Monday, February 09, 2009

Game #54

Ouch; Habs Embarressed Again

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Monday February 9th, 2009
Opponent: Calgary Flames
Venue: Pengrowth Saddledome, Calgary, AB

Team Stripes

Final Score: 2-6 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Miikaa Kiprusoff (W)

Habs goalscorers: Matt D'Agostini, Tomas Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Mike Cammalleri, Matthew Lombardi, Dion Phaneuf, Dustin Boyd, Rene Bourque, David Moss

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

I liked the first period and I actually saw 3 plays in there that were worthy candidates. As the game went on, and the taste in my mouth soured, I kept thinking about how on earth I could say anything positive about this one, but then I reminded myself of the first 20 minutes. The best play all started with a Koivu hit on Iginla along the boards. That allowed Roman to pick up the puck at the left point and send it deep into the right corner to Higgins. Chris fought well and got the puck into the slot where D'Agostini one-timed it through the Kipper.

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

Saku Koivu
Saku was the only player that didn't have unexplainable brutal moments tonight. He was our most consistent player all night, especially offensively. I liked the way he was using his body tonight, a particular highlight were his 2 bodychecks on Iginla.

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
Let's face it, we need Saku to be better than this, we need everyone to be better than this. On a night when there was little much of anything to be seen Koivu at least showed us a bit. His energetic shifts of the first period should have been an example for the younger players on the team; unfortunately none followed.

Steve Begin
Steve didn't play too much worse than his best tonight. His best, however, will never win us games, but, in him, I saw heart. He won 8 of 11 draws which would be more significant is he was on the ice with players who can score once we gain possession.

Alexei Kovalev
Nowhere near Kovy's best, but still a top-3 forward in this one. His assist on Plekanec's goal was reason enough to put him in here as the way he dropped Kiprusoff was truly world-class. Defensively he was OK, he didn't cost us any real chances and was by far the best of his line in that category.


Roman Hamrlik
Hammer was involved tonight, that's for sure. He was on the ice for 6 of the 8 goals. He picked up assists #16, 17 on our two goals and led the team with 5 shots (21% of our total). He wasn't our best defensive defenceman tonight though as he was on the ice for 4 goals against. Never directly at fault for a goal, Roman still found a way to be on the ice at the wrong time.

Josh Gorges
The most interesting stat of all night belongs to Gorges. After being called out by me and plenty of other journalists for his poor defensive play Josh played +2 hockey tonight. He was the only player with a positive rating which makes it more impressive. He played over 20 minutes, which is a good sign, but was again wasted on the PP where he looked very out of place.


Carey Price
Jaro played an excellent first half of the game which was unfortunately followed by a 5-goal Habs collapse. In that first half he made great save upon great save and looked like our answer in nets. Then a very costly Sergei giveaway pretty much ended all hope we had. Their second goal not only tied up the game, but also drained Halak (and all other Habs) of any confidence we may have had. In the end Halak didn't give us a chance to win, but I think the team are to blame too. I can't really look at this game and say we lost because of goaltending as our team didn't give Jaro the chance to give the team a chance to win.

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

Tonight Halak showed us that weak goaltending isn't that different than strong goaltending when the team in front of you isn't playing defence. Our problem right now is not just one of 1 or 2 players, but I believe it is a team wide problem. Our confidence is gone, yes that is obvious enough, but so too are our basics. Why do we clear every puck blindly up the boards? Why do we go for hits rather than coverage? Why do we try fancy plays when we are last man back? These are all questions that need to be addressed. Right now our whole defensive system is in disarray and it is costing us in all aspects of play. We have no foundation to build wins upon as everything at the back looks broken. We won most of our 24 cups thanks to solid defence, not just the play of defenders and goalies, but the defensive play of the entire team. We need to get to the bottom of this fast, get back to playing our system and eventually we can start worrying about offence. It would help if we got some upgrades at certain positions, but I know we have the talent and hockey intelligence on our roster to get the job done. Start with defence boys, because 6 goals against will never cut it in this league.

Overall Comments

The first period was good and I really got the sense that we had turned the page. A trip, it seemed, was just what we needed to get away from the pressure of Montreal. The second two periods, however, tell a very different story. The last 30 minutes may have been the hardest bit of hockey I have watched since Laflamme and Traverse patrolled our blue-line; it was simply pathetic. Hopefully this loss will sting enough for some people to wake up, but at this point you would have thought that would have already happened. You never want to lose the first game of a trip, but this isn't the end of the world just yet. For this 6-game western venture to be a success we only need 6 points and I for one would prefer if the bulk of those came towards the end of the trip so we have something to build upon when we get back home. So, 6 points in 5 games hasn't scared us before, right? It's simple, play defence and then just build, build and build on top of that. The wins, I am sure will then come.

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