Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Game #58

Not Even Kovalev's Absence Can Coax a Win Out of Price

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Wednesday February 18th, 2009
Opponent: Washington Capitals
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.

Team Stripes

Score: 3 - 4 Loss (SO)

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Jose Theodore (W)

Habs goalscorers: Christopher Higgins, Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom (1, SO), David Steckel, (Alexander Semin - SO)


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

Early in the game Price made a rare glove-save, it came after a not so rare giveaway. It was Carey that sent the puck up the right side, right onto the stick of Ovechkin. Alex came right back in with his usual speed and tried going upstairs. Price made quite a glove save and I believe with that one save showed his teammates that he wanted their trust back. I think it worked as the team played better in front of him than they have for a good amount of time.


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

Andrei Kostitsyn
Now that we have let the French media get their way with Kovy I fear that Andrei may be their next target. Let's all try and remember games like this though when that time comes. Tonight he was amazing as he scored a goal and added an assist and created an OT turn-over that led to a Plekanec post, a goal that of course would have won it.


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

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks hit the post in OT and failed to lift the puck over Jose's pad in the shootout, both things that really cost him player of the game in my mind. I thought that otherwise he was very solid. Washington's need for speed allowed our faster players, like Plekanec, to show just how fast we can be too. He may have only got the single point on the night (a goal), but was really one of our most threatening players. He took 10 shots tonight, 6 of which reached the net.

Andrei Kostitsyn
21 goals and counting from the player we are led to believe is in a slump. Well, don't let RDS do the talking, let Andrei do it. Tonight he yet again showed just how dangerous a player he can be and how that can increase significantly when he is teamed up with an offensive centre-ice man. Plekanec or Koivu are the only ones with the speed, talent and vision to feed Andrei and I really hope he plays with one of those two from here on in. Pacioretty kept up, but in reality their line was a 2-man show tonight.

Christopher Higgins
5 seconds into our first PP and just 2:30 into the game Higgins put the Habs on the board. His goal was the type you would expect a goal-scorer to score as he put it right up into the roof of the net, over the fallen ex-Hab. He played his usual up tempo game and was able to service Saku and D'Agostini with some quality chances. If he keeps playing as he has done then I know he has a spot on a top-2 line. With Tanguay (and hopefully Kovalev) coming back it looks like certain players are firing up to give us 3 scoring lines once again.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Markov assisted on all 3 goals tonight, but was unable to play the hero in the shootout as his shot dribbled just wide. It was a bitter way for Marky to end what was a pretty solid game. I liked the way he played with his new partner, Schneider, as he looked much more comfortable than when he was playing with Komi (at least recently). Defensively he looked solid, just like the way we need him to be.

Mathieu Schneider
It is nice to have this guy back. He has waited almost 14 years between Habs appearances breaking Jesse Belanger's record by over 7 years! All I can say is that it wasn't soon enough. Carbo had said he would be careful with the 39 year old's ice-time, which in Carbo talk (not normally doing what he says) meant a team-leading 27 minutes. He brought instant results to our PP as we went 3 for 4; he was on the ice for all 3 goals and assisted on one. The best part, however, about his game was the calm that he brought. I haven't seen a Habs defenceman able to clean up mistakes so effortlessly in a long time and I think that his reliable play rubbed off on others. This was an absolutely great pick up and if this game is any indication of what is to come I have a feeling this won't be the last time you see Mat's name in here.

Goaltender

Carey Price
This is about as bad as you can play to end up in the dome. The reason I am putting Carey in is because he only let in 3 goals in the first 65 minutes. He made some key saves and never took his team out of the game. We came a post away from winning it, so for that I would say he gave us the chance we needed. All is not well, however, his 3 goals against may be better than his usual, but his shootout play and puck-handling were far worse than what we presently need. The NHL counted 1 giveaway, I counted 3, but I also noticed how easily players from the other team read his obvious plays. Puck-handling unfortunately is no longer the single area that needs work as this goalie has a long way to go if he is indeed the next one.



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

Line-up changes, a shift back to the East and more even reffing were just a few of the reasons the Habs showed up tonight. Washington's style of play allows us to play the game we want to play, it allows us to use our speed and allows us to try things in the offensive zone. Don't expect this from Western teams as they just shut you down at every opportunity. The last time that we played a team of this sort it was Pittsburgh and that also happened to be the last game that we played well in.

The addition of Schneider (and thus subtraction of Brisebois) was a huge plus, so let's hope that Hammer's injury isn't serious as we really need the 6 we saw tonight playing D and nothing worse. Sergei's absence was negligible as he could have easily done what Dandenault, Laraque or Chipchura did tonight - nothing. It was Kovalev's absence that, of course, was the most significant, and was, what I believe, the biggest reason for the change in attitude. I can't for one second believe that Kovy is a cancer in the room, I won't believe that no one likes him and I would be a fool if I were to say the team is better without him. What I think happened, however, was that the 19 guys on the ice took notice and they got scared. I believe that NHLers have no desire to leave Montreal and can actually, at times, get scared for their futures. So, I think that when they all saw what Gainey (and worst of all, the media) has done to Kovy they began to realize that no one is safe. I mean if your best player, occasional captain and All-Star MVP can be treated like that, then who is next? The players played for themselves tonight more than for their team, they played for their lives. There was some good team play, but at the end of the day I saw more great individual performances than anything else. I saw 19 players who realized the Habs mean business and who realized there was a lot at stake. The good news, of course, for us is that when everyone plays well our chances of winning increase. It may not have happened tonight, but we were a hell of a lot closer than we had been in any of our recent losses.


Overall Comments

This was actually a pretty exciting game to watch. Early on, when we went down 1-2 after 13 minutes, I thought we were in for another 'Price' performance. I thought the odds of him bouncing back from a couple of goals that early in the game was highly unlikely. Luckily our PP went to work tonight with 3 goals. I think we have our old friend Theo to thank as much as Schneider, but we did what we had to do. It was painfully obvious, however, how 0/4 is not that different to 3/4 as 3 bad Capitals' breaks makes this a strong performance by us. Like I said it was a strong game for the Habs, but an element of team play seemed absent, especially on D. We played better than we had, but I still didn't feel we were all there in our own end. In fact, it was Price that kept what could have been a very high number of goals down. The third period, and especially OT, were high-paced and were fun to watch. Each team traded chances, so it was fitting it ended in a tie. I thought that Theo would be the weakness we needed in the shootout, but it was unfortunately Price who looked the worst. I haven't seen the kid stop a breakaway in a while so I am not surprised he didn't do to well on those. I would, however, suggest that he may want to work on those before his next game.

3 points in 5 games and a maximum of 5 points on this trip has made the trip a bad one all around. I am glad we got a point tonight, but it is about time we start winning. Tomorrow's game is now the most important of the season as it is the Pens who scare me the most amongst the teams chasing us. If we ever needed a win, in regulation, this season I would say the next game is it. The trip is already a bust no matter what happens tomorrow, but that is no reason not to make it less of a bust.

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