Saturday, November 29, 2008

Game #23

Big 2nd Period Lifts Habs Over Sabres

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday November 29th, 2008
Opponent: Buffalo Sabres
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-2 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Patrick Lalime (L)

Habs goalscorers: Andrei Kostitsyn, Steve Begin, Andrei Markov
Opposition goalscorers: Thomas Vanek (2)

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

The Habs had just gone 5 periods without a goal and somehow we needed our luck to change. With Buffalo up 1-0 we needed to catch a break and beat a very beatable (all of a sudden good?) Quebecois. Andrei Kostitsyn was the player who luck chose on this night as he was at the blue-line when the Sabres coughed it up. Kostitsyn grabbed the puck and made a great move to get around the first defenceman. He then took a shot which hit the other defenceman and came right back to him. By the time Andrei had the puck on his stick Lalime had already committed to the first, blocked, shot. It turned out to be a very timely goal for the Habs and Andrei himself, a goal in which luck allowed him to show us his supreme puck-handling skills.

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

Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei was very effective tonight. He scored a goal, added an assist, was +2 and led the team in shots+hits (3+4). He was very lively on the fore-check all night as he was hitting pretty much anything and, thus, creating plenty of turnovers. He played quite well alongside Lapierre and his brother, so what does Carbo do? He puts him straight back with Kostopoulos and Plekanec. I truly believe that Andrei belongs with Tom, but do you think that enough is enough? I am guessing that the one person who may be more fed up with all the line shuffling right now than me is Andrei himself.

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 made a very good pass to Markov on the game-winner - his vision and patience were exceptional on that play. He did very good work on the PP, especially during the 5-on-3. For a full 2 minutes he stood in front of the net and took repeated cross-checks to the back from Captain X-Check (pre-lockout superstar - Craig Rivet). The captain led by example tonight and was a big reason for the win.

Andrei Kostitsyn
He was our most dangerous player tonight by far. His speed and skill were too much for a very tired Sabre defence to handle. It is hard to believe that his 2 points tonight were just his 8th and 9th of the season. He has been playing great hockey all year and those stats are not a good representation of that at all. I could pull a main-stream here and claim he is having a bad season based on those numbers (RDS...Brunet...), but unlike them I watch the game, each and every shift, and have seen how well this certain non-french player has been doing.

Robert Lang
I liked seeing Lang with Kovy tonight and thought it would bring us a goal or two. The two old friends played very well together and had quite a few chances. Between the two of them they had more than 1/4 of all of our shots (9). Tonight he was deployed as a #2 centre which I think is a role that he can handle, but isn't necessarily a role he should be playing.


Andrei Markov
Andrei happened to be on the ice for both of the huge mistakes which led to goals-against. Both Higgins and Gorges committed horrendous errors which Andrei could do nothing about. I will assure you that Marky didn't make any crucial mistakes himself and carried a very sub-par Gorges through this one. He scored the game-winner on a very well-timed pinch.

Roman Hamrlik
And, by default it is...I say that, but in all honesty Hammer did play a solid game. He was credited with his 400th career assist on Begin's goal which is quite an accomplishment. He was very steady at the back tonight as he kept Buffalo's chances to a minimum. He occasionally got involved in the offensive zone, but only at smart and opportune times.


Carey Price
Carey got very lucky tonight. It seems that ridding yourself of cockiness is more than a 2-week thing. For some reason by the end of the game Price had decided to neglect what had been working so well for him (not leaving his net) as he started to wonder in a very slow and carefree way. With less than 5 minutes to go one of his excursions led to a give-away which very nearly cost the Habs their lead. Aside from his play out of net he was pretty good tonight. He wasn't spectacular, but did what the goalie of any high-scoring team should do - let in 2 or less.

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

Let's start with what we know.

- O'Byrne isn't that great and isn't ready to play nearly as often or as much as he does right now.

- Brisebois is the worst defenceman to ever play in this league and probably any other professional league

- Dandenault has had 3 very poor years with the Habs and wasn't even good enough to be our 8th defenceman last year.

- Carbo has favorites and so do the media.

So, if I am an unbiased fan who wants to see the best possible team in Komisarek's absence I think of a few options. The first would be to ask - are those our only 3 choices? The answer, of course, would be no. We have a farm team, they have defencemen and some of those guys are quite good. Then why aren't we seeing Belle, Weber or even Carle? Surely we could at least get one of them to come up, couldn't we? After all they belong to us and are not going to cost us anymore than Komi would have - despite all of this we decided to not call anyone up.

The second obvious choice is even simpler I think. We are left with 6 defenceman and 1 guy who used to be the 7th D-man on another team. OK, simple, let's choose our best 6 and go from there. Wrong. Carbo doesn't think like that you see. All he can see are O'Byrne's errors. He refuses to look at Brisebois' miscues (much more plentiful than Ryan's) as those ones haven't hit sports shows this week. Buckling under the pressure of the media Carbo decided to sit Ryan in the press-box in favour of a guy who wasn't even good enough for our 4th line last week! The line-up that we iced tonight on defence was pathetic. It reminded me of when we had...oh wait these same guys. We had taken 2 huge steps forward over the past 3 seasons in that department, but I am afraid that this season we have taken 3 even bigger steps back. We played with fire tonight and the worse thing is we won. Just who do you think Carbo will go with on Tuedsay?

Overall Comments

The Habs came out and played another good hockey game tonight. It definitely wasn't one-sided in our favour, but I am happy to report that it was neither the case for Buffalo. Most players competed tonight and better yet, that meant 60 minutes worth. I was very happy with some things tonight, but as usual there were things that bothered me. I am happy that we outshot Buffalo 34-28. Getting over 30 shots is good, and holding your opponent to less than 30 with Price in nets will work most nights. Another positive was that we won 59% of our face-offs and we had no centre below 58%. That represents a huge change from the last few games and is something that I think helped in key situations. The negatives I saw have already been covered, but I think I must stress just one more. Tonight Brisebois played 19 1/2 minutes which was 3rd most amongst our defence (ahead of Gorges) and 5th most of our whole team. Just what is going on? That is way too much for a player of his skill (wait, does that mean that he has some). I have accepted that he is on the team, again, and is here for one last year, again, but I can not tolerate this. It is so obvious that he is our worst player that if we MUST use him it should never be for more that about 10 minutes/game. This just shows how little Carbo knows about defence - it is actually very scary.

The Habs, in the end, did what we asked. They finished another week with 5 out of a possible 8 points. I couldn't care that some people thought last night's game was a disgrace because all I see is an L and I move on. We got 13 out of a possible 26 points over our 13-in-23 stretch which isn't great, but when that includes a slump you can't complain. And lastly, they have started this home-stand on a very good note. We now have 10 games left before Christmas and have 13 more points to get. 43 points after 33 games (107 -point pace) would be a very good Christmas present for us all.

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