Saturday, March 29, 2008

Game #79

No Koivu, No Luck - Habs Lose to Leafs

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday March 29th, 2008
Opponent: Toronto Maple Leafs
Venue: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON


Team Stripes


Final Score: 2-4 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Vesa Toskala (W)

Habs goalscorers: Mathieu Dandenault, Tom Kostopoulos
Opposition goalscorers: Anton Stralman (2), Jiri Tlusty (2)



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 Game for Halak in his new mask
1st Game that Mark Streit has missed all year
1st Time that Dandenault has played defence this year



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

Ryan O'Byrne elbowed a Leaf halfway through the first period which led to a game misconduct and a 5 minute Toronto Power-Play. It was a brutal call by the ref(s), one which was surely influenced by the reaction the player had to the hit.

Out of this play came our best moment in the game and something that I must sadly call the play of the game. The Habs penalty-killers were absolutely fantastic for the 5 minute stretch allowing just a single shot through on Halak. It seemed that this kill, at the time, was the momentum-shifter the Habs would need to get going tonight; it turned out to be a rare strong point in an otherwise weak game.



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

Andrei Markov

Andrei had to step up tonight as our defence corps is starting to take some serious hits. With Komisarek and Streit out it was already a dire situation for the Habs. Added to the list of missing blue-liners throughout the game were O'Byrne (game-misconduct) and Bouillon. That left us with 5 defenceman (of 9) to play with, two of which are Brisebois (no explanation needed) and Dandenault - a player that hasn't played D in almost a year. Markov was our mightiest player tonight and made our situation look a lot better than it actually was.



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

Bryan Smolinski
- Bryan and his line played a good game and did exactly what was asked of them - they scored a goal, skated for 60 minutes and actually presented the Leafs with a fore-check. Bryan himself ended at +1 and was 10/14 on face-offs

Christopher Higgins
- Higgins was the only player on our 1B line that didn't look completely lost without Koivu. He skated very well and generated quite a few chances. He had 3 shots, including a near-goal on a penalty-shot

Tom Kostopoulos
- Tom played a hard game from start to finish and though he didn't play much he made the most of his ice-time. He managed to score his 7th of the year in the dying seconds of the game which is a good sign as it shows he has character and will fight right until the end for us

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
- Roman played another decent game in his own end as he ended up with an Even rating. He did very well on the PK as he spent almost 8 minutes of his 25 on the ice while Toronto had an extra man

Andrei Markov
- He led defencemen in shots with 3 and led all Habs in ice time (PK and overall - 9:04, 25:28). He played well on the PP, but the unit looked very lost without Streit - Markov took over point-shot responsibilities tonight and seemed to handle himself quite well

Goaltender

Carey Price
- This was not Halak's night. Jaro's game in the ACC should have been in April of last year, not tonight - this will be a night to forget. Carey deserved the night off and I am sure the fact that he got a rest will serve the team better over the next few weeks. Halak didn't look too comfortable all game and let in a goal (Tornoto's second) that he shouldn't have - it essentially killed the Habs' chance



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

Kovalev likely had his worst offensive game of the season and quite possibly worst one as a Hab. He was invisible in the offensive zone and he actually made a few mistakes which resulted in give-aways. His penalty-killing saved him a 'Bad' rating tonight, but I assure you we do not have him around to kill penalties.

Kovalev's Assessment - Average


Overall Comments

Toronto didn't let their recent elimination from the playoffs stop them from playing another hard game against us. No matter how high or low either team is in the standings a Leaf/Hab match-up will always be a tough game. We seemed lost without Koivu out there all night, even Kovy's line lacked direction. You never really know the value of a player (or players - Streit too) until you play without them. The last time I remember Koivu being out for a while with an injury was in the '06 playoffs against Carolina - a series in which we lost four straight without Saku. Sak is our leader, both on and off the ice. His offence was surely missed tonight, but more importantly was his leadership.

This loss means little in the grand scheme of things which has become a very nice luxury to have. All we need is one more point to clinch top in our division and a top 2 seeding. Coming first in the East would be nice, but knowing that at least second is now quite likely I must admit that I am happier than I thought I would be at this point in the season. Winning or losing games has now become my second priority as the new focus is getting 100% healthy in time for the playoffs. Komisarek, Streit, Koivu and even Bouillon have all been huge reasons for our success this year and I fear that without them we will not be the same team. We need absolutely every player at our disposal in 2 weeks time starting with players like Saku and Kovy and going right down to others such as Dandenault, Smolinski and Begin.

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