Saturday, April 12, 2008

Game #1-2

Kovalev, Habs Get the Job Done Despite Playing With Fire

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday April 12th, 2008
Opponent: Boston Bruins
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-2 (OT) - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Timothy Thomas (L)

Habs goalscorers: Roman Hamrlik, Sergei Kostitsyn, Alexei Kovalev
Opposition goalscorers: Peter Schaefer, David Krejci

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 OT Playoff Game this season
1st Playoff Goals for Hamrlik and Kovalev
1st Playoff Points for Markov and Begin

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

There is no doubt as to what the play of the game was tonight. We were in the midst of our 5th straight Power-Play, 2 minutes into overtime when the Bell Centre truly came alive. With a key face-off to the right of Thomas Carbo chose Plekanec as his man (13/23 on the night). Apparently the coach had called off Kovy, but the deafening roars of the crowd (or Kovalev's own insistence at setting things straight) overpowered Carbo's instructions and on the ice stayed the interim captain. Plekanec neatly won the draw back to Alex on his off wing (left) and he quickly passed it back to the point to Markov. Andrei then sent it right back to Kovalev who had but one thought on his mind: shoot. And, that is precisely what he did - a top corner slap-shot right up over Thomas' right shoulder. The goal the put the Habs up 2-0 in the series, as they narrowly avoided losing home-ice advantage and being level at 1 game apiece.

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

Alexei Kovalev

We didn't have a big game from Kovalev in game 1, we didn't even have a big game from the Power-Play in game 1 and that is/was fine by me. Great players have a way of rising up when they are needed most. They aren't the type of players that score 4 goals in a 9-1 win or get a shutout when your team has scored 7 goals of it's own, no they make the key save, the key pass or score in an overtime playoff game. Kovalev was by far the most visible player of the 38 on the ice tonight and he made his presence felt by scoring a goal and setting up another.

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)...


Steve Begin
- The fourth line had another great performance tonight and it was Steve that stood out the most amongst them. He had a thunderous hit in our own end in the first period which eventually led to Hamrlik's 1-0 goal. In all he had 5 hits and finished with an assist and a +1 rating. He was particularly effective during his nearly 6 minutes of penalty-killing

Alexei Kovalev
- Kovy took a bad, retaliatory, penalty in the third period which put the Habs down by 2 men and led to the Bruins tying goal. It was a stupid play at the absolute wrong time, but in my books a penalty is a penalty and at the end of the day they are all bad. The only thing that can be gained when a player like Kovalev does such a thing is sweet redemption. It becomes almost inevitable (think 2004 playoffs) that a player will put in even more effort than usual to bail his team out - tonight he did just that, he won us the game

Tomas Plekanec
- In Koivu's absence Plekanec has been used more regularly as a key face-off man. Carbo (unlike Therrien - Bill Lindsay 2002) realizes the importance of winning draws, especially on the PP in OT. Tom only won 13 of his 23 draws, but towards the end of the game he won the ones he had to. He played a very high-tempo game tonight and also did a good job in his own end. Boston's defence seems to focus all their attention on the Plekanec-Kovalev-A.Kostitsyn line, but until now it hasn't slowed them down one bit


Andrei Markov
- Markov's best moments came on the PP tonight. Whether he was keeping the puck in at the point against all odds or setting up the game-winner I knew that Andrei could be counted on. He played well again in his own end and looks very much at ease back with his usual partner, Komisarek. He had a few mis-passes and even some giveaways tonight, but to his credit he never once gave up on the play

Roman Hamrlik
- Roman is a man on a mission. It may have dawned on the 16-year NHL veteran that the chance of hoisting the cup has never been greater than it is right now and he does not want to let this moment pass him by. He has elevated his game this series in a way I didn't think was possible. He had a fantastic season for us this year and is now having an even better playoffs. He was a rock in our own end (+1, 4 hits), and scored the game's first goal - his second career playoff goal, first since 2002


Carey Price
- The Bruins came at Price tonight as they crashed his net all game long and took shots that, unlike game #1, challenged the kid. The first goal he let in was a bit weak as he gave up a juicy rebound, but that was really his only mistake in this one. He wasn't afraid to clear his crease himself when the situation called for it, but at the same time wasn't stupid enough (Belfour, Hextall etc.) to get involved in any scrums after the whistle. He may not have been tested much late in the third or in OT, but I knew (as the team did too) that he would be there to bail us out when we needed it

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

Kovy cannot have two quiet games in a row, it is impossible. After a very good, but subtle effort in game #1 he came back with quite the opposite performance tonight. His play on Kostitsyn's goal was pure magic as he held the puck for over 10 seconds in their end, his OT goal was fantastic, but what will surely grab the most attention was his blatant slash on the back of Aaron Ward's very well padded leg. Controversy, magnificence, villain or hero, Kovalev did it all tonight. He has the city talking and I think the rest of the league is taking serious notice. The Bruins know he is the one to stop, but are still batting 0/10 in that category. The great Kovalev found even more ways to make noise tonight and as usual surprised us all.

Kovalev's Assessment - Excellent

Overall Comments

For quite possibly the first time since last March Boston came to play tonight and at times it seemed like they had figured us out. We were outplayed early, but avoided going down as Price and the defence kept the score at 0-0. Our first goal was lucky in that we hadn't been applying too much pressure until that point. What that goal did, however, was put doubt back into the minds of the Bruins and it seemed to get us going. It wasn't until the third period that the Bruins were back, buzzing around our net again. At on epoint it seemed like there was an endless parade of Habs to the penalty box, it culminated with Boston's tying goal and suddenly it was the Habs and their fans that were worried. It was after that that Boston did what they do best; they took stupid penalty after stupid penalty. I had said I was glad our PP was 0/5 in game #1 because it is nice to have an O for night when you win anyway. Well, tonight 0/12 would just not do and we needed that goal. As predicted we scored on the PP when we needed it the most, a trend that I hope continues. The refs showed courage by making calls in the third and OT, but that is what we should expect isn't it? We have always been told a penalty is a penalty and until tonight it had been a long time since I saw the league hold themselves true to their word.

I felt that we missed a couple of key components tonight and I am hoping for a few changes for tomorrow. Koivu's absence is greater than I had even imagined. Higgins was 0/8 in the face-off circle tonight and quite frankly his line did not look threatening at all. The all french trio of Dandenault-Latendresse-Lapierre offered absolutely nothing tonight and I think could use a little boost - Grabovski and S. Kostitsyn. Lastly I can't begin to say how much we need a good solid defensive defenceman in the mix (Bouillon or O'Byrne) rather than a 5th rate offensive dinosaur. Brisebois offers little more in Boston's end than mis-timed pinches and weak knucklers from the point. We should count ourselves very lucky that he has two points so far and hasn't cost us a game yet - the longer we wait the more likely it is that a catastrophic Breeze-by moment will happen. He is physically weak, unable to stand-up for himself or his teammates and is becoming a bigger liability with each passing game. We have the point-men to get the job done, I think we now need the D-men to take care of our own end.

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