Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Game #24

Silly Mistakes Almost Cost Habs a Guaranteed 2 Points

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday December 2nd, 2008
Opponent: Atlanta Thrashers
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 5-4 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Johan Hedberg (L)

Habs goalscorers: Matt D'Agostini, Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Markov, Andrei Kostitsyn, Robert Lang
Opposition goalscorers: Ron Hainsey (2), Chris Thorburn, Jason Williams



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

The play-of-the-game tonight isn't in here for its beauty as much as for its necessity. I personally never thought an empty-netter would end up in this section, but then again how often is one the game-winner?

With 1:35 to go Atlanta pulled their goalie, which I thought was a bit ambitious, but at the same time it was refreshing to see a coach pull at a time other than 1:00. Kovalev's line, which had been doing good work all night, was on and they got things going quickly. Within 5 seconds they were in Atlanta's zone and were applying some good pressure. Kovy took a shot/pass from the half-boards towards the net. In front Lang was able to tip it just enough to get credit for the goal, it would eventually turn out to be the winner. It turned out that this play was crucial in the end as Atlanta pulled again and managed to score one themselves on that go.



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

Andrei Kostitsyn
For a second straight game Andrei was our best player and he is the biggest reason why we have 4 more points in the bank after 2 1-goal wins. Tonight he scored a goal and added 2 assists. That gives him 5 points over the past 2 games which is just 2 less than he had in his first 20. I liked the chemistry he showed with Koivu and was happy that D'agostini did such a good job with those 2.



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)...

Forwards

Matt D'Agostini
For the first time in his career Matt stayed out of the penalty-box. Now, I know that his career, before tonight, was only two games, but I consider this a significant stat. It is significant because tonight he wasn't playing catch-up, he wasn't the one hooking and holding and following, no tonight, he was in charge. He played with speed and conviction and the hard work resulted in his first NHL point, a goal.

Andrei Kostitsyn
It is very good as a Hab fan to see Andrei flying and more importantly smiling. Over the first quarter of the season the kid looked slightly lost and frustrated on the ice, but I am happy to say that that is changing. Tonight he took his place on the top line and ran with it as he was fast and smart with the puck. In all he took the most shots of any player on either team and, I am sure if you ask either goalie, was the most dangerous shooter too.

Alexei Kovalev
No goals in 14 games now is it? Who cares. Do we pay Alex to score goals? Yes we do, but more importantly we pay the team, as a whole, to win games. We have 32 points in 24 games and have the 3rd best record in the east, so do individual stats even matter? As a fan I don't care how we win, who scores the goals, or who makes what money, what I care about are the shear number of wins we accumulate. Alex was a big reason we won tonight and even though he didn't score (and you'll read about that elsewhere) he got 2 assists which gives him 18 points in 24 games - just about his career average. Not every year can be above average.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Defensively Andrei, like the rest of the crew had little to do in the first 2 periods. After that point it was a total team effort (on the Habs part) which allowed the Thrashers to score 4. I wouldn't say that Marky dropped the ball in our own end in the 3rd, but at the same time he didn't do anything that great. Offensively, however, was a different story. He played well on the PP as he scored a much-needed goal for the Habs. There was another play later in the 3rd where Lang made a beautiful pass to Andrei and it would have been his second of the night if it weren't for the luck of Hedberg.

Francis Bouillon
I have to hand it to Bou and Dandy as neither of them were on for any of Atlanta's four goals. Franky, however, played slightly better than Mat to earn a spot in here. In all he blocked 2 shots, got an assist and finished at +1. I liked how he kept it very simple tonight and virtually remained invisible, which, for a D-man, is quite alright.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
We can blame the team and the coaches all we want for letting up 4 home goals in the 3rd to one of the league's worst teams, but at the end of the day I believe it all comes down to goaltending. I think everyone in Habs nation thought we had 2 points in the bank, but no one showed it more than Carey. He played a very nonchalant 3rd period which, in all honesty, scared me. Letting up 4 goals in one period will rarely end well, so I must say Price, and the Habs, were very, very lucky in this one.



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

When I look past the mistakes of tonight, past the meltdown and past the luck it took for us to come out alive I think of one thing, and one thing alone: speed. All around, all game, there was speed, and it played a huge role in the game and therefore the result. First there was the speed of D'Agostini and Kostitsyn which led to a great goal and a few chances. There was the speed of Kovalev's thinking which led to a couple of goals and again, more chances. Lastly there was the speed of our passing and our breakouts which led to a strong majority in puck possession.

On the other hand speed was very evident for the Thrashers too. The speed of Kovalchuk's hands and legs led to 2 goals and some very nervous times for us Habs fans. The speed in which Atlanta capitalized on our failure to put a full 5 players on the ice was quite something too. And, lastly, the speed in which they scored their 2nd and 3rd goals (7 seconds apart) was enough to raise more than a few eyebrows.

Let's face it, this game is primarily about speed and tonight, for the first time in a while, we used ours. Speed doesn't just mean skating it can mean a whole bunch of things, but without speed there will be no wins. I believe we have the speed to do some serious damage this year in the east, but I also believe that if we don't use it, as we didn't in the 3rd period, we will be out-raced by the opposition in the all important speed game.


Overall Comments

For two periods it was all going according to plan. We had a 3-0 lead and Atlanta didn't really look like they had come to Montreal to play hockey. All we had to do was finish off the third and we would have an easy win to start our week. Unfortunately I think a few brains switched off after 2. We stopped attacking and hung back as we let Atlanta do all of the playing. 6 minutes into the third we forgot to replace the 5 exiting players with 5 new ones which gave the Thrashers an impromptu power-play. It didn't take them long to find a gap and fire one home. It probably didn't help that we were unaware we were playing shorthanded. Plays like this are pathetic, I mean that rarely happens in Pee-Wee. It showed a huge lack of awareness and showed, I think, a lack of respect to our opponents as it seemed we had checked out of this one. Within a minute it was 3-3 and we needed to settle down. Luckily at that point we decided to start attacking again and it wasn't long before Andrei burst around the defence to get a 2-0n-1 with D'Agostini. This time luck was on our side as the sliding defenceman took the puck into the net with him likely robbing Matt of his 2nd career goal. A late empty-netter gave us a 2-goal lead again which was good because we had one more mistake left in us. With 20 seconds left Atlanta came into our end and scored a nice goal to give them new hope. Time at this point was on our side as the horn sounded soon after and put this one to bed. All in all we beat a bad team in a very hard way. Have we learned a lesson? Probably not as this type of thing just keeps on happening.

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