Saturday, March 01, 2008

Game #66

Canadiens in first, Canadiens in FIRST!

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday March 1st, 2008
Opponent: New Jersey Devils
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 2-1 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Martin Brodeur (L)

Habs goalscorers: Mark Streit, Andrei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Brian Gionta



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 Place in the East (Sole Possession) for the first time since 1994



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

The Habs were handed a golden opportunity in the third period to take the lead when they were awarded back-to-back, overlapping power-plays. With 5 seconds left in the second penalty it looked as though we had missed the boat, but alas Andrei came through in the clutch. A shot came in from the slot and it looked like Brodeur was beaten, but the puck sailed wide. Kostitsyn quickly went behind the net to grab the loose puck under no pressure whatsoever from the Devils. He then quickly put a wrap-around off Brodeur to give us the game-winner.



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

Andrei Markov

Markov played an amazing game in both ends of the rink. Offensively he was stellar, as usual, at the point on the power-play - he was able to keep the puck in the zone on numerous occasions and keep the attack alive. Defensively he was at his best tonight - he didn't give the Devils' forwards an inch to work with.



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
- He had an assist on the game-winner; that gives him 5 points in 26 hours. He was really effective in the neutral zone this game, breaking the trap on numerous rushes. His skating was fast, his play-making was faster

Alexei Kovalev
- After last night's excellent performance I was a bit worried that he wouldn't be a huge force tonight. Luckily for the Habs he didn't follow his season-long trend of playing average in one of two of the back-to-back games on successive nights. He was great in the Devils' zone, but also did very well on the PK

Andrei Kostitsyn
- Kostitsyn's game-winner was his 20th of the season; becoming the 4th Hab to reach the mark this year. He played a great game offensively and was able to beat the mighty Brodeur, in his hometown nonetheless, when the Habs needed it most

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
- Anytime you doubt this guy's play even a little he puts in a performance like this. He was a dominant force, the best player on the ice. He deserves some serious consideration as the NHL's top defenceman come June - to me there is no doubt that he is the best in the east. Was spectacular on the PK, playing over a minute of his 26 minutes with one less man

Mark Streit
- He pinched in from the point to knock home his 12th of the season, the Habs' 1st on the night. I noticed a lot of great plays defensively tonight whether it was during a back-check or at the blue-line on the PP. Offensively he was great again; used speed and vision to create quality chances for himself and his linemates

Goaltender

Carey Price
- He out-did the master tonight with another very solid performance. He looked very comfortable all game which I believe has brought new found confidence in him to his teammates. Once again he got into trouble handling the puck and it almost cost us some goals - my advice is: always stay in your net



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

The Devils know the drill when Alex has the puck - get on him and give him no space. It doesn't phase Kovy at all though, because once he is being hounded he pulls out a new move you have never seen before and he is off. His pass to Koivu on Streit's goal was another great example of his perfect passing. Played very well on special teams tonight.

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good



Overall Comments

New Jersey came to play tonight, but thank goodness, so did we. It finally looks like we have figured out the Devils and more importantly Brodeur. The trick seems to be to score 2 or more and have great defence and goaltending - a plan that has worked for NJ for near 15 years. We were always in control of this match, right from the opening draw. Rarely was I concerned that we would go home empty-handed, my only question was, would we get 1 or 2 points? Winning in regulation against the team that you are chasing is quite a feat and we should all be very pleased with our team. It now means that we sit alone atop the Eastern Conference with 81 points, with 16 games left to play. Both us and the Devils played last night as well as tonight and the results all favoured the Habs. Thanks to Huet and Price (was this the plan all along?) we now have a one point lead on NJ which is quite remarkable. Had we lost both of our games and had the Devils won both of theirs we would have been 7 points behind them and the likely hood of ever being in first would have all but disappeared. Isn't it amazing what can happen in 24 hours!

The fact that we won both tonight and last night will be crucial towards our overall goal of making the playoffs. Staying in first place, however, may be quite a difficult task considering that we still have 16 games to play. Gunning for top is obviously a good thing, but after last year 8th will do. We are about to embark on a 4 game, 9 day western road trip; a trip that could have a huge bearing on where we finish in the conference. My goal at this point is 4 points on the trip and I don't care how. Going to OT doesn't matter either because as far as I am concerned the West can have as many extra points as they want. There will be absolutely no rest when get back to finish the season, so we must return ready for the final 12 games in the East. First up when we get home will be, you guessed it, Brodeur and company in a Bell Centre rematch.

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