Thursday, December 11, 2008

Game #28

Habs Lose Game, Lose Captain

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday December 11th, 2008
Opponent: Tampa Bay Lightning
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 1-3 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Olaf Kolzig (W)

Habs goalscorers: Patrice Brisebois
Opposition goalscorers: Martin St. Louis (2), Vincent Lecavalier



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

Our best play of the game came early on in the first period. After making a pad save Halak let a rebound out into the slot. There, waiting like a true goal-scorer, was Vinny who quickly gathered the puck and fired it on net. In the meantime Jaro was searching for the puck and at the last second spotted it. As the shot came in he was quick to react with a great glove save, one that we will be seeing all day tomorrow.



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

Alexei Kovalev
He did everything tonight, everything but score that is. He had a very good first few minutes to this game which got the crowd involved. There was one sequence in particular where he won the puck 3 times on the same shift, all in the offensive zone. He led the team in shots with 5, but none of those were that dangerous as we are discovering there is a huge difference between 'shots on net' and 'scoring chances'.



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

Alexei Kovalev
He did set up our only goal tonight and came very close to getting 2 or 3 more points, but in the end that one goal was all we could muster. I felt that his linemates didn't really play that great tonight. Tanguay's play of late worries me, he is putting in the effort, but I don't feel that he is the dominant force he was for the first 15 games of the year.

Andrei Kostitsyn
This was another great game for Andrei, a game that was filled with his usual mix of dangerous shots and heavy hits. Like Kovy, I felt that Andrei didn't really get the support of his linemates tonight either. Koivu was seldom seen after the first period and this wasn't D'Agostini's best game of the year. Kostitsyn only took 4 shots, and although they were very good shots I think he should shoot more. He has the best shot on our team and I believe we would see a goal per game if he got 6-8 shots off a night.

Tomas Plekanec
He was the third good forward tonight and the third one to be stranded by his linemates. Pleks played a much stronger game than usual. His face-off percentage was up (64%), he was hitting, stick-handling well and was creating chances. His linemates, however, were a different story. Sergei just seems to have lost a ton of confidence (and with that went his speed and decisiveness) and Guillaume gave another prime example of why he doesn't belong on the worst of NHL rosters.

Defencemen

Francis Bouillon
It takes a lot to be excluded from the dome when you score the only goal. Well, a lot of something is what Patrice gave us after his soft shot found the back of the net. There were horrendous pinches, giveaways and on two occasions he pushed players into his teammates. Francis on the other hand may not have scored, but he did what you would hope all defencemen would do; he played defence. To boot Bou got the better of Tampa's 'fighter' (Konopka) early in the 1st.

Roman Hamrlik
Hammer was the player getting more chances at the end of the game than anyone. After spending 50 minutes watching how not to abandon your post and pinch-in, by his partner, he showed us how to do it. He had a few moments that weren't so pretty in our own end, but none resulted in goals or serious scoring chances.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Jaro didn't play that great of a game. One goal he should have had, one was 50-50 his fault and the third, a St. Louis breakaway, was just a bad team effort. In the end though he let in 3 goals against 2 superstars and a very hungry team - to me that isn't horrible. In reality 3 goals against should be plenty when playing against Tampa, especially when they give you the gift of Kolzig.



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

Tonight we lost Saku. As of now we don't know how bad it is or what exactly it may be. He was slashed in the first period and subsequently left the ice. He then returned, but seemed shaken up yet again in the second period when he was pushed into Halak. After that point we didn't see him again. Losing Saku for a prolonged amount of time could be potentially devastating to our team right now. He has been our best player this year and is one of only a handful who has played well in each and every game. Koivu has got Andrei going and has made an NHL player out of yet another rookie. I know what this team looks like without the captain, so I can only hope he comes back very soon.

Another concern is the fact that we are know amassing quite an injury-list. Last year I believe better conditioning, the right schedule and smarter play helped keep our injuries down. More importantly we didn't lose any of our top players (other than Huet in December) for long stretches. This obviously helped us reach the top of the East and I believe it was the biggest single factor in making the playoffs vs. not making them the year before. Right now we are missing a top-4 defenceman who not only chews up minutes, but stops others from getting too much (or any) ice-time. We are missing a great work-horse who could be called a top-6 forward, but more importantly is the leader of the youngsters on our team. In addition we are missing a defenceman, who although nothing special, was at least preventing us from playing O'Byrne and Brisebois in the same game. I can't imagine the effects of, on top of all of this, losing our captain, best player and #1 centre. It could be the difference between good season and bad, playoffs or not.


Overall Comments

The Habs started well in this one. Within 5 minutes we won a fight, had the crowd cheering and were up a goal. It all seemed too easy. The 30th ranked team in the NHL was at the mercy of the powerful, far superior Canadiens. At least that is what the players seemed to be thinking. The effort-level went down from that point on and we didn't see sustained pressure again until late in the third, this time it was in the form of desperation. It is a shame really that we scored so early as I believe a few more minutes of dominant hockey may just have been enough to take all of the wind out of Tampa's sails. In the end we only have ourselves to blame. We failed to score more than 1 goal against a goalie who is letting in 4.5/game - keeping in mind most of those games are against far worse teams than us who average way less goals than we do. We also ultimately failed to take advantage of the other 16 players on their roster. Who are they you ask? I ask the same question. We were beaten by 3 players tonight, 2 that were enjoying a return to Quebec and one enjoying a return to 1997.

It is a good thing that we won so many so far on this home stand, because this loss, on it's own, doesn't really matter. We aren't trying to win every game, all we are trying to do is make the playoffs. We have budgeted for losses of this sort, so it is OK. It is a shame to lose to such a bad team, but hey, you can't win 'em all. After all we already compensated for this when we beat Detroit.

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