Saturday, December 20, 2008

Game #32

Kovalev Shines in OT Thriller

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday December 20th, 2008
Opponent: Buffalo Sabres
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 4-3 - Win (OT)

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Ryan Miller (L)

Habs goalscorers: Sergei Kostitsyn(2), Alex Tanguay, Alexei Kovalev
Opposition goalscorers: Derek Roy, Clarke MacArthur, Andrej Sekera



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

I waited a long time to be convinced tonight by one play and thankfully I was rewarded for waiting. Thanks to tireless work in the offensive zone we drew two penalties in OT. On the second one there was a certain player who decided there would be no shootout in Montreal tonight.

Lang did well to win the face-off with 35 seconds left in the extra-frame and we were able to set-up our PP nicely. So nice in fact, that within 10 seconds the game was done. During that time D'Agostini got the puck back to Markov at the point and then the two Russians took care of the rest. It was a script written in 2007, but I didn't mind re-watching it tonight. Marky found Kovy in his usual spot, down to the left of the goalie. Alex took a quick look at Miller, saw the puck-sized hole above his shoulder and roofed one that would send 21,000 people home very happy.



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

Alexei Kovalev
In a week Alex is all of a sudden back on pace for solid numbers. He is back above 20-goal pace and if he keeps this up he will hit over 65 points. This is precisely the reason we want Kovy on our team. He is a game-breaker who wins you games you could have lost. He finds ways to be the best player on the ice when you need someone to step up. He may not do it in every game, but I guarantee that by the end of the year he does it more than any other single player on the Habs. After taking a penalty in the third that led to a 2-3 deficit he single handedly created the tying goal and shelfed the winner. It was incredible to watch the master at work tonight.



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
3 goals in 3 games makes this a solid week for our fill-in skipper. He has been playing excellent hockey all year so I was never worried. I am, however, happy for his sake that he is putting some numbers beside his name, as after all there are a lot of fans who use this as their sole method of evaluation. I am thankful that the LIW readers seem to know a good player when they see one and thus will be happy for Alex tonight, but mostly for the team.

Sergei Kostitsyn
Welcome back kid. You can see the positive effect that playing with good players has on a youngster like Sergei. Last year he excelled with Saku and over the past few games he is playing very well beside Pleks and Kovy. He scored 2 goals tonight, one of which was a point-shot on the PP. Having him as a shooting option on the point has added some much needed diversity to our power-play and I think he should remain there for quite some time.

Steve Begin
Steve played an excellent game tonight. I attribute our spirit and momentum to him tonight more than any other player. It seemed that he was the one player to lift us up each time we needed it during the game. His fore-checking and hitting, of which there were 7, tired out a Buffalo team who seemed to run out of gas by the end of this one. He created chances, drew penalties and got the crowd very much into the game.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
Roman was a rock tonight. He played a fantastic game in his own end breaking up play after play with such a calmness about him. He is playing with Gorges now which means we now have two complete pairings. It is the first time since he played with Streit last year that he has had a proven player to play alongside. I feel that this partnership will develop into a great defensive tandem this year and I am happy Carbo went for it. Hammer got an assist on Tanguay's goal, our second, with a very well placed point shot.

Andrei Markov
This was a second straight game that we have scored two PP goals and once again Markov played a big part in them. He added two assists tonight, giving him 21, and both came with the extra man. I feel that all that matters is how well your PP will play, not how well they did. Our low percentage from the early part of the season will become irrelevant as long as we continue to score those goals when we actually need them. Tonight our even-strength play wasn't as dominant, so I am happy to report our PP picked up the slack. Markov didn't just play his best with the extra man tonight though, he was very good in all situations.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
I am really glad that Jaro has been getting some offensive support over the past few games. It is nice for him that he is able to add some Ws to his already impressive numbers. He made some great saves throughout the game, often at times when we were trailing. The Habs don't seem to be able to come back from 2-goal deficits much as of late, but thanks to Halak that wasn't necessary tonight. All we had to do was erase 3 1-goal Buffalo leads, no small feat, but we were in that position, 3 times, thanks to the Slovak.



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

The value of players like Begin, Lapierre, Kostopoulos, Latendresse and Laraque should never be forgotten. I am sure if you watch RDS it would be impossible to do that, but if you watched an unbiased report I am sure those Quebecers (Tom is honorary for his french interviews) would go unnoticed in many games. I don't think that group is the reason we win when we do and I don't think they are all the best players on the team, but I do really appreciate the work they do. Tonight they were the ones who got the crowd into it and although they didn't actually get any assists I believe it was that group that set-up a few of our goals. Their fore-checking, hitting, puck-possession, yapping and drawing of penalties are all such essential parts to the game that has a very positive effect on both the team and the fans alike. Occasionally they will score a goal or make great defensive plays, but that is all just a bonus to me. As long as they keep working hard and keep the flow going then I feel the other players will do their part too. It shows how much of a team we have become over the years as I truly believe all 20 pieces are crucial to the success of this great group.


Overall Comments

Buffalo started strong in this game and were able to jump out to an early lead. Luckily, however, we seemed to play better tonight when we were trailing. You could tell a goal was going to come and soon the game was 1-1. Then we seemed to take our foot off the gas a bit and once again placed ourselves in a hole. Again our play picked up and soon enough it was 2-2. History repeated itself for a third time when a wobbly point-shot from Sekera somehow found its way to the back of the net. That goal happened while Kovalev was in the box for what could only be described as a bad penalty - he got caught for holding the stick in the offensive zone, late in a tie game. On Alex' next shift, following Buffalo's third, you could see something special was going on. He had fire in his eyes and you could tell he felt he owed his team one. Within seconds of an offensive-zone draw Kovy was fighting hard for the puck. He somehow managed to steal the puck from a Sabre in the corner with what can only be described as a play that demonstrated his pure strength and insane talent. Within seconds he found Kostitsyn in front of the net and we were back level. In OT we enjoyed 2 power-plays and one disallowed goal. Lang's marker that was waived off, but really should have counted if the league evaluated their silly rule (yes the net was off when the puck went in, but that had no bearing on the play whatsoever, plus it was blatantly obvious that it was a Sabre who intentionally knocked the net off) got us all thinking of what could have been. Thankfully, though, the ghosts rewarded karma tonight. On our second PP, with less than 30 seconds left it was Kovalev, again, who took things into his owns hands as he unleashed a truly incredible wrist-shot that kept our dream of 15 points in 11 games alive. The last game before the break is tomorrow, at home, against Carolina. I believe that it is time for a little payback.

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