Saturday, April 05, 2008

Game #82

A Win in Montreal on Saturday Night Against Toronto; What a Night, What a Season

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday April 5th, 2008
Opponent: Toronto Maple Leafs
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-1 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Andrew Raycroft (L)

Habs goalscorers: Mark Streit, Christopher Higgins (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Mark Bell

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 103+ Point Season since 1989-1990
1st NHL Game for Gregory Stewart

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

Our play of the game was a throw-back to the days of Larry Robinson, Guy Lafleur and any brutal opposing 'NHL' goalie. Playing the parts tonight were Mark Streit, Christopher Higgins and Andrew Raycroft.

Streit had the puck in his own end and saw Higgins streaking down the right side in the neutral zone. He hit Chris just before the blue-line with a perfect pass - Higgins was at top speed. The shot from Higgins was a quick snap shot that left Leaf Nation and Raycroft stunned. After that goal the game was ours. It was a perfect snap-shot of two teams heading in completely opposite directions.

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

Christopher Higgins

Hossa would have been nice, but a big part of me (all) is also very glad to still have Higgins around. He played a fantastic game tonight - he scored 2 goals and was a real leader on the ice. He was playing on a makeshift line this game, something that should change come Thursday. If he plays like he did tonight when Saku and Ryder are back the Bruins will have no clue what hit them.

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)...


Gregory Stewart
- Stewart became the 30th player to play for us this year - the current 26 along with Murray, Huet, Chipchura and Locke. He did an outstanding job offensively, which is surprising as he is meant to be a fighter. He did have a late fight with the highly un-classy (typical Leaf) McCabe. Stewart brought a whole new level of energy to the 4th line, it was great to see

Christopher Higgins
- Higgins capped off another great season tonight with a 2-goal effort. It is the second year in a row that he has scored 2 against Toronto in game #82. He was very quick tonight and was very hard to knock off the puck. He is riding some serious momentum into the playoffs; perfect timing

Tomas Plekanec
- Plekanec looked strong tonight. He is at his best against slow teams like Toronto which suits us very well given that we are meeting Boston in round 1. His line looked really dangerous and came very close on a number of occasions


Andrei Markov
- Markov played very well in his own end tonight. He is just one on a long list of Habs who seems to be ready for the playoffs. He capped off a great night with an assist on Higgins' 2nd goal. I think wearing the 'A' in Koivu's absence has done him well and I hope he will continue to lead his defensive corps right through the playoffs

Mark Streit
- For the second year in a row Mark was named the unsung hero of the Habs. It is an honour that is well deserved for the dynamic Swiss blue-liner. He had a goal and an assist tonight and finished at +1. He was very strong in his own end and as usual was a magician with the puck. I always knew that he was going to be a great player from day one of camp in 2005, but 62 points is even a shock to me


Carey Price
- Carey played another solid game tonight. He was never called upon to do anything too spectacular, but he did what he had to all game long. Over the past 6 weeks he has given the Habs a legitimate chance to win on a nightly basis and, with the team that he has in front of him, a win is often in the cards. His D are really beginning to trust him and to rely on him and that is good for the confidence of the whole squad. He hasn't buckled under any pressure as of yet which is a great sign, because we will need him at his absolute best from now on

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

Kovy played very well tonight. He played a smart game in the sense that he never made himself vulnerable to be hit by the irrational Leafs. He worked very well on the PP - with Markov in particular. Wearing the 'C' has been a good experience for him as I do think the team looks up to him. He will continue to be our most important piece in weeks to come.

Kovalev's Assessment - Excellent

Overall Comments

Toronto came to play tonight, as expected, but still were no match for such a hot group of Habs. Without Sundin, and even Antropov or Toskala, this was a weak side, a team that is in some serious trouble. The Habs showed tonight why they are the superior franchise - we have talent, prospects, speed and most of all class, Toronto is O'fer in those categories. 2 nights ago they showed that there is no limit to how low they'll go when they had Mark Bell hurt 3 key Senator players. Tonight my #1 concern was that we come out of this game as healthy as we went into it. I am happy to say that nothing major happened and we won't have to see that team for another 6 months. Now we can concentrate on what we do best - playoff hockey, and they can focus on what they do best - blame the world for their shortcomings.

The Habs had two very special guests tonight watching the game - Al Gore and David Suzuki. I am glad that the Habs recognize the work of these truly amazing men and hope that we can count on their support (as hopefully they can count on ours) in the coming times. This classy move by the team along with the whole team saluting the crowd at the end of the game were just a couple of moments that made me proud to be a Canadiens Fan.

We now know that the Habs will be playing Boston in the first round for the 3rd time in 7 years and 3rd in our last 4 trips to the playoffs. This match-up is the one that most Habs fans were hoping for as we have beaten them 8 times this year and are currently enjoying an 11 game winning streak vs. our long time rivals. We must, however, not take this team lightly. If we take away the points accumulated in our games against Boston they are the better team. The fact that they were able to play better against the other 28 teams than we were makes me realize they must be a decent team in reality. On paper it looks good for us as we have history, talent, speed, offence, goaltending, defence and special teams on our side, but we all know the Cup is awarded based on paper. We have an excellent shot to do well this time around, but we must take no opponent lightly.

It seems that most of our injured players should be ready for Thursday with the only real concern being Koivu. I am sure, however, that we will see the Captain at his post come game 1. This is a player who has virtually returned from every injury imaginable and even played through a lot of them. He will have had 2 weeks to recuperate by Thursday, so I am sure he will find a way to play. I believe that Guy will go with experience to start the series and that means reuniting Koivu with Higgins and Ryder. Plekanec's line will obviously remain untouched as they been together all year. Our 4th line seems set on as Smolinski, Kostopoulos and Begin have done very well the past few weeks. That leaves 5 legitimate candidates for our third line. Since speed and offence have served us very well all year (especially against Boston) I would expect Grabovski and Sergei Kostitsyn to be in the line-up. The third spot on that line will belong to one of 3 Quebecers (Latendresse, Lapierre, Dandenault). I think Lapierre has the best shot, but don't rule out Latendresse, Dandenault will likely only be used when necessary. To me the rest is simple - Komisarek-Markov, Streit-Hamrlik, Bouillon-Gorges and of course Price. That will leave 6 very capable players on the bench, but I would fully expect constant changes. Like in 1992-1993 we have a deep team and like then it will take a full team effort if we want to accomplish anything this year. The goal is the cup, the priority is Game #1; let's take it one step at a time.

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