Thursday, January 15, 2009

Game #43

Montreal Holds On Against A Feisty Nashville Lot

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday January 15th, 2009
Opponent: Nashville Predators
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-2 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Pekka Rinne (L)

Habs goalscorers: Guillaume Latendresse, Andrei Kostitsyn, Andrei Markov
Opposition goalscorers: Jean-Pierre Dumont, Vernon Fiddler



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

Plekanec, who was 10/16 at face-offs on the night, won a very big draw with about a minute and a half left. The Predators had already pulled their goalie which meant it was our 5 skaters vs. their 6. Because of the face-off win the Habs were able to take the puck into Nashville's end where they spent most of the rest of the game. In fact, I have never seen so many chances on an empty net before. The face-off win, thus the possession, allowed the Habs to avoid what may have very well been a 90-second onslaught which would have surely resulted in quality chances and quite possibly a goal. From what I have seen so far from the Habs this year we aren't a very good team at getting the puck out (without icing it) when we are down a man. So, for a change the play-of-the-game is neither a save nor a goal, it is simply a clutch play that avoided what could have been a very bad situation.



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

Alexei Kovalev
For those referring to stats (0 points, 1 shot, 17 minutes) I may have chosen the wrong man. For those of you, however, that watched the game I think you'll agree with this selection. This was a game that Kovy probably shouldn't have played. He has felt ill for a few days and was actually sent home earlier today and we all thought he wouldn't play. Being the warrior that he is though he came and played and he not only played a good game considering his condition, he genuinely played a great game. Kovy wasn't on the ice for any of our goals, but then again he wasn't on for any of theirs. His solid defensive play - which included a lot of possession in the other end - was evident both on the PK and again when we were man down at the end of the game. He gave everything he had tonight and I think it was another great example of just how good of a leader he really is.



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

Robert Lang
Robert bounced back from a difficult game in Boston with a fine performance tonight. He was at the centre of the Habs best line as he and the Kostitsyn's really made it hard for the Nashville defence. He assisted on two goals tonight to push his total to 18 and was able to keep pace with Markov for the team lead in points at 34. There was one play in particular where he batted the puck out of the air and then with a second mid-air touch got it to one of the brothers. It was a simple play for a player who is obviously a lot more talented than we all thought.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei's strong play continued tonight with yet another goal. All of a sudden he has 15 goals and is almost a sure bet to hit 30 this year. In fact, if he keeps playing the way he is now for the last 39 games he may very well net 40. His goal was another great example of his incredible accuracy - it was a far-side, top-corner wrist shot. He was fast, hit and led the team in shots - another perfect game.

Alexei Kovalev
So, no points, but Alex did put together the two best offensive plays of the night. Considering how strong he was in the courage, leadership and defensive departments this was merely a bonus. The first play ended with a great save from Rinne, but started with some classic Kovalev moves around 4 Predators. It resulted in a PP as Kovy was tripped as he unleashed his shot. The second great play came with Nashville's goalie on the bench. Alex was able to fight off two defenders on the right half-boards before sending a perfect pass to Lang in the slot. A missed empty-netter by Robert cost Kovy a point and, thus some justification in a lot of people's minds for him being given the game puck.

Defencemen

Mike Komisarek
Can someone give a tape of this game to Mike. Tell him to watch it over and over and that if he plays like that from now on he may actually make the all-star game legitimately one day. Mike was very, very solid tonight. I really, at times, couldn't believe my eyes. He was able to get in his 4 hits and 6 blocked-shots, but it didn't cost him or the team. In addition he worked quite well in the offensive zone. He picked up an assist for his efforts and also put 2 quality shots on net. I think Carbo must have noticed this solid play too as he used Mike for almost 26 minutes; more than any other Hab.

Andrei Markov
Markov scored quite a lucky goal, the game-winner, which probably earned him 1st star honours. The star selectors (aka: stat readers) obviously think that shooting a puck off two defenders is what makes a player great. Although I don't agree that Andrei was our best tonight, I do agree that he was superb. In addition to his goal he made one heck of a pass to Kostitsyn on his goal; in my mind that was his big play of the game. Andrei was also on the ice for all of our goals and none of theirs which just shows how important of a player he is. My main point is that his goal was likely only the 10th best thing he did tonight. Even had he not scored he was already a lock for the dome and was a serious game-puck contender.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Thank goodness for a good back-up. Now that we know that Price will miss (and has missed) significant time it is such a relief to have a goalie like Halak there. Can you imagine if we had to turn to Aebischer or Denis? I think we could kiss about 6-10 points good-bye. Halak by no means stole this game for us, but without his solid play a win may not have been in the cards. He remained calm and collected all game long as I saw no real signs of nerves. Luckily for us he wasn't tested too much over the last few minutes, but I am sure, that had he been, he would have been up to the challenge.



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

One thing that I have noticed a lot of lately is our players' ability to take passes out of the air with their sticks or hands and to play the puck and receive passes in full-stride with their skates. Just a few years ago a pass to the skate meant a turn-over and a flying puck was often swung at to no avail. Now, however, it seems that even our 'weaker' players are able to do all of this stuff with ease. Tonight there was Gorges taking the puck off his skate at full speed and leaving it for Latendresse (goal). There was also Latendresse himself who used his skates so effectively to keep and move the puck in the corners and behind the net. Bouillon had a moment where he was able to catch a hard-shot flying puck and turn it into a rush in our favour. These skills are no longer reserved for the Kovalev's on our team it seems. I think though that Alex may have something to do with all of this. The main change I see over the past 5 years on the Habs (vs. the years before) is the addition of a player of Kovy's talent. I know for a fact that practicing with talented players only makes you better yourself and that in time you can catch up with some of their tricks. This stuff is of course all child's play to a guy like Alex who has surely moved on to bigger and better skills, but I am convinced it is his presence on our team that has led to a lot of these team-wide skills. So, after looking at Kovalev's goals and assists don't be too quick to evaluate, you should also take some time to think about how he led, and changed this team over the past 5 years for the better.


Overall Comments

I personally thought that the Habs had a better team effort on Tuesday against Boston, but tonight we got the result. That of course is likely due to the fact that the Bruins are the superior team, that game was on the road and tonight we benefited from a bit of luck. We started the game well and actually doubled the Preds in shots in the first period (12-6). It took us a while to get the lead, but at the end of the first a long shot from Gui found its way in. Until then Nashville had not looked threatening at all and I think everyone had the feeling that it was only a matter of time. A matter of time, yes, but still we couldn't just sit on our 1-0 lead. That is, however, what seemed to happen. Over the last two periods we were out-shot 19-8 as the Predators scored 2 goals to match our 2. The good thing for us is that we played a relatively clean game and that meant very few penalties or odd-man rushes. Jaro was positioned well enough throughout the game that when he got a good look at a shot we were fine. In the end it took a lucky bounce by Markov to win it, but I think that even without that we were never in a real danger of ending this game with less than 1 point. It was a solid game, but more importantly it was 2 points. Next up is a trip to Kanata to see if we can add to Ottawa's woes.

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