Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Game #8

A Win That Was 4 1/2 Years in the Making

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday October 28th, 2008
Opponent: Carolina Hurricanes
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Cam Ward (L)

Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev, Alex Tanguay (PS), (Saku Koivu - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Anton Babchuk, Matt Cullen

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

I had to wait till the very end of this one to see a play that inspired me. And, there it was a game-winner that couldn't have made us all happier and couldn't have made the Bell Centre roar any louder. The moment was during the shootout, it was yet another priceless Koivu penalty-shot. Saku has been one of the league's best in the shootout since its inception (11/22) 3 years ago and has certainly been the best Hab. The move that he did tonight was simple, looked easy, but was fantastic. The key to scoring in these situations is to be one step ahead of the goalie and to do something that he isn't expecting. Everyone was thinking forehand-backhand-forehand for Saku, but instead he stopped on the backhand and slid the puck ever so softly between the great divide that was Ward's 5-hole.

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

Alexei Kovalev
Kovy was sharp tonight and I think that the return of the elder Kostitsyn helped. Their trio, completed by Plekanec, looked quite dangerous all night as they really controlled the puck in the offensive zone. Alex's goal, the Habs' first, was just what we needed late in the 1st. Until that point we had been badly outplayed and we needed a spark. Alex stole the puck along the right half-boards and came in and fired a laser of a wrist-shot up over Ward's glove. It got the crowd into it, got the players into it and wiped out a 1-goal deficit which Carolina would never re-establish.

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
Saku had a great game in both ends. He played over 20 minutes which was great to see, but even better was that Carbo was using him as one of his main penalty-killers. He did a great job at controlling play while the Habs were man-down and often saw 2 shifts on the same kill. He was very effective on the PP, especially when Carolina were down to 3 men (it happened twice). He saved his best for last though with the game-winner in the shootout.

Alexei Kovalev
Alex was flying tonight. There were spins, dekes, incredible wrist-shots and even a one-timer off Ward's head in overtime - a shot that was going in. I felt that the veterans, led by Koivu, Kovy, Lang and Markov were a huge reason for the win tonight. That group was instrumental in all aspects of play and their example was there for all to see. After all, it can't always be the young-guns stealing the show.

Alex Tanguay
Why Tanguay was chosen to take the penalty-shot, I don't know. There is no rule (other than it has to be a player on the ice) as to who takes it when a player covers the puck in the crease. So, the choice was up to Carbo, and he made the right call. Since we were on a 5-on-3 at the time there were definitely some great choices, but Alex proved to be the right one. Besides his goal he played quite well tonight. His puck-control and positioning weren't all that they have been, but his speed and effort definitely were.


Andrei Markov
He was fantastic tonight. Carbo had him on the ice for over 1/2 an hour which isn't too surprising considering the way that he played. His passing and ability to carry the puck, safely, through the neutral zone were great. Also, and I know that I've said it before, he may be the best in the league at keeping the puck in at the point on the PP. He uses his arms, legs, backhand, whatever he has to to keep the puck in and better yet he generally gets the puck to someone fast or controllers it quickly himself. This skill may seem a bit odd and a bit unessential, but I tell you it is far from that. The amount of plays Marky keeps (and kept tonight) alive results in tons of chances, goals and reduces the opposition's time with the puck.

Francis Bouillon
18 minutes is a little bit better from Carbo. Franc was still only the 4th most used defenceman and would have actually been the 5th had Hammer not got hurt. Even still, 18-21 minutes is perfect for him as I wouldn't expect too much time on the PP. He was very good at winning the puck after collisions tonight. He displayed the ability to make a hit and show that he has a plan for the aftermath. Hitting someone isn't just about hurting them, it is actually about regaining possession and Bou understands this as well as anyone. As usual he skated well and moved the puck crisply and safely.


Carey Price
Carey does very well in the shootout as his big frame and patience seem to be the answer against some of the league's best shooters. I thought that Price played a very solid game tonight and at times was purely spectacular. He made some incredible saves which were thanks in huge part to his ability to get back on his feet and his overall great positioning. The second goal against was partly his fault as poor rebound-control and then a lack of a sense of the severity of the play caught us out. At the end of the third, however, it was his puck-handling which again let him down and almost cost us 2 points. Trying to be the hero and prove he could do it all himself he tried to clear the puck rather than leaving it for Markov who was right there. Had that player been Brisebois I would understand Carey's rush, but come on, it was Andrei. The result was a 2 minute penalty and some nervous times for Habs fans everywhere.

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

What I enjoy seeing more than anything in sport is effort. Some athletes have all the talent in the world, yet they hardly try. Some, on the other hand, aren't as lucky and need to always give their best effort to make up for their lack of skill and thus sometimes just barely survive. What I saw tonight from one particular player was encouraging to say the least.

The subject was Christopher Higgins. He doesn't fall into the category of players who lack skill, which makes it that much more exciting to see him bring the high level of effort that we saw tonight. No race was not worth running, no chase was useless, no hit was just a formality. It is obvious that some players and teams just go through the motions of an NHL season, rarely rising to the level of all-out effort. It was so good to see Chris buzzing all over the ice tonight and as a result breaking up Hurricane plays and more often than not making stuff happen for us. I think that it is only a matter of time till we see Higgs up with Sak and Tangs at which point the league better watch out. That line will then have one the league's best 'clean-pests', 2 of the best passers and 3 incredible talents - all I'll be able to say to the opposition is good luck!

Overall Comments

It took the Habs awhile to get into this game, but once they did it remained fairly even. I don't think that either team would have felt robbed in a losing effort nor do I think that either team should feel they deserved the win. This was one of those games that is really up for grabs right until the end. There were missed opportunities all night for both teams, so I wouldn't say I am ecstatic at our play. I am, however, happy to get the 2 points as you can never get enough of those.

Here are a couple of things that I noticed that have been bothering me for the past few games. The Canadiens aren't playing the simple, possession game. We are trying to do an awful lot on each play which may look great when put to music, but is a high-risk way to play a game. The Hurricanes played a simpler game and maybe we can learn something from them. They had 4-5 men back on nearly every play and were not giving us very much space at all. Aside from one cough-up and a perfect shot by one of the league's sharpest-shooters and 2 penalty shots they were near impenetrable in their own end. When they have the puck and are coming forward I notice that they do a very good job of supporting their puck-carrier. We often try to pass through or around defenders, whereas they are skating side-by-side and are getting multiple players inside our defence. It is a simple way to play, and it may not be pretty, but hopefully we can take a little bit of what we saw tonight with us. Carolina have been a tough team for us to beat at home as of late so it was nice to finally get a W. Tonight marks the first win against Carolina at home since February 2004, so long ago that we didn't even have Kovy yet.

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