Saturday, March 15, 2008

Game #73

Halak Shuts the Door as Habs Roll to Easy Win Over NY

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday March 15th, 2008
Opponent: New York Islanders
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-0 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Rick DiPietro (L)

Habs goalscorers: Roman Hamrlik, Alexei Kovalev, Guillaume Latendresse
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 Time that we have swept a season series against the Islanders in 11 years
1st Shutout of the season for Halak

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

The Islanders had a good chance in front of Halak and it looked like he had frozen the puck. Usually the ref will blow his whistle the instant he loses sight of the puck, but this time he did not. At first it looked bad for the Habs that the play was going on, but that sentiment was short-lived. In all of the madness the puck finally squirted out into the slot and was picked up by Andrei Kostitsyn. He then quickly sent a pass right to Plekanec who was joined by Kovy on a 2-on-1; luckily for us 4 Islander players had gone in towards our net to get a better look at the loose puck. Plekanec, on the right side, held the puck for a long time and had everyone, including DiPietro, believing that he would shoot. Instead of taking the shot himself Tom played a perfect pass to the right side, right to Kovy's blade. Alex made no mistake as he quickly shelfed it to put us up 2-0.

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

Jaroslav Halak

Jaro was tested by a wily Islander crew tonight and he managed to score 100%. He played a fantastic game and made very few, if any, mistakes at all. This was his first shutout of the year and now has only let in 3 goals in 2 2/3 games this season. His 30 saves were made to look easy as he was in complete control all game. In addition to bringing confidence to Habs fans everywhere he also made his teammates look very comfortable in their own end.

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)...


Alexei Kovalev
- A very good rebound game for Alex after a sub-par performance against Ottawa. There were a lot of typical Kovy moments tonight where he broke into the slot and got himself some good scoring chances. He ended up with 5 shots on goal and scored his 31st of the year, the most since M. Zed scored the same amount in '02-'03

Christopher Higgins
- Chris' great play against his home-town Islanders continued tonight with yet another excellent performance. He came very close to scoring 3 or 4 times, but was either robbed by DiPietro, the post or the whistle. He was very energetic along the boards and had a good game in the fore-check department

Andrei Kostitsyn
- Kostitsyn's incredible shot was on display tonight as he forced DiPietro to make 3 very hard saves. He had a great assist on the insurance goal and had a few other good setups throughout the game for his linemates. He wasn't as physical tonight as he has been in the past few games, but he nonetheless held his own when he had to


Roman Hamrlik
- Roman's timely power-play goal in the second period turned out to be the game-winner and was his fifth as a Hab. Roman played a very responsible game in his own end tonight and it was also good to see him getting involved in the offence. Played over 22 minutes and ended with a team-high 6 blocked shots

Josh Gorges
- Josh played a very aggressive game defensively, never giving much room to the Islander forwards. I liked his transition game tonight as he skated and handled the puck very well. He was rewarded with over 20 minutes of ice time and is definitely becoming one of Carbo's sure bets on the blue-line


Jaroslav Halak
- This was Jaro's 3rd career shutout in only his 18th NHL start (all 3 have come in his last 10 starts). He looked very solid again in this game as he has in all of his appearances so far this year. His numbers would suggest that he may (and always has been) the pick of the litter of Habs goalies. As a back-up he is definitely no slouch and it will be interesting to see if he keeps that title right until the end of the year. His play of late has definitely earned him a few more appearances down the stretch (and in the playoffs) and may re-start the old debate again - just who is our goalie of the future

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

Alex took advantage of a weak defence and a weak goalie tonight as he was able to play the type of game we all want him to play. He was dancing all over the ice tonight, rarely giving the puck away. Along with his linemates, Kovalev gave the Habs a quick, explosive option that was just too much for the down-and-out Isles to handle. This could have easily been a 3-4 point night for the sniper, but I am happy enough he came away with one point and thay we came away with two.

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good

Overall Comments

This was just what we needed for a Saturday night at home: a game against the Isles. For a 4th time this year we were able to beat New York, this time letting in 0 goals. That is now 3 goals against in 4 games with the low-scoring Islanders. The Habs started this game slow waiting for their chances. New York also had a tentative approach, but hit a hotter goalie than we did and they also weren't able to get their PP going. Our defence and goaltending played a very solid game right from the start as we rarely gave up any dangerous chances. Even while the game was tied we seemed to be in complete control over a team that we have dominated all year. My only regret now is that they won't be a potential opponent in the playoffs as it seems that they are all but done.

The win puts us back into first in our division and second overall in the East. The win also helped erase any concerns or bad feelings we may have had left over from our Thursday night loss to Ottawa. Considering that we had just come home from a 10-day, 4-game road trip I thought we had a good week. In 3 home games we managed 2 shutouts, one against the top team in the conference. We now have 3 weeks to go, with exactly 3 games each week of which 5 are at home and 4 are on the road. We have one more game against a non-divisional rival (St. Louis) on Tuesday and then it is 8 games (2 apiece) against our 4 divisional teams. The goal of 96 points is very near now as 4 wins in our last 9 games would do the trick. The weeks ahead won't be easy as we will be facing teams who are fighting for as much, if not more, than us. What we must remember though is that to date we are the best team among them and we should not even entertain the thought of letting that change.

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