Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Game #45

Goaltending the Difference as Atlanta Steals 2 Points

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday January 20th, 2009
Opponent: Atlanta Thrashers
Venue: Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA

Team Stripes

Final Score: 2-4 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (L), Carey Price
Opposition starting goalie: Kari Lehtonen (W)

Habs goalscorers: Max Pacioretty, Steve Begin
Opposition goalscorers: Erik Christensen, Chris Thorburn, Rich Peverley, Zach Bogosian



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

You could probably call this a turning-point-play rather than a play-of-the game, as I never like seeing anyone get hit. The play was when Boris Valabik (who?) hit Andrei Kostitsyn from behind, sending us to our first of two power-plays. That hit seemed to awaken our team and after that point we were by far the superior team. In fact we scored on that PP and had it not been for an 0-3 deficit at the time of the hit we would have been the ones with the two points.



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

Max Pacioretty
This may seem like an odd selection and in a way it is. You see, the whole team played quite poorly for 25 minutes and again for the last 5, so I only had 30 minutes of play to base this on. I felt that Max was the best all around Hab during those 30 minutes and that he wasn't all that bad during the rest of the game. He played with a certain type of energy which I see as a good sign of our draft-picking style and of the way the players are being taught in Hamilton.



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

Steve Begin
Begin is no fool and he can clearly see the writing on the wall. With Koivu, Higgins and Tanguay all ready to come back he knows that 3 of tonight's forwards will be watching more games than they play. So, he went out and did the only thing he could to save his spot - play well. He was a leader tonight as I often saw him on the bench rallying the troops. He also scored quite a nifty goal on a wayward pass form Brisebois.

Tomas Plekanec
Plekanec got a bit unlucky again tonight as a broken stick and a couple of great saves kept him off the scoresheet. He, however, played through his bad luck and actually played a decent game. He was also great in the face-off circle as he won 75% of his 12 draws.

Max Pacioretty
Here is another case of a player who obviously wants to remain on the big team. This was Max's best game in about the last 4 or 5 as he led the Habs best trio tonight. He took 3 shots and also co-led the team with 2 hits.

Defencemen

Mike Komisarek
Mike, unlike half our defenders, was able to avoid being on the ice for a goal against. Granted those 3 could point fingers at Halak, but they were the ones that allowed the shots. So, Mike is in here more for what he didn't do (he didn't make any mistakes) rather than for what he did. He also, as usual, led the team in hits and blocked-shots.

Andrei Markov
The best of the group again tonight, but not one of his most dominating performances. That being said he still managed a point, to not be on the ice for an Atlanta goal and led the team in minutes. I felt he had an off night keeping the puck in at the point - something that cost us about 3-4 possessions.

Goaltender

Carey Price
I don't know what it is about Carey being 'not quite ready' and sitting on the bench, not in the press-box, that bothers Halak, but there must be something to it. For the second straight time Jaro forced Carey to come on in relief in his first game back from injury. I don't really know what happened to tell you the truth. It seemed like the first 2 goals should have been stopped by Halak - that for me was enough to pull him. I think the goals-against also had an adverse affect on the team as we seemed deflated by the 2-goal deficit. Carey came in to play a mediocre 35 minutes which included some decent saves, an unlucky goal and some very poor play with the puck.



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

Just one little thing I picked up on in this game which I really, really liked. It was actually quite a simple play and I wish that we would see it more often.

Komi had just failed to keep the puck in at the blue-line, but was able to trap it about a foot outside. Most NHLers (including Komisarek) will simply, almost instinctively, shoot that puck right back in. In that scenario one of two things can happen. Either we get called on the off-side and then get a 50/50 chance of re-gaining possession or we simply flee the zone and leave the puck for the opposition. What Mike did, however, was he passed it all the way back to Price. Like a smart play in soccer this increased our chances of maintaining possession from either 0% or 50% to 100% . Price then worked the puck back up and wouldn't you know it everyone was now back on-side and we mounted another rush. This was a very smart play from a player who does indeed have his moments.


Overall Comments

This game is quite simple to re-cap. We started with a few good shifts and looked to be taking control of the game. Then, after 5 minutes of play, Atlanta scored 2 quick goals. The rest of that period and the beginning of the next belonged to them as they actually looked like a decent team. One bad hit from them, however, woke us up and seemed to shatter their frail confidence. We scored 2 quick goals ourselves and seemed prime for a full-scale comeback. We did a very good job to generate chances, but Lehtonen, uncharacteristically, made great save after great save and wasn't lettin' any in. It took one more lucky bounce for Atlanta late in the third to kill any chance we had at what seemed to be a gimme of a comeback. 2 points lost tonight means we need 2 tomorrow night. Maybe with the re-insertion of a few familiar faces we can beat the Brodeur-less Devils in what has always proven to be a hard road match-up for us.

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