Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Game #71

Price Outduels Brodeur to Put Habs Back on Top

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday March 11th, 2008
Opponent: New Jersey Devils
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 4-0 - Win

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

Habs goalscorers: Bryan Smolinski, Saku Koivu, Maxim Lapierre, Michael Ryder
Opposition goalscorers: None



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 Season-Series Win Over NJ Since 1992-93



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

The play of the game tonight lasted 4 minutes and was accomplished in most part by nearly half of the team. With the score at 1-0 Andrei Kostitsyn accidentally took a high-sticking (stick to un-visored face) penalty. Added to the usual 2 minutes were the bonus 2 for cutting the player, which, in my opinion is the worst rule this league has ever come up with. That put the Habs in a very tough position, but for 4 minutes we stood on our heads and halted the Devils; I believe that was the defining moment of this game. There are at least 9 penalty-killers that helped us kill this critical penalty. Of them I just wanted to mention a few who really stood out for their superb work; they are Price, Bouillon, Kostopoulos, Komisarek and Smolinski. Those players rarely get a mention in this section, but it goes to show that to be great and to get to the top you need your whole team to play at their best.



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

Michael Ryder

Mike had quite possibly his best game of the season tonight. Scoring his 13th of the year was merely icing on the cake for the Newfie who played 60 minutes a great hockey. He was a physical force, his passing and shooting were both great and I haven't seen him hustle like this in weeks. He was noticed on each of shifts which is quite rare for any player other than Kovalev these days.



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

Michael Ryder
- This is why I am glad we didn't trade Ryder and this is why I am glad we stuck with him all season. Michael has so much ability and skill, and, although he may not be the scorer he was when he was on a better line/seeing more PP time, he is still a wicked weapon to have. He played a complete hockey game, in all facets possible

Saku Koivu
- We may not need as much of a reminder of Koivu's value as of Ryder's, but it is still worth noting how valuable the captain has been over the past couple of months. Most people wanted him traded in December and January and now I think it is quite evident that we wouldn't trade him for the world. He was a constant nuisance for the Devils tonight - he was especially fantastic on the PK

Sergei Kostitsyn
- I continue to be surprised by Sergei as he has been one of our top forwards since he was called up. He just keeps getting better and better as each game goes by, this one perhaps being his best yet. He got 2 assists tonight giving him 23 points in 41 games. That's not too bad for a 20 year-old pretty much straight out of junior. He was explosive tonight, his speed, his passing, his vision, it was all there

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
- Markov was another one of the big penalty-killers that helped erase the 4 minute disadvantage. He, like those players above, played a complete game in every sense of the word. His puck-movement and play without the puck were both incredible tonight as he gave Lou Lamoriello a first hand reminder of what a top-flight defenceman looks like

Francis Bouillon
- What can you say about this guy? People have doubted his strength, size and skill his whole life and he just continues to prove every single person wrong. After an average 2006-07 and an average start to this year there were those who started doubting him again, but luckily Gainey didn't give into to the media pressure and kept Franc around as a regular. Tonight was another great example of how he is more than just a regular, he is actually an above-average defenceman. He hit anything that moved, but unlike other big-hitting D-men of the league, he never let himself get out of position

Goaltender

Carey Price
- Wow! Now that was a game. This has to have been Carey's best game as a Hab, quite possibly of his career. I am sure that he wanted to prove something to Coach Sutter who snubbed him on Team Canada a few years back and maybe also wanted to show Brodeur that he can play too. He was very alert all game, his positioning was great and he, thankfully, never got into trouble handling the puck



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

Tonight Kovy's big task was to take the attention off the other 3 lines as the Devils' plan seemed to revolve around shutting him down. They may have held him off the scoresheet, but I still thought that he had his way with them. The 3 other lines benefited from this extra space and time proving yet again how valuable depth is.

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good



Overall Comments

That was quite possibly the most complete hockey game I have seen the Habs play since Game #2 of the '06 playoffs. We played as a team tonight, getting a total commitment from all 20 players. We started the game hard as we applied a lot of pressure on Brodeur. Instead of shutting down into defensive mode when they countered we just came right back to their end and applied even more pressure. Our goaltending was great, our defence as solid as ever and our goals were pretty to say the least. It isn't often that you can get 4 past Marty in his home town, so that just makes this even sweeter. We beat the Devils 3 times this year (out of 4) and I have to attribute our success to the come-from-behind win down in Jersey in January. Coming back from 1-3 down to win 4-3 taught us a valuable lesson that I hope we will never forget; the Devils are beatable, Brodeur is beatable and that we are better than New Jersey.

At the beginning of the season I was quite confidant that we could and probably would make the playoffs, so our goal of 96 points never seemed out of reach. What I didn't expect, however, was that after 71 games we would only be 9 points back of our goal and sitting atop the Eastern Conference. We have 11 games to make sure we get to where we want to be, but with performances like the one I saw tonight (and that I see on most nights) I am not too worried. We have almost instantly become the fastest team in the league, the best PP team in the league and the highest scoring team in the league - I can't even believe it sometimes. At this point I wouldn't rule out a first place finish after 82 games, 100 points and quite a bit of playoff success. The key now is to remain focused, to beat the teams that we are in competition with and to prepare mentally and physically for what could be a long Spring of hockey.

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