Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Game #51

Habs' Play is Solid in Much Needed Win

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday February 3rd, 2009
Opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 4-2 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (L)

Habs goalscorers: Roman Hamrlik, Christopher Higgins, Maxim Lapierre, Andrei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Luca Caputi, Evgeni Malkin

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

Sometimes a bad game can become a good game in one instant and sometimes a good one can turn sour fast too. With the score at 1-1, while killing a penalty, we were desperately close to falling into the trap that we have been in for about 2 weeks now. We were close to blowing what was a great start to a game as we were giving a very skilled PP a chance to work. Instead, however, on that PP something happened that saved this game from going from good to bad, that something made the game go from good to better.

Letang was at the point and was unable to control the puck. The very efficient PK duo of Higgins and Koivu saw this mistake and pounced. Chris was first there and within 2 strides he was off on a shorthanded breakaway. Close behind was fellow speedster, Saku. Higgins' acceleration was very impressive, it allowed him to get in alone and score. Equally as impressive on the play was the 'obstruction' that Koivu created on Whitney - Pittsburgh's best hope at stopping Higgins. Sak used his speed and body position to ensure Higgs was alone, to ensure he got off his quality shot. It was close to being a penalty, but it wasn't one after all - to me, when you go right up to that grey line you are playing excellent hockey.

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

Roman Hamrlik
I had stated a few games ago that to go deep (or even to make the playoffs) we needed Hammer to be one of our top 2 defencemen. Tonight he did just that, in fact he was the best player on either team. With a goal and an assist he took his season totals to 18 points. Offensively, however, there was more to his game than just those points. He seemed to be every where in the offensive zone as he added a few more chances of his own and helped to create a few others too.

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)...


Saku Koivu
If anyone disagrees with this I would love to hear about it, but more importantly I would love to hear why. If you state that there were other forwards who got points tonight and that Saku didn't I will immediately ask you to re-watch the game. After that I think you may have no problem agreeing with this one. Of course Saku would have loved to get a point, but at the same time I am sure all he wants are wins. Well, we got the win and I think the most credit due to any forward is due to Sak. He generated the most chances of any player, aided in Higgins' goal, hit when he had to, skated fast when it was called for, won important face-offs and was our best penalty-killer.

Alexei Kovalev
I loved how Alex bounced back tonight. I was never worried about his play and I think after 5 years I can count myself amongst the few who doesn't need proof of his worth after every 3-game goaless stretch. What I was worried about was the fact that he was benched, called out and eaten alive in the media. Regardless, he played an exceptional game. He was very active offensively as he led the team with 6 shots. He also made a great pass-reception on a pass from Plekanec which he turned into a equally superb pass to Andrei for our 4th, and insurance, goal.

Christopher Higgins
The Higgins of old is slowly coming back and I for one am excited. Over the past few games I have seen flashes of brilliance from the former poster-boy of the team. Tonight he played a very solid game in both ends alongside the captain and I believe that this is a duo that will work for us as we move forward. His second breakaway goal in 3 games was another prime example of the raw speed and shooting ability this player has.


Josh Gorges
I for one was surprised to see Josh out there tonight. After I saw Gauthier only received 5 games (what a joke) I thought it would be another case of the NHL suspending a player for a lot less time than the amount of games the injured player would miss. Anyway, it showed courage and commitment to the cause and I am thankful he was there as he is a huge piece of our puzzle. He ended the game at +2 (his first positive rating in 4 weeks) and played over 20 minutes - 3rd most of any Hab.

Roman Hamrlik
Did I mention Roman finished the game at +4. He was so key to our success tonight it was crazy. He not only did well in Pittsburgh's zone, but also did great work in our own end. Defensively I think he can be trusted in any situation with absolutely any partner and that, as a fan, is a comforting thought. Hammer has had a rough couple of weeks, much like the Habs, so my theory is that if he plays well, somehow, the team will too.


Carey Price
I am very happy with what I saw tonight from Price. I saw a goalie playing with confidence, with focus and most of all with a desire to win. The second goal was one I am sure he would like back, but I am fine with 1 mistake per game. If we are losing games 0-1 we have much bigger problems than goaltending anyway. He made no real mistakes when handling the puck tonight and even made a few decent full-length clearances on the PK which were surprisingly not even that dangerous.

In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

It is amazing what sustained effort from all 19 players will do. It is also amazing how a lead and some lucky bonces (in both ends) will shape our mentality for a whole game. The most important thing about tonight, however, wasn't something that we did, but was something that the Pens did. Their defensive system is nowhere near as tight as Florida's or Boston's, no, this system is open. They, in fact, play a very similar style to us where they seem to open themselves up in order to create chances. They are a fast team that realizes these chances should be numerous based on their speed and talent alone. What they didn't account for though was the fact that this is our style too. And Therrien, I hate to say it (no I don't - I love it), we are way better at that style than you. Tonight Pittsburgh let us play our game, our way and we were just too much for them. Too many teams have figured out ways to counter our speed and skill, but luckily Pittsburgh isn't one of them as they believe they should hold the edge there. My main concern, however, remains the problem of beating those tighter defensive teams. Until we can impose our style on those teams (like we did against Boston until this year) we aren't going anywhere.

Overall Comments

The coaches knew it, the players knew it and even the fans knew it - we needed a win. Right from the start of the game I think people knew what had to be done and they spent 60 minutes making sure they accomplished it. One thing I really liked was the fact that we didn't let a 0-1 deficit eat us up. Instead we fought back and tied the game up soon after Pittsburgh took the lead. I can imagine that the players are as tired of playing catch-up as I am at watching it. Even better than getting that first goal was our effort after that. We went on to outscore them over the next 55 minutes (3-1) and outshot them in each and every period. The effort was there tonight from minute 0 until minute 60. From Carey Price to Alex Kovaelv, Plekanec to O'Byrne everyone chipped in in his own way and that was the reason we were able to score 4 nice goals and only concede two. This represents a great start to what has to be a great week. Like the way that I try and move on and forget about a loss after the fact I think we must do the same here. I want everyone to enjoy this win, but to quickly forget about it as this week holds far more important challenges.

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