The Canadiens Game in Review
Date: Thursday April 24th, 2008
Opponent: Philadelphia Flyers
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC
Final Score: 4-3 (OT) - Win
Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Martin Biron (L)
Habs goalscorers: Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexei Kovalev (2), Tom Kostopoulos
Opposition goalscorers: R.J. Umberger, Jim Dowd
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 2nd Round Game in MTL Since 2004
1st 2nd Round Win Since 2002
1st Playoff Penalty-Shot for the Habs Since 1984 (Naslund)
1st Shorthanded Playoff Goal Since 1997 (Brunet)
1st Come-From-Behind Win of the Playoffs
Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...
It was said that the Habs Power-Play had to be better than it was against Boston to win this round. All I could say to that was - didn't we beat Boston? Yes it could be better, but believing that law of averages would now be on the Habs side anyway I was never worried about our PP, only excited that we had won a series without over-using our main weapon.
With 1:11 left in the third period Kovalev made a great move around Mike Richards, a play in which Richards tripped Kovy and put the Habs on just their second PP of the night. Carbo's decision to pull Price for the whole PP was the right one; we had just over a minute to send this game to OT. He put out the core scorers (Koivu, Kovalev, A. Kostitsyn, Higgins, Markov and Streit) and let them go to work. 2 key face-off wins by Saku amounted to nothing and with 30 seconds left it seemed like we would have just one more chance with a draw to the left of Biron. Saku lined up his troops and went ahead and won yet another huge face-off. The puck went right to Alex who within a blink of an eye put the puck top-corner, short-side and sent this game to sudden-death.
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...
His situational awareness is something else. Alex scored PP and a SH goals tonight, both of which were such good, heads-up plays. He looked much more active tonight than he did for most of the Bruins series as he no longer had the big Zdeno Chara keeping a watch on him. He basically did what we needed him to do tonight - score exactly when we needed. He tied the game up twice with two very good goals proving that he always knows exactly where the puck, the net and the chances lie. Not many people would have scored the goals he did tonight; he is the main reason we are now not trailing this series by one.
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)...
- Tom's line was used a lot in the third period and then again in OT. To an outside observer one may question the use of Kostopoulos-Begin-Smolinski in key offensive situations, but I now think every one's doubts should be laid to rest. Their line (and Tom in particular) were relentless last night; never more evident than during OT. Tom worked feverishly to keep the puck in Philly's end and it paid off just 0:48 seconds into the extra frame - a goal which Tom himself called (in french mind you) 'the goal of my life'
- Aside from the obvious, Alex played a great game. His 2 key goals and penalty-draw were the reason we won, his solid play throughout was also a big reason we were close in this game to begin with. He played over 23 minutes, killed penalties, and dished out 3 hits - tonight he was the complete playoff performer
- Saku continued right where he left off in the Boston series. He played a game that was filled with hard-work and effort from the start right until the finish (no pun intended). He proved, yet again, that he may lack the size of a Derian Hatcher, but he makes up for it with a Lion's heart, and you know what heart beats size in one-on-one battles with 90's defencemen. He had 3 face-off wins on our last PP and was 17/24 (71%) overall. Like Kovy he was used in all situations, and was equally as effective. He, along with our assistants, led by example tonight and that is something that the whole team will have taken notice of
- Josh played another solid defensive game for the Habs. He saw almost 20 minutes of ice in this one and once again was used in all situations. He was actually preferred to Mike (stupid penalty) Komisarek when we were pressing at the end. He ended at +1 and wasn't on the ice for any Flyers goals
- Markov didn't play his best hockey of the year against Boston, but was still a factor in that series. From the looks of game #1 against the Flyers he will be an even bigger factor in this one. His best play came in OT when he assisted on the winning goal. He had the puck at the point and took a big hit with a Flyer bearing down on him. Most people would have turned away from the hit, thus sacrificing an obviously good scoring chance. He was on the ice for our last 3 goals and none of Philadelphia's
- This wasn't Price's best effort of the playoffs, but he did play a solid game. One goal was purely Brisebois' fault and one was a bad play by Carey, the third was neutral. To me, if you only let in 2 goals against a team like Philly you are giving your team a chance to win. After he let in an early goal in the third he stood tall to give us the ability to fore-check and not worry about the back-end
Eyes on Kovalev
Did he flit and float? Someone ought to keep track...
Alex picked up where he left off in Game #7 with another fantastic performance. He was used a bit with Koivu and a bit with Plekanec in this one, looking equally effective with both pivot-men. He was able to generate a lot more space than he could against Boston and I think that we will notice that the most on the PP in this series. You can expect our play with the extra man to be a big factor in this series. Thanks to Kovy we are already 1/2 when up a man.
Kovalev's Assessment - Excellent
This game started great for the Habs. We were out-playing Philadelphia in all aspects of play and it really looked like we would win this one going away. Our defence were playing tight and were able to shut down the Flyer's top forwards. Coincidentally our forwards were playing extremely well and Philly's slow (as advertised) defence could not keep up. We ran into some bad luck early as it looked like an early series lead may not be in the cards. Luckily for us we didn't let the bad breaks affect our play as we just kept at it and stuck to our gameplan. In years passed overcoming 0-2 deficits would have been near unimaginable, but now, thanks to calm, patient players this year's group has made them a regular occurrence. The best part about tonight was it was complete team effort - everyone bought into the gameplan and everyone did their part. If we keep that up then there should be more Ws to come against Philly.
Winning the first game at home is huge, but, when you think about it, it is almost essential. There is a reason that they call it 'home-ice advantage' and that's because the crowd really can make a difference. We won't have nearly the support that we received in Philly as we got in Boston and that is why our home games must not be squandered. I am confident that this team has a road-win in them this round, but the more we win at home the less, and less that matters. A tight game like this was a perfect way to start the series as it will hopefully remind the team that no opponent in the playoffs is a push over - no matter how well you fared against them in the regular season.