Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Game #2-4

Costly Penalty Puts Habs in Deep Hole

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Wednesday April 30th, 2008
Opponent: Philadelphia Flyers
Venue: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA

Team Stripes

Final Score: 2-4 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Martin Biron (W)

Habs goalscorers: Tomas Plekanec, Saku Koivu
Opposition goalscorers: R.J. Umberger (2), Scott Hartnell, Daniel Briere

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 Playoff Start for Halak
1st Time the Habs have lost 3 straight in regulation since Feb. 7-12

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

The play of the game tonight wasn't our nicest play, in fact it was our worse. I am singling this play out simply because above all others it determined the outcome of the game.

The Habs had worked their butts off all night and had finally drawn even with Philly and had all the momentum in the world. Instead of continuing the attack Carbo decides to put the 'waste of time' (neither defensive nor offensive) line out there. It didn't take long after that for something to go wrong. With the puck nowhere to be seem and a brain which apparently was even farther away Steve Begin came in and hit perennial NHL tough-man Sami Kapanen. The play led to a Power-Play, thus ending the game, potentially ending the series and, I can only hope, ending Begin's season.

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

Tomas Plekanec

For a second game in a row it was our 'under-sized', 'out-matched', 'diminutive' centres providing the offence. Plekanec proved yet again tonight that skill and speed are the most valuable tools in this league. The Flyers would argue that the most valuable tools are Richards and Carter down the middle, but I don't believe that is where we are being beat. Pleks did really well in all aspects of play tonight as he and the Kostitsyn's generated a lot of quality chances.

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)...


Saku Koivu
- I can only wonder what Saku thinks about Begin's penalty. Saku himself took a penalty that led to a goal, but unlike Steve's it wasn't the right call. The captain had worked so hard all night, had scored the tying goal (and shown unbelievable enthusiasm) only to be left wondering why a scoring line wasn't on the ice at 2-2. Koivu extended his points streak to 6 games in these playoffs - every game in which he has played

Andrei Kostitsyn
- Once again Andrei was very dangerous with the puck. His line seemed to generate more 'edge-of-the-seat' chances tonight than any other line. He was fast and was always going hard to the net. His level of play has been exactly what we needed as it totally exposes Philly's weaknesses

Tomas Plekanec
- Tom finished this game with a + rating, a goal and a 57% face-off percentage. He was not phased one bit by the size of the opponents tonight as he simply used it against them. His speed and creativity allowed for a lot of quality chances and had it not been for Biron he would have easily had a multiple-point game


Francis Bouillon
- Bou got his first 2 assists of the playoffs tonight and continues to play well. The team, however, since his return is a dismal 2-4. I wouldn't consider that Franc's fault at all though as he is playing solid hockey. I rarely see him commit any mistakes and he continues to do a good job of blocking shots with another 3 tonight

Josh Gorges
- I am really happy that Josh and Franc are playing well, but our #5 and #6 defencemen are appearing in here way too often for my liking. The playoffs are about big players stepping up. We have seen it from some forwards, but I think it's time we see it from our D-men. I expect a lot more from Markov, Hamrlik and Komisarek and if they don't deliver this series will be over soon. Josh did, however, play a good game and should be given credit. He assisted on our first goal and led the team in blocked-shots with 4


Jaroslav Halak
- Jaro played pretty well tonight. 2 goals were on the PP and was into an empty net. He didn't steal the show by any means, but I believe he did give our team a chance to win. Thanks to Begin, though, we'll never know. I do, however, think that Carbo has to come back with Price in Game #4. We need an incredible performance if we are going to pull this series out now and that has to start at the back. I do believe that Halak right now is the better goalie, but on the other hand I think that Price has the most potential. I think our only chance to win 3 is to have Carey stand on his head, something that I don't think is doable for Jaro. Price has shown before he can be excellent or he can be average. Oddly enough he rarely has performances in between, that is Halak's domain. We need 3 excellent performances from our team and we can't afford to think about the back - Carey is my man. I am hoping that the anger he has inside of him now will fuel him rather than destroy him. It is time for him to play like the champion we know he is

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

Come on Alex. We need 4 players in particular to play the hockey of their season starting on Saturday. The other 3 are Koivu, Markov and Price. As of now only Saku is playing at that 'out-of-this-world' level, but that is not enough. Alex was OK tonight, but wasn't good enough considering the circumstance. He doesn't have to score that hi-light reel goal, he doesn't have to get any breakaways, he just simply has to be a star. If he plays like we all know he can he will give us a weapon that for the most part has gone unused in this series. Tonight I saw glimpses, but from now on I have to see the whole thing.

Kovalev's Assessment - Average

Overall Comments

We once again were the better team tonight, but not nearly as much as compared to games 2 and 3. Our chances were there, but I wouldn't say we really overwhelmed Philly. Once again the Flyers made the most of their chances and, unlike the Habs, managed to score at the exact right time. This was the fourth time in a row that we have gone down at least 0-2, yet every time we manage to mount at least a mini comeback. To me that shows how vulnerable this Philly team is, but more than anything it shows the importance of scoring first and scoring often. What I would like to see is our best offensive line-up from now on. I am sick and tired of icing 2 scoring lines, 1 checking line and 1 line that will fill 10 minutes of air-time...and take brutal penalties. All year we used offence to win games, why are we changing that now. We need goals in this series and with players like Grabovski and Ryder rotting in the press-box I am left wondering what is going on. Lapierre, Latendresse and Begin to me serve no purpose other than appeasing the minority of French-Canadians who need Quebec players in there. I am from Quebec too, and quite frankly I want to win, I don't care about where players are from. To take it one step further I am English-Canadian and I can't say that Price, Kostopoulos or Gorges' presence in the line-up means anything at all to me; I simply see them as part of a larger group that I cheer for. The fact remains that we have to score goals. I will not spend the whole summer listening to people telling me how great a goalie Martin B. is and he stole the show; maybe Brodeur, but I'm sorry Habs the Biron excuse is a weak one, you'll just have to find a way how.

Of all the penalties that have been called throughout the playoffs and even throughout the year I have yet to see one that wasn't a play which was against the rules. I must hand it to the refs as every penalty they ever call is legitimate. The problem is why do they let it go 9 times then call it the 10th without warning? One team can get away with hooking 6 times, but if it is the other team's turn to get called for something the next hook will equal 2 minutes. Teams clearly have a choice to make. They could choose to never break any rules, thus they would never be penalized (and wouldn't be competitive at all). Or, like all 30 teams have chosen to do, they can break the rules all game long and allow the refs to decide when a team will be given a PP. It is a shame that hockey has become baseball in a way with each team being handed their chances one after another. The Flyers have proven yet again in this series that no matter how dirty you play the calls will always seem to even themselves out.

The bad news is that we are down 1-3 in the series and teams rarely come back from such a deficit. The good news, however, is that we have clearly been the best team in this series and if there was ever a good opportunity to win 3 in a row it would have to be now. We have played Philly 8 times this year and have outplayed them in each of those games. Some extremely bad luck, coupled with good luck for Philly, has put us in a hole, but will this run of luck continue? We obviously can't bank on luck at this point and we can't even bank on outplaying them. We have to be the better team from start to finish of each and every game and we have to dominate them. It is easy to think that the series should be over (4-0 for us) or that we should at least be tied, but we must also be thankful that we weren't swept. What has happened until now means absolutely nothing. It is upsetting that we are down and even though we all believe we should be up there is nothing we can do about it. All we can do now is hope for one good game and take it from there. We have to win 3 games in a row, 2 of those at home. I say we start with one - come on CH.

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