Saturday, December 13, 2008

Game #29

Caps Win Game of Chance

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday December 13th, 2008
Opponent: Washington Capitals
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 1-2 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Simeon Varlamov (W)

Habs goalscorers: Patrice Brisebois
Opposition goalscorers: Nicklas Backstrom, Michael Nylander



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

Halak made an incredible save early on in the game which gave me a full indication he was going to be strong in this one. On a 2-on-1 Ovechkin made a great pass to Semin, but there was Halak, with his right pad to slam the door shut.



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

Jaroslav Halak
I couldn't believe the poor kid's luck when Nylander banked one in off of him late in the third to win it. Jaro had played one heck of a game and was the only reason we were still tied until very late in the third. He did not seem intimidated at all by the talented Capital players as time and time again he stoned them all.



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
Alex wore the 'C' tonight and I thought that he did a good job as he lead the team well. He had tons of chances and created a lot too. Late in the third he seemed poised to finally score, but alas it was off the post - soon after Nylander scored. At some point a player must score, but let's face it, the effort and intensity are both there for poor Alex. I suppose luck is finally catching up to him as last year it seemed that every bounce went his way.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Kostitsyn looked quite dangerous tonight and I was actually surprised that he didn't score. Like Kovy he also had a glorious chance late in the third, but unfortunately he was robbed. I liked the way he played with his brother, something which was tried towards the end. I didn't see too much happening with him and Maxwell and I think that of all the players Andrei will miss Koivu the most.

Maxim Lapierre
Two things happened tonight - Benoit Brunet proposed to Max, and Max saw some serious PP time. I don't at all agree with Carbo using the 4th line in key situations like that, but I can't fault Lapierre for it. He played a strong game in both ends and added a lot of energy to the building. It would be nice if he or his line could score on a consistent basis though as I think they are seeing way too much ice for what they actually bring.

Defencemen

Patrice Brisebois
No, this isn't a typo. After 2 years of waiting and hoping I can finally say that Breezer played better than 4 of our defencemen. There was the odd lapse, but after watching just how pathetic a player O'Byrne has become I kind of forgave Patrice, fast. He is now the only Hab to score since Tuesday and to boot he stopped Ovechkin on a 1-on-1 late in the third. I really hope, however, for the Habs sake that his appearance in here doesn't become a regularity. I know the best Patrice has to offer and that is way below the standard we need to make the playoffs.

Andrei Markov
Like all of his troupe Andrei had some difficult times tonight, but overall he was our best defenceman. There was a great defensive play on Ovechkin, again late in the third, that stands out. He once again proved that he is of only 2 Habs able to skate with the puck from our zone into the other team's. It is a sad day when you have fewer and fewer players that can gain the zone, but unfortunately that is what seems to be happening.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
This was a third straight start for Halak and thank goodness he played well; the alternative is Marc Denis. I really liked the way he played tonight as he followed the play so well and was able to stay one step ahead of the shooters. Both goals were essentially scored on goal-mouth scrambles and I think it is now painfully obvious that this is an area that the D and goalies need some serious work on.



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

You know that way we play at points in the game where we are all over the other team in their end? There is a constant forecheck, a lot of hits, quality shots and it seems like we win all the 1-on1 battles. Those periods are often disturbed by penalties, whether they be ours or the opponents. So the question remains how can we, at times (quite regularly), be so dominant at even-strength and then turn around and be quite dismal on the PP? The answer really is beyond me, but I do have a suggestion. I call this is 'an outsider suggestion' as I imagine it is what someone who knows little about hockey and hockey strategy (but indeed knows sport) may suggest.

My suggestion is forgetting the standard, 30-team, we-have-to-do-it-like-this, PP setup. Why do we need 2 players at the point? Why do we need one on the half-boards, one in front of the net? Why do we have to slow play down to a snail pace to achieve this setup? My guess is we do it because: A - it worked in the past and B - other teams do it. Why don't we just play like we do at even-strength? Get in the zone and just work, work and then work some more. Get the puck towards the net, hit, disturb and create chances. I can't stand waiting 30 seconds (if we're lucky) for a predictable point-shot when all along we could have been applying constant pressure. The added bonuses to this strategy are that the other team wouldn't really be prepared and, with there being one less defender on the ice, space will indeed open up. It will be like even-strength, but only with more space, more chances and essentially more possession. I have been calling for this style of man-up play for years (mostly because it is how other sports do it), but I think now would be the best time to try it. It is obvious that the NHL-taught formula isn't right for us this year, so please let's try something new.


Overall Comments

The game started well with good excitement from both teams, but then 10 minutes in Washigton scored and it seemed to scare us. We stopped playing an exciting brand of hockey for about 20 minutes as we let the Caps run the show. Midway though the second period, however, we started to play better and it was actually us who were dominating Washington. We were getting a lot of decent chances and wouldn't you know it, they led to a goal. The rest of the game seemed about the same to me. We out-chanced and out-shot the Caps, but our 3 posts were simply no match for their 1 goal. Washington are a strong team with a lot of good players and we were unfortunate that not only were Fedorov, Semin, Green and Poti back from injury, but also that they finally played goaltending phenom - Varlamov. He is likely the best of their 3 goalies (Theodore, Johnson) so it was unfortunate that his first NHL game had to be against us. He did play a very good game and, like Halak, was a big reason this was a low-scoring affair.

2 losses in a row and all of a sudden we have work to do. We now have 4 games to go before Christmas and we need 6 points out of those. It is not an impossible feat, but it would have been nice to at least get one point tonight to help us on our way. On Tuesday we play Carolina on the road and I think we all know that that game now is being called a Must-Win.

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