Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Game #74

Habs Fall in Shootout to Blues as Halak Loses 1st in Montreal

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday March 19th, 2008
Opponent: St. Louis Blues
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 3-4 (SO) - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (SO)
Opposition starting goalie: Emmanuel Legace (W)

Habs goalscorers: Christopher Higgins, Saku Koivu, Mikhail Grabovski
Opposition goalscorers: Keith Tkachuk, Andy McDonald, Brad Boyes (1, SO)



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 Career Loss for Halak at the Bell Centre
1st Game for the Blues in Montreal since January 2004



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

The play of the game was our third goal of the night, a goal that essentially earned us a crucial one point in the standings.

The Habs had just seen their 5th Power-Play of the night expire, making it look like a comeback was not in our midst. After the man-advantage Carbo sent our 3rd line out there to try and keep some of the momentum. Right away, it seemed, the Habs gave up the puck and into our zone came the Blues. Grabo, using his excellent speed, made a great play to come back and help the defence as he stole the puck at our own blue-line. Mikhail then quickly sent a pass to the equally speedy Sergei Kostitsyn who was joined on a 2-on-2 with Latendresse. Grabovski, showing more great hustle and speed joined the attack as the 3rd man in on a 3-on-2. Sergei took a good look at Legace and then at Latendresse and finally at the incoming Grabo. A perfect pass was made and before I knew it the game was tied at 3 on Grabovski's 2nd career goal. The shot was a far-side, top-corner wrist shot - it was quite amazing.



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

Mikhail Grabovski

He may just be the fastest player I have seen in a Habs uniform in the past 10 years. Images of Oleg Petrov, Russ Courtnall and Guy Lafleur come rushing back every time I see him with the puck. His goal and assist tonight were his 6th and 7th points of the season, with 5 of those coming in his last 6 games. He was our most explosive forward tonight and was constantly buzzing around the offensive zone.



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

Mikhail Grabovski
- It looks as though we have found room for this youngster in the line-up after all. He fits very nicely onto our third line as he played another solid game alongside Sergei Kostitsyn and Chris Higgins. He offers us a lot more offensively than Lapierre, Begin, Smolinski or Chipchura, but still has a lot to learn about face-offs and play in our own end

Christopher Higgins
- Higgins had another 2 point game tonight bringing his season total to 47. I think we can all admit that this isn't the season we had hoped for based on his occasional spurts of dominance. But, let's hold on just a minute and remember that we had very little expectation for this player 3 years ago and the fact that he will have a 50+ point season is bonus enough for me. He was good on the fore-check tonight, played very well in the low slot, right in front of Legace

Sergei Kostitsyn
- Kostitsyn now has 25 points and 10 in his last 13 games. Tonight was another great example of how he is in no way intimidated by the NHL or by other NHL players. His former linemates from London (Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner) are both also having great seasons and it just goes to show the importance of learning to win and being successful at a young age, prior to the NHL. He had 2 very good passes tonight as his line was clearly our best in this one

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
- He was unlucky to be on the ice for St.Louis' 3rd goal - he has Komi to thank for that one. Aside from that one blemish he played a good game defensively. I thought he was very good running the PP tonight. Kovalev and Streit weren't at their best tonight in that department and it was Markov's play at the blue-line that kept the unit together

Josh Gorges
- This was yet another solid game for Gorges at the back. Carbo rewarded him for his solid play with the 3rd most ice-time among defencemen, behind only Marky and Hammer. His skating was very smooth as was his passing. He did not make any mistakes all night and is proving to everyone he be counted on in all situations

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
- After Saturday's gem I am not that surprised that he came back down to earth so to speak. He was solid tonight, but wasn't anything exceptional. He proved that he deserves his shot in the Habs net, but this performance was not enough to consider continuing the great goalie debate. He looked a little too casual at times tonight as he mishandled the puck behind his own net, juggled rebounds and was caught napping on Boyes' goal. Despite all of that he brought us very close to the win and should be recognized for that



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

He had the chance to prolong the game in the shootout, but he came away empty-handed. Let's face it, we need him to score in those types of situations and we have now come to expect it from him. He isn't to be blamed for the loss as he did play a pretty decent game, but unfortunately he didn't steal us another point. The passing between his line was off tonight as everyone seemed a little out of sync with each other - let's hope that it was a one game occurrence.

Kovalev's Assessment - Good


Overall Comments

The first 2 periods didn't quite go the Habs' way. After we took the lead on Koivu's goal we seemed to stop playing. I thought that the St.Louis goal that put them up 3-2 (as well as the 2-2 goal) was a direct result of our goal. Momentum can be funny like that, it could have been 1-1, but instead we saw ourselves down by a goal. The third period was a better period for us as we dominated them and even came very close to winning it before OT. In the extra-frame we were the better team coming ever so close a number of times. We got a bit unlucky in the shootout as Boyes' shot went off the post and in and Koivu's went off the post and out. I can't really complain though as I feel we have been luckier than not all year long. Coming out of this game with a single point isn't that satisfying especially considering we all thought 2 was highly likely, but it is one more point in the bank and that means only 6 to go.

The week will end with 2 straight games against our favorite rival: the Boston Bruins. We have owned this team all year beating them in all 6 of our meetings and outscoring them by near to 20 goals. This is exactly the situation we want to be in at this point of the season, but exactly the situation that we should be wary of. The Bruins are desperate to get into the playoffs themselves and are likely not very interested in being swept by the Habs this year. These will be 2 hard-fought games and they should not be taken lightly. All we have to do, however, is play the same way we always play against them - fast, intense and non-stop. We may very well end up meeting these same Bruins in the playoffs and what better way to set-up a series than to go into it on a 10-game winning streak.

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