaut on the power-play in the third.

Markov played the puck down into the left corner to Saku. Koivu then skated with the puck to the high-slot and sent the puck down low to Ryder on the goal-line. Mike moved in towards the goalie and had Kari thinking shot. He then slid a perfect tape-to-tape pass right to Higgins and all he had to do was tap it in.



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

Christopher Higgins

It is quite possible that Chris was just simply relieved to have not been traded today. He played an extremely good game at both ends of the ice. He had great chemistry with Saku and Ryder and generated a lot of chances. He skated very well and hit a lot - he was quite the power forward.



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

Tomas Plekanec
- This was a very good game for Pleks. He may have been held off the scoresheet, but excelled in most other categories of play. He was creative with the puck, was fast and did a great job fore-checking. He finished with 4 shots and went 12/19 in the face-off circle

Saku Koivu
- Saku added 2 more assists tonight to give him 35 for a total of 47 points. He was our most creative player in the offensive zone tonight and was a big reason for Higgins' big game. He has 8 points in his last 7 games and as expected is playing his best hockey of the year right now, down the stretch

Christopher Higgins
- This was why we didn't want to trade Higgins and hopefully why we didn't in the end. At 1.7 Million (average) you can't get much of a better bargain. His 2 goals tonight give him 21 on the year and his third straight 20+ goal campaign. He is a big, gritty forward with very soft hands and having him in the team for the long term is far more advantageous than having a rental around for 2 months

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
- This was probably Andrei's best game in the past few weeks. He moved the puck well and got very involved offensively, but there was also a noticeable improvement in his defensive play. It was good to see him get multiple points (50 on the year!) and finish with a plus rating

Josh Gorges
- A very tight defensive game from Gorges. He made no mistakes tonight which in turn allowed him to move up the ice further than usual. His +3 rating was tops on the team bringing him into the + for the season

Goaltender

Carey Price
- Like it or not he is now our man. Most people hope that he is great, others hope he just isn't brutal, but either way he got the job done tonight. He looked very solid all game - a far cry from the way he played in his last 3 starts. He has a very dependable back-up now in Halak who will hopefully (unlike Huet) be used if Price starts to falter



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

Kovalev saw diminished PP time tonight thanks in most part to the second unit's effectiveness. He played a good two way game and even spent over 2 minutes on the ice at one point killing a whole penalty. His line is getting more support from the rest of the team in the scoring department lately which has taken a little bit of the pressure off. That being said he is still a major threat and will be back on the scoresheet this week for sure.

Kovalev's Assessment - Good



Overall Comments

Atlanta looked like a very weak team tonight. They are obviously going to be hurt by the loss of Hossa, but I was surprised as to how weak the rest of this team really is. They are a team that did all they could to make the playoffs last year and seem to lack any ambition or plan beyond that. This was a game that I was calling a must-win and after about 5 minutes I realized if we lost this one we were a team in trouble. Yes they are still fighting for their playoff lives, but there is only so much that Perrin, Holik and the others can do - winning is not included in there. The Habs played a strong game and never looked in danger of losing this one. They simply played a smart defensive game and waited for their chances to come. We scored 4 goals in less than 7 minutes early in the third and that was plenty tonight to give us the crucial 2 points. We are now just one point back of Ottawa and we are level with them in games. It would be best to finish 1,2 or 6 this year. 4th or 5th will be very hard as that will likely mean a first round date with NJ or Pittsburgh. At this point our focus should be to win the division which will give us top 2 - coming 1st would be an added bonus. That of course is all the secondary goal, the primary being of course to make the playoffs.

Today I was upset to see a truly great man and great Hab go. Huet has been our best goalie since Roy and I really thought he had what it took to win big with us. Getting nothing in return is not only a slap in his face, but also a slap in all of ours. Deciding that Price is your future is a risk that could have been taken with Huet there as a back-up. Washington got a serious deal when they landed the NHL's best goalie (Save %) since the lockout, a former all-star and starter on a 4th place team for virtually nothing. The fact that we got so little shows a lack of effort from the Habs to find a deal, but also shows a lack of confidence around the league in Huet. He has never been branded with superstar status by the media and it is for this reason that I believe he is gone, and gone for so little. I could never imagine Luongo being traded for so little (a true media darling), in fact we all know that he would command a bigger price than Hossa did today. Maybe comparing Huet to Luongo is foolish, but I would rather have a goalie who could lead an average team to the top than an over-rated goalie who has never done anything but been on losing teams. Worst of all our second-round pick in 2009 won't be able to bail us out in the playoffs if/when Price gets in over his head.

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