Saturday, January 10, 2009

Game #41

European Night at the Bell Centre Ends Well for Montreal

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday January 10th, 2009
Opponent: Washington Capitals
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 5-4 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Brent Johnson (L)

Habs goalscorers: Tomas Plekanec (2), Robert Lang, Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Alexander Semin (2), Tomas Fleischmann, Michael Nylander



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

Not letting a point slip away and, more importantly, not allowing a conference rival to get a point were two big reasons I chose this goal for the play of the game. The third reason is that it was quite a good play by the younger Kostitsyn.

At 4-4 all you care about is securing at least 1 point which is why I believe gunning for the win, while the other team has defence on their mind, is the way to go. We all know that playing D usually means the opposite and that is generally the time that the opposition will get their chances. Luckily for us that team was Washington and not Montreal towards the end of this one. Hamrlik, as aware as ever, shot the puck high in the air into the offensive zone and then things started happening. It landed by Jurcina who had a very difficult time locating the puck which was under him. What the big defender didn't know, but Sergei did, was that the puck lay between his feet, 50' from the net. With a head of steam Kostitsyn came in, focused on the loose puck. He wasted no time to get control and take a shot towards an obviously unprepared Johnson. Sergei took a big hit as he took the shot, but none of that mattered as he had just won the game for the club.



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

Tomas Plekanec
Right from the start of this game Plekanec was moving very well. I remember thinking over the course of his first few shifts that he looked sharper tonight than over the past few games and I made a point of watching how he would build on his quick start. Tomas didn't let me down in the least as he continued his strong play throughout the game and was our best player for the whole 60 minutes. Thanks to his blistering speed he was able to score 2 goals, his first 2-goal game since November 1st.



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

Sergei Kostitsyn
In his last game Sergei tried to fight with boyhood friend Grabovski. The refs didn't really allow it to happen, but what has happened since should make us all proud of Sergei and Gainey, for letting Mikhail go, as well. Grabovski was suspended for his role in the fight and his team lost both that game and theirs tonight. Sergei, on the other hand, didn't do anything stupid and thus was available to help the Habs win again tonight. Along with the game-winner he assisted on his brother's goal. Kostitsyn now has 18 points on the season.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Make it 12 points in 8 games now as Andrei added a goal and an assist to his season totals. His goal was a function of being in the right place at the right time - like a true goal-scorer - and his assist was on Lang's 16th. He is blamed from time to time for trying to be too fancy and for trying to do too much, but I won't jump on that bandwagon. We need players who try creative things and right now his numbers aren't lying. It is thanks to his creativity and skill that he has 25 points on the year and I think the best of him is yet to come.

Tomas Plekanec
I can't get over Tom's speed. His short-handed goal, which came just moments after we went down 0-1, was thanks to his hockey sense and his ability to out-skate all of the opposition. He also showed off his incredible shot tonight which we haven't seen nearly enough of. I know that he likes to roof the puck so it should come as no surprise that both of his goals were high shots. I don't know if he is quite where he was at this time last year, but thanks to the play of Kovalev and Pacioretty, and indeed his own, he is very nearly there. He has 4 points in his last 3 games and has been a significant contributor to the suddenly offensive minded Canadiens.

Defencemen

Mike Komisarek
Hammer and Gorges had an off game tonight so we really needed someone to step up beside Markov and be a #2. Of the 3 players left only Mike has that potential. I am happy to say that he did play a very solid game. First I will point to the numbers - 0 PIM, 22 minutes, 10 blocked-shots, but I also want to credit him for his positioning. He kept things very simple tonight, much like Gorges normally does, as he never got out of position (well once, but nothing came of it). He did, however, offer up some decent hits, but again never anything that compromised his positioning.

Andrei Markov
He happened to be one of the 3 players to last touch the puck on our 5-on-3, but that is not his reason for being in here. His time on the PP, aside from that assist, was also very well spent and he did create some very good chances. I thought he played well at the point with Gorges on the PP, but still think he needs a Souray or a Streit there with him. He was on the ice for 4 of our goals and none of theirs and ended at +2. He is the biggest reason that Ovechkin was held to a measly PP assist.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
He got the job done. You can't ask much more of a goalie than for him to get the win and somehow that is what Jaro did. If I break down the goals I actually don't see too much bad from him tonight and considering he made 31 saves I am quite happy. There were 2 deflections that went in for goals and a Semin break-away after a Brisebois-moment from Patrice. He didn't look too sure of himself towards the end of the game as there was the odd bobble and quite a few quick freezes of the puck. Despite all of that the team played with confidence in front of him and, to me, that says a lot.



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

Half of the season is now in the books and we have already accumulated a very impressive 56 points. We have already bettered our impressive marks of 2 seasons ago and last year by 5 and 8 points respectively. Thanks to 4 wins in a row and a record of 9-1-1 over our last 11 games we have put ourselves on pace for a 112 point season - something that seemed unimaginable just 3 years ago. Our goal, of course, remains 98 points and a chance to play for the cup as that is all that really matters at the end of the year anyway. It is nice, however, to note that 1 point better than a .500 record over the next 41 games (42 points) will suffice and will allow us to play at least into late April.

I think the main reason for our success is the depth of not only our team, but of our organization. Just look around the league, and especially the East, and you would be hard pressed to find a tandem as solid as the two youngsters we have. Where else does someone's 3rd best centre have 16 goals and who else can boast talents like Higgins, Lapierre and Latendresse outside their top-6 forwards. Beyond the players we have great minds like Muller, Jarvis and Gauthier supporting Gainey and Carbo which I believe makes all the difference. I don't want to get ahead of myself as there are still 41 games to be played, but I just wanted to pay tribute to the great Canadiens family that Gillett and Boivin have brought to us over the past few years.


Overall Comments

What a great game to watch. It was a very different affair to the one I witnessed on Thursday against Toronto as this game was filled with immense talent, on both teams. Right from the beginning when the Habs were all over the Caps I could tell this would be a back and forth affair. The lead in fact would change a few times with no team ever in the lead for more than 9 minutes at once. It was interesting to note that all 9 goals were scored by Europeans and that didn't include the 3 best on the ice - Ovechkin, Kovalev and Markov. It is no surprise, therefore, that this was a game all about skill, speed and talent. I am happy that the Habs found a way to win in regulation as it is always nice to deprive teams of that extra point. Who knows, we may need Washington to beat a team for us at some point and the fewer points they themselves have will mean they'll need some wins too. Basically we want no games to go to OT and for us and all Western teams to win every game from here on in! The victory also gave the Habs their 5th representative at our home All-Star game as Carbo will assist the man he replaced in Montreal, Claude Julien, just 3 years ago. Had we lost it would have been Boudreau, the Caps' coach - who narrowly beat Guy for coach of the year last season - taking the honours. All in all it was a great game to watch, with the bonus of course being 2 big points.

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