Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Game #46

Koivu Returns to Find a Team Already on Vacation

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Wednesday January 21st, 2009
Opponent: New Jersey Devils
Venue: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

Team Stripes

Final Score: 2-5 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Scott Clemmensen (W)

Habs goalscorers: Josh Gorges, Matt D'Agostini
Opposition goalscorers: Paul Martin, Travis Zajac, David Johnny Oduya, Zach Parise, Patrik Elias



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

This play didn't result in a goal, but it was our nicest concoction of the night. It was a 2-on-2 with Pleks and Kovalev being our two players. Tomas had the puck on the right and entered the zone a few feet ahead of Alex. Kovy, at the time of the pass, was behind his defender (further from the net), but somehow managed to get a stick on the puck. The pass was far enough in front of the two battling players that it was really any one's puck. With speed and effort Alex made his touch count with a very well placed re-direction that was unfortunately stopped by Clemmensen.



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

Saku Koivu
It was definitely good to see the captain back tonight and I thought he played a very good game. He was put on the 4th line which meant he was playing with a combined 26 games worth of NHL experience. That of course didn't stop the skipper from picking up where he left off. He played with more energy than anyone else and generated the most chances of any one on the team.



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
Tonight it was the Kostitsyns' turn to take a night off as Lang was the only one on that line going. It seems as of late that the three players rarely all excel in the same game. Robert played a smart game tonight and did a good job of distributing the puck, even if it didn't often lead to anything. He was our best face-off man as he won 10 of his 12 draws.

Saku Koivu
Koivu managed an assist and 3 shots tonight in what was a very good return considering he missed 17 games. I for one, however, am not surprised that he played well. Why wouldn't he have? Why did people even bother questioning if he still had his place on this winning version of the Habs. He was our best centre tonight and has been our best all year. The only question will be; who does he play with?

Matt D'Agostini
Matt got 2 points tonight. The first was an assist on Gorges' goal. It was in fact a great pass to Koivu who had his rebound come right out to a wide-open Gorges. His second point was a PP goal in which he used a Devil very well to screen the goalie before taking yet another high shot. He seems to know how to beat the goalies of this day and age - shoot high.

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
Josh was the only defender that didn't end with a negative rating tonight. His goal was a culmination of what has been solid offensive play of late and I believe that the strong play has given him the confidence to wander into more dangerous positions. Defensively he did the job and was definitely one of only two blue-liners I would want out there tonight in a defensive scenario.

Andrei Markov
Markov picked up another assist on the PP tonight giving him 30 on the season. He was also our best all around defender in this game and was the only one who was able to carry the puck through the Devils with any amount of success. I think the All-Star weekend will do him well, especially since it is at home. In the second half we need him to be as good as he was in the first because right now he is the only defender playing with game-in-game-out consistency.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Is it true that you can't blame the starter, but you can blame the back-up? It is if you are a member of the Montreal media; which thankfully I am not. Price did not look like his old self tonight and he certainly didn't give us a chance to win. Three of the goals were shots that we need a goalie of his amount of hype to stop. 4 goals on 33 shots will not be enough to win the East and will certainly not be enough to go any farther than we did in last year's playoffs. We need Carey to be one of our top 5 players in the second half, we need him to be the Tim Thomas or Mikka Kiprusoff of our squad.



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

2 goals down, 2 minutes to go and we opt for the 6-on-4 PP. I agree here with the pulling of Price - 100%. What I don't agree with, however, is who Carbo used tonight in this situation. Out there were Koivu, Markov, A. Kostitsyn, D'Agostini, Pacioretty and Gorges. The first 3 players are no-brainers, but what is up with the last 3? Where are Kovalev, Lang and Plekanec? I mean are we even aware that we have to score 2 goals? It is a nice sentiment to reward your Gorges' and Pacioretty's, but enough is enough, show a little desperation Carbo. I feel that Guy lacks the confidence to put his precious line combinations aside for 5 minutes and react to the situation at hand. Yes it wasn't a good game for Kovy, but come on, we all know he is the best chance at a goal. It is this lack of imagination that I feel costs us at times. I was actually quite surprised Latendresse and co. weren't out there, but I bet had they had a better game they would have been.

When you have 2 goals to make up you have to score at least one fast. That means you have to get the puck in the zone and apply pressure. When NJ iced the puck and we had possession we came up the ice and went from a 100% possession scenario to a 50/50 (the Gorges dump-in) one. As predicted we came up on the losing side of that battle and the Devils added a goal. Why not have the only player who can actually gain the zone with the puck on his stick on the ice? Why not take that 100% situation and keep it at just that? Carbo may be trying to send messages to some players, but to this fan the message was loud and clear: I am not prepared to look desperate. Desperation, folks, is not a bad thing, admitting it, in fact, is actually a proven method when times call for it.


Overall Comments

Tonight looked a lot like last night. We started the game well, but a weak goal against really slowed us down. You can almost forget coming back in New Jersey - well that is at least what the players thought. You could see on certain faces the feeling that this was a lost cause and the desire to start their 6-day vacation. Most of the team went through the motions for pretty much the whole game, which is quite a concern. The good news is that I don't think this is a tendency of ours. Yes, the past two games were bad, but let's not forget the first 44. We have 60 points in the bank at the All-Star break and even though we had the same amount 2 games ago we should be very happy with what we have done. Let's all take 6 days to take a deep breath, enjoy the festivities and realize what now needs to be done. We still have a lot of work to do, but for a few days let's all try to forget about that and take advantage of what essentially is an all-hockey break.

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