Thursday, October 30, 2008

Game #9

Habs Penalty-Killers Steal the Show and a Couple of Points

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday October 30th, 2008
Opponent: Minnesota Wild
Venue: Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, MN

Team Stripes

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Josh Harding (L)

Habs goalscorers: Francis Bouillon, Andrei Markov
Opposition goalscorers: Brent Burns

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

The play of the game for me wasn't just one quick play that lasted just a few seconds, but was instead a play, or series of plays that lasted 5 minutes and 51 seconds.

During nearly 6 straight minutes the Habs were shorthanded for all but 10 seconds and faced 2 successive 5-on-3s. Price was phenomenal, but so were our penalty-killers (other than those who took penalties #2, 3) who allowed Price to see every puck and kept the shots against down and from the outside. That group that deserves mentioning, led by Markov and Gorges, there was Bou, Komi, Saku, Pleks and Kovy.

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

Carey Price
Carey played his best game since the end of last year's regular season. He was imposing in his net as he gave the Wild shooters very little to shoot at. His patience against shooters was very good tonight as was his movement - up, down, left, right, he was everywhere. He followed the play so well and was obviously into the game in a big way.

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
It was a special night tonight for Saku as he was playing against his brother, for only the third time ever, and both their parents were in attendance. A Habs-Minnesota match-up doesn't happen that often these days which makes these games that more special for both boys. Another exciting factor is that these two are both at the height of their careers, both were wearing the 'C' and both are presently on scoring leaders. It was actually the first time since the Sutter brothers (Brian and Darryl) in 1986 that 2 brothers/captains have faced-off against each other. Koivu was on the ice for both goals, playing a big role in each. He was also one of the best forwards at penalty-killing tonight.

Alex Tanguay
Alex collected 2 more assists tonight giving him 5 on the season. He was very good on the point of the power-play tonight and did well killing penalties too. It was truly a special-teams/new-NHL type of game and players like Alex thrive in those situations.

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks was our most dangerous forward tonight and came ever so close to scoring a third goal for us near the end of the 3rd. His line is obviously having a little trouble so far this year, but at least the chances are there. I know, however, that they can be better. Despite playing quite well tonight I know that Tom can be faster when it comes to skating and quicker with his hands as too many passes are being intercepted or are simply too obvious.


Andrei Markov
One of the problems with having a lack of depth on the blue-line is that your top guys run the risk of being over-used. The good news is that, despite our situation, in Andrei we have one of the best in the league, probably second only to Lidstrom. He can do absolutely everything and never seems to get too tired, so carrying Brisebois and co. becomes much more manageable with this super-human talent on our side. He was absolutely phenomenal on the PK and it was also great to see him get one on the 5-on-3 - his first of the year.

Josh Gorges
Bou isn't the only one who is about to leap-frog Komi on the depth chart. Gorges played a very solid game tonight. He racked up over 8 minutes on the PK which is something you may see on the Ducks or Flyers, but is a rare occurrence in Montreal. He kept things very simple tonight which meant no mistakes, smart plays and knowing when and when not to use his speed and puck-handling abilities.


Carey Price
I am happy that Carey played so well tonight. Winning games in Minnesota is never easy, especially not this year. He was our best penalty-killer, it's a good thing too as the Wild had 10 PPs which lasted more than a 1/4 of the game. The NHL wants power-plays and scoring chances and goals, but unfortunately for them, at 0/10, Price doesn't.

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

When is a penalty ever going to be our fault? That is a question I would like to ask Carbo. It seems that he argues every call that goes against us, so does that mean the players are getting off easy. Arguing calls is a good strategy as you may be inadvertently influencing future decisions, but only with certain refs. The opposite is of course a possibility as some refs use arguing as the fuel they need for even more bad and bias calls. I have no problem with how Carbo treats the refs and actually think arguing, in the long run, does more good than bad. What I am concerned about is our players learning that penalties are neither useful, nor a necessary part of the game. I want to see players benched, players yelled at and basically players becoming scared of taking penalties. Some penalties (a trip on a breakaway, a slash on a 2-on-1 etc.) are worth it, but the majority of ours tonight were useless and resulted in no good. We took 10 minors and we didn't even have Laraque in the line-up. That is way too many and the players must be made aware of that. We won't be able to go 10/10 every night on the kill so we were really playing with fire. Stupid penalties to me are as bad, or even worse, than brutal giveaways or horrible goaltending, because, generally, they could be avoided if the player were only thinking a little clearer.

Overall Comments

This game lacked a bit of flow. It started great with both teams flying and some good chances at both ends. Then came the penalties, call after call, both ways - 17 minors, or 34 minutes (>1/2 the game). The result of this were grins on NHL executives faces and frowns on the fans'. What happens when there are this many penalties is the flow is totally disrupted. The excitement the league is constantly trying to create was staring them in the face in the first few minutes, but then they followed the book and put both teams on the PP, more to the home team of course. I would have no problem with this if the calls were good calls, but they weren't. Because of poor referees and horrible league-wide mandates we are left with too much judgement in the hands of 2 men and the players and fans alike are left there wondering why we are man down. What was a hook tonight may have been a solid defensive play 2 nights ago, a blatant dive was perhaps a reason to call a trip and maybe a cross-check to the back was just part of hockey. Can you imagine the strike-zone being knees to chest one day followed by left side only the next, how about a face-mask in football being a slick tackle a week after being called. The NHL has a real problem here as they really have no defined rules. The calls are left to the sole (x2) discretion of refs who clearly don't understand the game, nor watch much other hockey. Their discretion and desire to meet their quotas costs teams on a nightly basis and tonight it cost the fans.

I did, however, like how the Habs adapted to the new rules tonight. No, I wasn't happy that they couldn't learn from their mistakes and simply stop taking penalties, but more so with how they defended and ultimately attacked when they had their own chances. We are getting pretty spoiled so far this year as we near expect a win each time out, but it isn't always that easy. It isn't always Habs-Good-Game=Win, Habs-Bad-Game=Loss. The other team is trying to win too, and who knows maybe they are having a good game as well. Tonight Minnesota did play a good game and we matched with a superior effort, and even better these 2 points came on the road.

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