Monday, December 29, 2008

Game #35

Lapierre Gives Pro-Hab Crowd 3 Reasons to Cheer

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Monday December 29th, 2008
Opponent: Florida Panthers
Venue: BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL

Team Stripes

Final Score: 5-2 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Craig Anderson (L), Tomas Vokoun

Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec, Maxim Lapierre (3)
Opposition goalscorers: Michael Frolik, David Booth

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

The game-winner, Max's first goal of the night, was a favorite of mine. It showed the amount of skill Lapierre, our 4th centre, possesses and put the Habs ahead for good.

With the puck behind the net Max tried a wrap-around to the right of Anderson. The Florida goalie was quickly there and gave Lapierre absolutely nothing to shoot at. What Anderson didn't do, however, was freeze the puck. Max was able to take the puck back and try the same play on a now open left-side of the net. He took the puck around, just past the goal-line, and unleashed a very accurate backhand shot that found the far top corner.

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

Maxim Lapierre
One game after fellow youngster, Andrei Kostitsyn scored his first hat-trick Lapierre was able to notch his. I would have to say that with 25 minutes to play in a road game it was not a feat I was expecting. Max is the type of player who will score 5-15 goals every single year of his career and you wouldn't expect this type of single-game output from him. His 3 goals tonight were just one short of his entire total from the first 34 games. I liked his effort level, again, tonight and thought that he has deserved this type of reward for a long time.

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)...


Tomas Plekanec
Pleks carried the momentum he had created against the Pens into this game as he looked really good. He seems much more confident on the ice, thanks, of course, in huge part to the fact he is back with his two favorite linemates. He scored a breakaway, short-handed goal that showed off his incredible speed and shot. The hustle was there all night in both ends.

Alexei Kovalev
For those who forgot that Alex was a good player and wanted him traded I just want to point out he has 9 goals. That isn't as great as last year, but is still quite a good amount to have before the end of the calendar year. He was very dominant with the puck tonight, especially on the PP. His puck-handling skills were, for the most part, too much for the slow Florida defence to handle.

Maxim Lapierre
12 minutes of ice-time, 3 shots and remarkably, 3 goals. Max's play tonight was what you want from every player, in every game. He skated, created chances and on top of all of that played smart in his own end. I really liked the effort he put in to get his third goal. He skated hard and stripped McCabe (admittedly not hard to do) at the Florida blue-line to give himself an empty-net breakaway.


Josh Gorges
Josh played 12 seconds less than Markov as he logged the second most amount of ice of any Hab. I think that it would be prudent to include his name, along with Hammer and Marky, when you speak of the big-3 from now on as he has clearly stolen the third spot from Komi. Gorges is being used in all situations and is really excelling in all of those different areas. He played a simple game tonight, but again: no mistakes.

Roman Hamrlik
The play of the game from our defence came from the stick of Hammer. While killing a penalty he lifted the puck high into the air and had it land a few strides ahead of the speedy Plekanec. Most penalty-killers will simply ice it, which is fine, but what Roman did here was a simple play that showed just how good of a hockey mind he has. He ended the game with a +2 rating, he is now +9 on the season.


Carey Price
I am sure Carey would like the first goal back, but I can live with one mistake. Overall he played a very solid game. He found pucks when he had to, stood his ground when the Panthers were coming hard and seemed very focused on getting the win. The thing that stands out to me most is the fact that the first Florida goal, his one bad play, wasn't the reason we lost this game. He was able to bounce back from an error and in turn played a very strong game. This has been a problem for Price in the past - the inability to let bad plays go - so I can only hope this is one step in the right direction.

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

There were two plays tonight by two of our best players that really made an impression on me. On two separate occasions Markov and later Hamrlik did something so small and subtle that most people won't even recall what I am writing about. I believe that by doing these little things they avoid turn-overs and giving the opposition chances.

First I'll look at Markov's play. The one skill that comes to mind when I think of Andrei is his ability to keep the puck in at the point. Tonight, however, there was a time on the PP when it was quite obvious that even he would not be able to keep the puck in. So, unlike pretty much all other defencemen who would have gone for the blue-line stop, he conceded the zone and trapped the puck just inside the neutral-zone, just out of reach of a Panther.

Hammer's play was similar in that it was another example of a star realizing when not to use a specific skill. The puck was behind our net on the stick of a Florida forward. It was an ideal opportunity to lay a hit, and most would have done so, but that would have been like getting caught in a bear trap. So, instead of playing the body and taking himself out of the play he simply turned his back to the player and stripped him of the puck.

Two simple plays that didn't lead to anything, but that is my main point really. Had they done the usual, standard things then the Panthers may have benefited. I equate this to Gretzky realizing when was not a good time to pass the puck or Bossy knowing when a shot wasn't the best option. Great players are not only great for what they do do, but also for what they don't.

Overall Comments

This game will be remembered for a few things. First it was the Habs 3000th win, not bad at all considering we didn't play more than 50 games/year for about 40% of our existence. Secondly this was one more win against Florida - the only team we currently have a life-time losing record against. And, I think I will also remember this otherwise uneventful game for Lapierre's first (and hopefully not last) career hat-trick. This really was a classic Montreal-Florida affair. There weren't too many chances and nothing too out of the ordinary happened. There weren't any spectacular goals and neither team really dominated play. In the end we scored a couple of weak goals on Anderson and that was the difference. I liked, however, how Montreal just kept going all night. They didn't let goals-against or penalties alter their plan. They stuck to their simple game-plan of creating quality chances and, with patience, it paid off. That makes 4 points out of a possible 4 - not a bad way to start a road-trip at all.

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