Saturday, October 18, 2008

Game #5

Habs Cruise Against the Lowly Desert Dogs

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday October 18th, 2008
Opponent: Phoenix Coyotes
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Ilya Bryzgalov (L)

Habs goalscorers: Alex Tanguay (2), Saku Koivu, Robert Lang
Opposition goalscorers: Shane Doan

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

Price had the play of the game early in the first. It was a play that changed the whole game and put us in the driver's seat.

With the Habs up 1-0 Shane Doan was fed a beautiful goal-mouth pass from the left wing. Literally on Price's doorstep was Doan who merely had to redirect the perfect pass to tie the game up. To his credit Shane did take the perfect shot, and against most goalies he would have scored, but not against Carey, not tonight. Price came across in the splits to absolutely rob Doan as he preserved the lead which we never relinquished.

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

Saku Koivu
For some unknown reason Saku only played 12 minutes again which was only higher than 2 players - a fighter and a player who got injured early in the game. Despite seeing very limited ice-time Koivu delivered. He was by far our best player tonight as he added another 3 points to give him 8 points on the season and 599 for the career.

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
Sak continued to impress people this year as he is truly playing at his best. What I am also happy about (apart from the points and shear dominance on the ice) is him improvement in 2 key areas - PIM and +/-. In the first 5 games he has 0 penalties and leads the league in +/- at +7. Tonight was also another great night in the face-off circle, he was 12/14.

Guillaume Latendresse
I was thinking earlier about 2 key questions concerning Higgins' imminent return - 1) Does Gui deserve a top-2 line spot and 2) Should Gui be on one of the top 2 lines. The answer to question 1 is a resounding yes. Once again Latendresse played a great game. He has always shown great chemistry with Saku (who hasn't?) and Tanguay is obviously as/more valuable than we all thought as he slots right in there. Question 2 is the the one thatwill cause some debate. Gui is a good player and he is playing great, but let's face it, we all know Higgins is better. If Koivu's line is this good with a slightly faster 16-goal man, then how good could they be with our 30-40-goal work horse? Despite all the talk Gui played a great game, he was physical, showed good puck control and could actually keep up with his speedy linemates.

Alex Tanguay
Daniel Briere or Tanguay? Do I even need to answer that. Here is our french superstar folks and he couldn't have come at a better time. Alex is so well spoken, has such a nice personality and is one heck of a player. His chemistry with Saku is reminiscent of Saku with Teemu or Recchi. Tanguay's 2 goals tonight were goalscorers goals as he was patient and found the holes twice. He showed incredible speed all night and while he was on we were constantly creating scoring chances.


Andrei Markov
Should I simply make this section the Markov + 1 section? Marky was so good tonight and he was made to look even better than usual thanks to the pitiful defence the Coyotes fielded. He is truly in a league of his own on some nights as he seems light years ahead of anyone around him. He had 2 assists tonight, one of which I am sure you will see again. After keeping the puck in at the blue-line he found a wide open Koivu at the side of the net. His wind up on his slapshot-pass fooled everyone, Bryzgalov went down and Saku simply had to hit an open net.

Mike Komisarek
Tonight was Mike's best game that I have seen all year. He was physical, stood up for his teammates and for a change didn't take any stupid penalties. The numbers don't lie either - +2, 7 hits and 5 blocked-shots. If he plays like this on most nights then we have little to worry about. It is when he starts playing like Rivet and Souray that I begin to wonder if he really can be a #2 or #3 man in this league.


Carey Price
Price wasn't tested much, but when he was he came up big. There were a few spectacular saves which always help a team (and a goalie) build confidence. He handled the puck very well tonight, mostly because he didn't try to do too much. I thought he deserved a shutout and was unlucky when a shot that was going wide hit O'Byrne and ended up loose in the crease to be easily tapped in. Another highlight for me was when at the end of the game he switched helmets with Gorges. Josh put on the goalie mask and there was Carey being congratulated with head-butts to the visor. It was a funny moment which despite making us all smile showed just how close this team now is - that is something that can't be taught, bought or sought, that is a true talent.

In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

Gretzky and the Coyotes had a wild idea tonight, they wanted to shadow our best player and thought it would work. Well, I'll give them credit as it seemed Kovalev was marked all night and had very little room to work. There are, however, a lot of things that make me laugh about this and it all starts with the 4-1 scoreline. How about an adjustment Wayne? We are up 4-0, Koivu's line is on for all 4 goals and yet you still only focus your attention on one player. Another thing, just because you only have one good player in Phoenix doesn't mean that the rest of the league followed that game-plan. We have 3 scoring lines and if you want to beat us it won't be done by shutting us down, I think the key would be to out attack us, thus rendering our attack useless.

The good thing about all of this is our depth. Opponents will never be able to shadow all 3 lines effectively, so it is a flawed system against a team with more than 2 good players. By shadowing Kovalev the other lines were able to see so much of the ice as the best defensive players were off the ice. Had they treated all lines equally I guarantee that this would have been a closer game. The last funny thing is that Kovy still had about 4 serious scoring chances including the undressing of Phoenix defenceman. So, all in all they reduced Kovy's chances from about 8 to 4 - good luck with that Wayne.

Overall Comments

I thought that overall this was a good game. We took it to Phoenix right from the get-go and we never looked back. It was especially important that after letting up a 3-goal lead to Boston on Wednesday we play a full 60 minutes tonight. Koivu's line in particular was great tonight as they exposed the AHL-calibre defence that Phoenix has decided to go with this year. Our 9th point in 5 games makes this a very good start and I can only hope we keep putting those points in the bank as I know things will get tighter as the year marches on and as other teams get into proper shape.

One bad thing to see tonight was Kurt Sauer's elbow on Andrei Kostitsyn in the 2nd period. It was a vicious hit which left Andrei out of it and with huge cuts on his cheek and around his eye. Losing a player of Kostitsyn's calibre for any length of time could be devastating so I am hoping that the reason he took the remainder of the game off was precautionary more than anything else. I know that the kid is tough, so let's hope he'll be back scoring goals by mid-week.

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