The Canadiens Game in Review
Date: Thursday March 20th, 2008
Opponent: Boston Bruins
Venue: TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA
Final Score: 4-2 - Win
Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Timothy Thomas (L)
Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev (2), Michael Ryder, Andrei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman
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 in White since February 17th
1st Player to get over 75 points in a season since Damphousse had 81 in '96-'97 (Kovalev 77)
Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...
If you can think back to the summer of 2004 you may remember the World Cup of Hockey. In that tournament Kovalev scored an unbelievable goal against Team USA which I will never forget. Well, tonight he did it again and, like last time it was truly magnificent. He picked up the puck in the neutral zone and quickly blew by one forward on his way into the zone. He then was looking at a 1-on-2 situation vs. Chara, Wideman and Thomas - 2 of which were all-stars. He went through the defenders like sand slips through your hand and ended up alone in front of Thomas. Once at the net he simply slid the puck 5-hole; it made the game 2-0 and must have turned a lot of the Bruins' cheeks red.
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...
Until halfway through the second period Alex was having a very average night at best, it was actually going pretty badly. The Habs were being outplayed and winning a 10th straight against Boston was looking doubtful. With 32 minutes left to play, however, the game turned around for the Habs and for Alex in particular. His first goal, scored on a spin-o-rama in front of Chara, was quite something and was only to be outdone by his second tally of the night. In the third period he added an assist when he gave Kostitsyn a perfect no-look pass from behind the net.
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)...
- Sak had another strong game against the Bruins tonight. Boston is a team that Koivu has always enjoyed playing as his game is perfectly suited for the slow, numb-skulled approach of their defence. He had a perfect pass on Ryder's game-winner, as did Latendresse. Was solid again in the face-off circle and played a good game in our own end
- Andrei had a goal and an assist tonight giving him 48 points on the season. Tonight's game was a pure reflection of the season he is having. He played with confidence and never seemed afraid to try a move or take a shot - a vast difference from a lot of former Habs prospects. 50 points will happen soon for Kostitsyn which is an incredible feat considering he only had 8 in his first 23 games (40 in his last 48)
- This was yet another magnificent performance from the player we all love. I remember both Topham and I arguing that last year, despite his low-point total he was a major factor, and that having Kovy on our team was better than having any Daniel Briere or Ryan Smyth out there. I believe we referred to him as a game-breaker and a game-stealer and that players like this are very few and far between. Tonight he won us the game, no question - I just hope people remember this quality the next time he goes through a o.5 point/game stretch
- Streit was called to the blue-line to fill in for the injured Mike Komisarek. I hope that it is nothing serious in Komi's case and that he'll be back soon. I also hope that tonight's performance will serve as a reminder to Carbo that Mark should be playing defence. He was spectacular tonight ending at +1 with yet another assist
- Roman started the game with O'Byrne, but once Mike was hurt played with his partner of more than half the season; Streit. He showed great adaptability tonight as his game did not change one bit when Mark came to take Ryan's spot. He finished an impressive +3 and wasn't on the ice for either of the Bruins' goals. He stepped up in Komi's absence as he logged over 22 minutes of ice
- Price was very solid tonight and never put the Habs in danger of leaving Boston with anything less than 2 points. He mishandled the puck a few times, but I think that can be mostly attributed to the poor ice conditions as all players were suffering to find their control. I found his puck-handling behind the net tonight was very weak and he very nearly got caught on a few occasions. He often chose to make a saucer pass over a Bruin's stick rather than make the simple play the other way. I can most certainly appreciate confidence, but at the same time I can recognize cockiness and this was somewhere in between. Great players make simple plays and never make mistakes and this is something he must learn to do better
Eyes on Kovalev
Did he flit and float? Someone ought to keep track...
Do you still believe in 40 goals this year? I think Alex does. With 7 games left an Ovechkin-like streak will be needed to hit the 40 mark, but if there were any player right now in the NHL (other than Alex the GR8 himself) who could pull it off it has to be Kovalev. I am sure Kovy is also well aware that 90 points will be ever so close too. He will continue to be a huge player as we make the push now not just to the playoffs, but to first overall. 7 goals in 7 games is entirely likely, and so are another 6 assists.
Kovalev's Assessment - Excellent
Teams I want in the playoffs - The Habs, The Bruins. Normally I cheer against Boston as much as possible (unless they are playing Toronto), but this may now have all changed. I always have what's best for the Habs in mind and I think that this year that means Boston to make the final 8. Playing them in the playoffs would likely not be as easy as our season series has been against them, but I am sure they would be an easier opponent than New York, Washington or Buffalo. With our win tonight we are now 7-0 against the Bruins this year and we have a 10 game winning streak which dates back to last year. In our 7 games against Boston this year we have outscored them 36-14 which is mind-boggling when you think of it - 5-2 in each of the 7 games. The game tonight started off fairly even with Boston quite possibly applying more pressure early on. Once Kovalev made fools of Chara and Thomas (for the first time) Boston changed their style completely. They were no longer capable of sustaining a potent attack and actually looked very tentative and nervous for the second half of the game. Having a mental edge over a team is probably the most powerful weapon one can have in the NHL - we all know what it means for Ottawa over us.
The week ends with our 8th and final regular season game against these same Bruins in Montreal on Saturday. Nothing would be sweeter than sweeping an 8-game season series against our bitter rivals and I am sure each and every Hab shares that sentiment. With a win we will be at 94 points which will likely be enough to get us into the post-season given the way things have turned out. At the start of the year we made a conservative goal of 96 points for our team, a total we thought would secure us a place in the second season. It now looks more and more likely that even our current total of 92 will get us in which is a very comforting thought to have 75 games into the season. Until the x is beside our name in the standings, however, you never know what could happen. All I know is that if we keep playing as we did tonight (and as we have been doing all season) we will not only get into the playoffs, but we will be a serious contender once we are there.