Saturday, January 17, 2009

Game #44

Welcome to the Shootout Mr. Elliott

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday January 17th, 2009
Opponent: Ottawa Senators
Venue: Scotiabank Place, Kanata, ON

Team Stripes

Final Score: 5-4 - Win (SO)

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Brian Elliott (L)

Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev (1, SO), Andrei Kostitsyn, Matt D'Agostini, Tom Kostopoulos, (Maxim Lapierre - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Chris Kelly, Dany Heatley (2), Mike Fisher



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

Unlike Don Cherry I didn't think that Max's goal was similar to Mike Richards' snail pace shootout effort. First of all Lapierre scored (great comparison Don...) and second of all Max came in with speed from the blue-line in, unlike Richards who walked all the way into the slot.

The goal itself was quite something. At first I thought the choice of Lapierre in the shootout was the wrong one, but I am actually quite ashamed by my lack of faith in both Carbo and Max himself. They both obviously knew something that I didn't and I think that was shown on Guy's face as he simply laughed after Max pulled the move off. Like I said, after a few slow strides Max picked up the pace and sped in. A few dekes with the puck froze Elliott before Lapierre eventually took the puck to his backhand. The final touch was when Max shelfed a backhand and won the game for the Habs.



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

Alexei Kovalev
No I am not just putting Alex in here because of his 2 1/2 minute shift to start OT. Although I did appreciate it and found it quite comical I didn't think it helped the team. Kovy gets the game puck for a couple of beautiful goals. The first was a gimme after a sublime pass from Lang on a 5-on-3 and the second was a tantalizing deke in the shootout that was second only to Max's mind-blowing move.



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
Lang made two superb passes tonight that earned him his 19th and 20th assists on the year. He is now on pace for a 67-point season, his best since 2003-04, which he split with Washington and Detroit. In addition to his great passing he was also a scoring threat of his own. He always seemed to be around Ottawa's net as his line gave fits to the Sens' defence all night.

Maxim Lapierre
Max topped off a great night with another shootout goal. His line, and he in particular, were a big reason for the win tonight. Their line spent a good portion of the game in Ottawa's end as they were once again a force to be reckoned with. A team needs a player like Max who can do the dirty work, but also can flash some occasional brilliance, so Max, once again, well done.

Alexei Kovalev
Kovy came very close to scoring our 5th goal a few times, once in the third when he rang it off the bar, and again in OT right towards the end. Tonight I didn't notice Alex in our own end, which is always a good thing and whenever I saw him in the offensive zone something was happening. His linemates didn't have great games, but were saved by another solid performance from the skipper.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
This was a solid performance from Hammer who at times had to play a little clean-up in his own end. It seemed that he stood out most tonight for making sure our other defenders weren't the reason we lost. He showed his toughness, and brains, when he didn't back down from a shoving match with Neil, but also didn't drop the gloves. He led the team in hits with 3 and also had the same amount of shots.

Andrei Markov
I noticed Markov caught out of position, way up the ice, on a couple of occasions tonight, but those were the only blemishes on what was another fantastic game. He got an assist on Kovalev's goal and took twice as many shots (6) as any other Hab. He also blocked 3 more shots than Komi as he ended with a team-high 5.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
After he let in the tying goal I was torn. He had played well till then, but he hadn't made the big save when we needed it most. I decided at that point, when it was obvious we would go to OT, that he would have to really impress me to keep his dome spot. Well, he did just that in the shootout. He stood his ground against Spezza and stopped the ever-dangerous Daniel Alfredsson. It was an OK game for the most part, but I am glad for his, and the Habs', sake that he came through in the end.



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

Forget what you heard or what you read - the Ottawa Senators will always give us a good game. We all know that Ottawa is struggling to find their form this year and it seems that they are the latest team to fall into the '3-star/no other good players' trap (Tampa Bay), but against the Habs, you can never count them out. The crowd, thanks in most part to our fans, had Scotiabank Place rocking and you could see how that made a difference to both teams. It really had a playoff atmosphere in there and because of it I think Ottawa remembered how they can play. Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley have always been Hab killers and that alone scares me. If you take away all of the other 17 players I would still treat that team with respect. Those 3 are world-class and are reason enough to be prudent. Add to all of that the fact that the Sens remain one of our fiercest rivals. We always say that a Toronto-Montreal affair will be a close game, but I think we should extend that sentiment to Ottawa too. For years we have had some great match-ups with them and I for one wasn't about to let a bad half season from them let me forget it. It was as exciting a game as we could have hoped for and for that I must give credit to the feisty Senators.


Overall Comments

I expected a good match-up on a cold Saturday night in Ottawa and I am glad to say that I wasn't disappointed. Early on the Habs were dictating play, but our failure to ever run away with the game was incentive enough for Ottawa. They played a quiet first two periods, but gave their home fans something to cheer about with 3 third period goals. The Habs should have done better not to let up a tying goal so late, but since we got the win it shouldn't really matter. I have a hard time believing that this single point for the Sens will help them beat us in the standings. Offence is something I knew they had, at least the potential of it, so I was always a little nervous. In OT every time I saw Spezza or Heatley with the puck I was glad that Souray wasn't around for us. If these guys know how to do something it is probably how to beat the Habs. Since they came in the league we have had quite a difficult time with them. One thing that did shock me a bit tonight, however, was their defence. I knew not to expect much as Volchenkov is out and they are clearly not the team they were when they had Chara, Pothier, Redden, Corvo or Preissing, but wow were they bad. Schubert is no Mark Streit, just because he occasionally plays the wing is no reason to keep him on your team. And what about Jason Smith? Still living off being the captain of the Oilers are we? This guy has no place in the NHL, well at least not since the lockout. To me their defence was the biggest change (goaltending has always been a huge question mark), but I never thought it would come to this. Phillips was a good #4, but does quite poorly as a #1. So, I feel your pain Ottawa, as we have been there too. It would be nice for your city and people if you were still at the top, but I guess all good things must come to an end.

As for us we now have 60 points in the bank. We have 38 points to go till we secure a playoff berth and we have 38 games to do it in (it took us 31 games to get our first 38 points of this year). That of course means .500 hockey will do, even 38 OTLs would assure us our place. I for one hope that we can exceed the 100-point plateau again this year and maybe even eclipse our 104 point total from last season. All that aside, however, as we have 2 more games before the All-Stars come to Montreal (for the first time since 1992-93). I think we must get at least 2 points in Atlanta and New Jersey to end what has been a fantastic 1st half on a good note.

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