Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Game #36

Price Drop: Carey Slashes Scoring To Boost Habs Post-Xmas Hopes

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday December 30th, 2008
Opponent: Tampa Bay Lightning
Venue: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, FL

Team Stripes

Final Score: 2-1 - Win (SO)

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Mike Smith (L)

Habs goalscorers: Guillaume Latendresse, (Alexei Kovalev, Maxime Lapierre - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Vaclav Prospal, (Jussi Jokinen - SO)



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

In a game bereft of exciting goals, there was still plenty to admire for the fan of the game. There were breakaways, near misses, big hits and plenty of saves.

As far as the Habs were concerned, the highlight of their night (over and over again) was not falling behind when they probably should have been paying for defensive lapses. Carey Price made a number of saves worthy of mention in this section of the post. About midway through the second period, with the team still trailing 1-0 and looking of vulnerable of running out of goalscoring ideas altogether, the puck was sprung and so was Lecavalier. He descended in on Carey Price all alone, unleashed a great slap shot, and in game-stealing fashion Carey stopped it. As saves go, it was not a spectacular pad stacker or last ditch glove save, it was not beautiful to look at. But the timing of it, the quiet effectiveness and positioning, sent a message to the team - get me one goal and I'll win this one for you...



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

Carey Price
Carey Price was quite simply head and shoulders above his teammates tonight. The Canadiens skaters weren't bad, some were even very good; but Carey turned in one of the great games of his young career.

I can't remember a game where Carey challenged shooters so boldly as he did tonight. He stopped 3 or more breakaways (clean or partial), he caused players to pass when they should have shot, he showed them a hulking mass when they looked up to pick a corner. It shouldn't be surprising, as this is Carey's game. He is the positionalist, gliding from one side to the other, quietly deploying his pads against the ice. This game just seemed to show off so many of his skills in a better light than usual. Of course, statistically this game will not be Carey's best ever and will not prompt a commentator watching the scoreboard from another arena to exclaim the Carey was simply amazing (as Jacques Demers did when he saw Quebecois Fleury had faced 16 shots in one period and stopped them all - he would later let in 5). No, and this won't be a shutout. You had to watch it, but this was a Carey Price win.



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

Maxime Lapierre
Even before he won the game in the shootout with a great shot, Max was a lock for the dome. He carried his confidence that springs from not only a hat-trick game, but really a couple of months now of great hockey into this game again. His energy is beyond reproach. Recently he has added timely bursts of (to this point unrecognised) footspeed to his bag of tricks and it helped in this game to open up the zone again for the Habs.

Guillaume Latendresse
Guillaume scored the important goal Carey needed, and was mentioned as much as any Hab again. But perhaps what was most impressive was the way he stepped into the fray after Tanguay fell. It was wrong (though not surprising) of Joel Bouchard to leave Guillaume Latendresse of players who must step up after Tanguay got injured, but now that Guillaume seems to be over his own hype, it probably didn't matter. He played hard, hit when he could and found more than a few goalscoring positions when Tampa was making it hard to do that. He is the player who will need to ramp his game up, I feel, as he is the third year player who needs a breakthrough. More games like this will qualify as a step up.

Alexei Kovalev
Alex did not have perhaps his most dominant game, but he put in a good one. Wearing the C and killing penalties show off his versatility and it was on full display this night. Perhaps his best moments in this game did come on the penalty kill, and when other Montreal players were content to pursue their futile dump and chase exercise, he was a a ray of puckhandling light on the PP - even getting the puck in the zone to control (rather than just chase).

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
Once again, Josh put in the big minutes. Thanks to Hamrlik's penalty, he was third in ice time on the team. In the same way Carey Price played a quietly effective affair, so did Gorges. In fact, his contribution helped to make this game as boring as it was for stretches as he mopped up the defensive end with constant attention. It is fitting that he also had the non-Carey Price play of the game with his picture perfect 2-on-1 defending to foil Lecavalier and St. Louis before a Habs goal had been netted.

Francis Bouillon
The last time we played the Lightning, St. Louis and Lecavalier did not shine their brightest but generally came away thinking they could have their way with this team. If they were going to be prevented from running roughshod all over the place again, something would have to be done. That something was done by little Francis Bouillon as he outpositioned and made giant Lecavalier look like a rag doll early on. The hit was one amongst four for Frankie, but set the tone for his and indeed the Canadiens (aspired) defence for the night.

Goaltender

Carey Price
As we've said a couple of times now, Carey had a great one. He won this game. It's fitting, therefore, that he did actually win the game with his sensational shootout save on Lecavalier. You can see this getting into the head of a player like Vincent. I say: finally.



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

It's not often that Patrice Brisebois will make these reports for a moment of brilliance, even if we do accept he has his moments now. Last night he had an eye opener. No, it wasn't his best of the bunch New Year's message to the fans. Nor was it one of his blocked PP shots or passes. Patrice Brisebois is featured here because of a hit. Yes, you read correctly.

Mike Smith had come out yet again to handle the puck unchallenged by most Habs when boom - bashing him somewhat despite himself into the boards came Patrice Brisebois. As a moment in the game, it may not have been as notable as the Kostopoulos fight, but it sent a more important message: we won't let you run around doing what you like "rookie"...

I searched the play-by-play report to see the exact timing of the hit, but found nothing. It begs the question, if a goalie is hit on the ice and no one writes about it afterwards, did it happen? Apparently the NHL doesn't think so. It must be one of those unwritten rules that they have so many of. Gosh, I'd hate to see the rule book in person if so many unwritten rules must be left out for fear of bursting the seams. The hit was an eye opener for that reason really - hitting the goalie just isn't something that's done. And despite wanting to acknowledge Brisebois' wonderful revolutionary play, I think even he did it half by accident.

It really does beg the question, though, why can't a goalie be hit (or shoved as it was) in the same way every time he gets too cocky around his net. There is no written rule against it, so I say fair play. I see it as more effective and even safer for the goalies than the alternative of barreling them over in their net. I would like to see more of it. I would like to see Carey made to stay in his net too, hmm...

In the context of our own game, it was also an important hit as Mike Smith needed to be put back in his box, so to speak. Someone needed to let him know there would be no more clearances on the PP, no more fancy passing, just staying in his net. It didn't work, not really. But I think Patrice had the sentiment just right, and I give him credit for that.


Overall Comments

Another road game, another win - quite incredible really, when you think about it. I don't buy the whole 2 games in 2 nights malarkey that everyone sells. we all work everyday, and professional athletes are capable enough guys. But, even so, we mustn't forget that each of the teams we have now beaten also needed points and each (well the Bolts got one) were left wanting more. This is the mark of a team on a roll, and I like it. This one game came down to Carey Price, but when you claim to have a franchise player in goal, stolen games should become a fact of life over a season. Hopefully they will.

As for the game, apart from a few notable hits, great shootout dominance and Carey Price, the other story to come out of this game was the injury to Tanguay. Does anyone feel the same way I do here? I mean, is there a lack of uneasiness or a sense that we'll be fine without him. It's funny, when Komisarek got injured he was playing very poorly, same for Higgins. Now Tanguay goes down after quite a stretch of floating without reward. It appears that slump-saving injuries are a new fad in Montreal. If he's gone for months, there is no doubt that his loss will hurt the Canadiens. But if he's gone a week or even two, there might be something good to come of it - namely ice time for Kostitsyn, Lapierre and maybe a keen again Latendresse. In any case, it's clear there's no fretting like there was when Koivu stumbled out.

The next game is next year now, so I'd like to add my voice to those of the Canadiens in wishing you all a Happy New Year (Bonne Annee), and a great New Year's Eve while we're at it. We hope that 2009 will bring renewed vigour to our Habs and to our writing here at Lions in Winter. If any of you are needing a New year's resolution, feel free to add commenting more on LIW (we'll do our best to respond and make sure there's room for what you need to say...). The best moments for Tobalev and I come from the back and forth with you guys, being called to defend positions, seeing new points of view, building the team differently from a different armchair. 2008 was fun for us. Thanks to all of you. See you in '09.

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