Thursday, January 08, 2009

Game #40

Old Time Hockey: 8 Goals, 140 Penalty Mimutes, Habs Clobber Leafs

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday January 8th, 2009
Opponent: Toronto Maple Leafs
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 6-2 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Vesa Toskala (L), Curtis Joseph

Habs goalscorers: Sergei Kostitsyn, Maxim Lapierre, Guillaume Latendresse, Alexei Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn, Max Pacioretty
Opposition goalscorers: Tomas Kaberle, Matt Stajan

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

This play was a toss-up between 2 very good Hab goals. Kovalev's goal, however, takes the cake, but I did want to give a mention to Kostopoulos for his beautiful set-up on Guillaume's goal.

The game ended with 140 penalty minutes, but that could have easily been 142. 6 minutes into the 2nd the ref had his hand up and we had enough time to get Kovy on the ice in lieu of Halak. Andrei Kostitsyn was very patient on this play as he circled the Toronto zone. He eventually found a streaking Kovalev coming down the left wing. The rest was pure Kovalev-magic; a perfect wrist shot to the roof of the net.

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

Andrei Kostitsyn
Kostitsyn was a very big part of our explosive offence tonight. He was on the ice just 2 minutes into the game when his brother scored on the PP. I believe it was that PP and goal that set the tone for our whole game. Andrei worked very well with the extra-man and finally (if you can believe it) managed to score his first PPG of the year. He and his brother cost themselves a few great chances as they always seemed to look for each other, rather than the net, on the ice. Regardless, Andrei had 3 points tonight, that gives him 10 over his past 7 games.

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)...


Alexei Kovalev
Kovy looked sharp again tonight as he once again led us to victory. He added an assist to his goal and is now co-leading the team in scoring with Lang. My favorite parts from Alex tonight were when he simply settled down the play. On numerous occasions he was able to retrieve the puck and stickhandle his way out of any trouble the team may have been in. Whether on the PP or the PK, and no matter what zone he was in, Kovalev was controlling this game.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei, unlike his brother, stayed out of the penalty box and didn't feel the need to get into it with his compatriot, Grabovski. In what was quite a dirty game, from both teams, Kostitsyn sent a message that I believe won't fall on deaf ears: talent trumps toughness. A day after Burke (the genius) brings back his hired goon from Anaheim Andrei was skating circles around that very player. If you want to build Anaheim you may just need a Selanne, in Kostitsyn I believe we have ours, your turn Toronto.

Tom Kostopoulos
A lot of people are saying that had Laraque been there tonight a few things would have happened. Firstly the Leafs wouldn't have messed with us because of the intimidation factor. Secondly a guy like Tom wouldn't have had to fight. Well, I have seen big Georges play and I can't say, in half a season, that he has done either of those things. Boxing other boxers and not being able to handle the puck are skills I believe we can do without. Tom, once again, proved that he can play hockey and will indeed fight if needed. He played with a lot of energy all game and it was he that gifted Guilluame his 7th of the year.


Roman Hamrlik
I don't want to take anything away from Patrice and his 3 assists, but in my book 1 first-pass and defence trumps a fanned shot, 2 second-passes and confusion in your own end. Hamrlik didn't need to do too much offensively tonight, but he did contribute with a few rushes and the odd tape-to-tape outlet pass. He stood out, for me, for his defensive play. He and Gorges were our tightest tandem at the back and were the main reason (other than Halak) that the Leafs only managed 2 goals on 32 shots.

Andrei Markov
Andrei: the all-star defenceman that actually is an all-star. It is so obvious that Markov is simply a cut above the rest in the east. His sound defensive play and unbelievable passing were on display again tonight. His assist gives him 30 points on the year, just shy of the halfway mark. Tonight he did all the things he does. If it isn't scoring in the shootout or in OT you can rest assured it is sound play in and around our own net.


Jaroslav Halak
Halak hasn't been bad of late, but he hasn't been that good either. Tonight, however, was a return to the form we saw in the lead-up to Christmas. He was able to make routine saves all night that kept our lead well in tact. He could have done slightly better on the 2 goals, but was so solid the rest of the time that I see those merely as isolated team-wide mistakes.

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

The past few weeks has presented us all with a great opportunity to see the future of the Habs, all together, much sooner that we had thought (or hoped). We knew that having so many Hamilton players playing in January would mean mass-injury or a likely horrible first 3 months. So, the situation that we are in, with our injuries, isn't ideal, but I think we have found a way to cope very, very well with them.

My main question is: what happens when everyone gets back? The play of such players as D'Agostini, Pacioretty and Chipchura leads me to believe that some tough decisions will have to be made. I see a slight log-jam on defence, but with Dandenault out long-term and O'Byrne likely in Hamilton until further notice, the situation may not be so tough. A simple Weber or Brisebois choice may be the only drama for that group. The real interesting group are the forwards. We have 9 players that, when healthy, are guarantees in the line-up - Koivu, Kovalev, Tanguay, Higgins, Lang, Plekanec, A. Kostitsyn, Lapierre and Kostopoulos. That leaves room for 3 more wingers as I believe we have got it right with the 4 centres amongst that group. So, for 3 spots, by my count, there are 7 players to choose from. If we assume Lapierre is the 4th line centre then I think it would be wise to keep him with Kostopoulos and Latendresse on his wings. That now means we have to find 2 wingers to play on 'scoring' lines of this group - D'Agostini, S. Kostitsyn, Pacioretty, Begin, Laraque and Chipchura. Is it just me or have a certain pair of tough-guy wingers possibly been played off this team? At this point how could you not want players like Matt and Sergei up there to add some offensive punch - as of now only Max posses a threat.

A healthy team can, of course, be just a pipe dream, but eventually people will start coming back. Choices will have to be made and feelings will undoubtedly be hurt, but at the end of the day it is all for the greater glory of the bleu-blanc-rouge. Whatever happens, however, I think that our 54 points after 40 games is an indication that most choices will be very good ones indeed.

Overall Comments

This one was for all those people who said the Montreal-Toronto rivalry was dead. I don't care if we were the two worst teams in the league because this match-up would always bring excitement. The penalties and, subsequently, goals started early and never stopped until the final horn. I felt the Habs played well tonight, but with a slight change in the goaltending balance it could have been a lot closer. Usually after a 4-goal win you would feel like you dominated, but tonight my main feeling is that we capitalized. I can't say that I am a huge one for endorsing fights, but I did enjoy how all of the violence and anger of tonight's match stemmed from the game and from the rivalry. When Georges fights a Thrasher or a Panther I see it as an unwanted stoppage in flow. Tonight's tilts, however, were gripping as they were clearly filled with emotion. This wasn't a classic game by either team, but at the end of the day it was a classic Leaf-Hab match-up.

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