Friday, February 27, 2009

Game #62

Habs Comeback, but Almost Blow it With Penalties

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Friday February 27th, 2009
Opponent: Philadelphia Flyers
Venue: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA

Team Stripes

Score: 4 - 3 Win (OT)

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Antero Niittymaki (L)

Habs goalscorers: Tomas Plekanec, Tom Kostopoulos, Alexei Kovalev, Mathieu Schneider
Opposition goalscorers: Joffrey Lupul, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne


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

The Habs had no interest in waiting until the third period tonight to start their comeback, nope, tonight they got at it right away. With the score 0-2 very early on we were pressing hard with glorious chances coming from everywhere. We managed a PP goal and then it was Kostopoulos' turn to tie the game up. Niittymaki made a pretty poor play with the puck which was followed by an even worse play from the Flyers defence. Sensing something was up Tom followed the play. The puck bounced off MaxPac and ended up on the side of the net. Niittymaki was slowly getting into position when Kotops lunged at the puck and swept it in on a very sharp angle. It was yet another example of Tom's tenacity.


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

Alexei Kovalev
Kovy racked up points 5, 6 and 7 since his forced break last week and couldn't have looked better out there. He was in complete control on the PP and is working nicely with Schneider at the right point. The pair teamed up on both of our power-play goals tonight, including the OT winner. He was also a major contributor on the PK as he spent over 3 minutes killing his teammates penalties.


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
Remember that 6 game road trip which was meant to be an opportunity for the Habs to find their game? Well, Carbo struggled to realize who his #1 goalie was and Gainey was busy dealing with his superstar, so, it seemed like the team was going nowhere. Pleks, however, unlike the rest of the squad, didn't let that trip pass him by. A 2-game suspension cost him 2 games on the trip, but he still excelled in the 4 others. In fact, in the 7 games he has played since the start of that trip he has 12 points, including 2 tonight. He was a force down the middle all game and played a very strong offensive game.

Saku Koivu
Saku kept a claen sheet defensively tonight as he was never on the ice for one of our goals against. He also did fantastic work on the PK - over 4:30 of it. He, however, saved his best for last as in OT he was a face-off machine. He won 3 key draws in the extra frame, the third of which led to the game-winner. In all he was 15-9 and picked up an assist on the winner to move into sole possession of 10th all-time on the Habs scoring list.

Alexei Kovalev
Kovy had one of those games tonight where you could just see that he was in control. He handled the puck so well, but also distributed it when he had to. I think that the chemistry between him and Plekanec is certainly back and I also think Kostitsyn is catching up nicely. We need Kovalev if we want to do anything significant this year and tonight was another clear example of just how, unlike anyone else, he can shape a game.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
It says a lot, on a night when our defence was suspect, that Andrei was on the ice for 3 of our goals and none of theirs. He took, what I thought, was a pretty bad penalty, but I felt that he made up for that with some extremely brilliant PK work. He didn't factor on the scoresheet tonight, but was a contributing factor on both of our PP goals.

Mathieu Schneider
I was thinking during the game how nice it would have been to have kept Mat his whole career. As upset as I am that we missed 14 of his best years, I am forever grateful that he is back. Tonight his OT winner was another example of a D-man that can shoot; something that is apparently harder to do than it looks. He also had an assist which gives him 5 points in his 5 games since rejoining the club. It is wonderful to have a top-3 defenceman who actually plays like it and I mean that in every sense of the term.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
The game didn't start well for Halak or the Habs as we found ourselves down by 2 early. Luckily Jaro, unlike other Habs goalies, didn't buckle after this, in fact he played better. All 3 goals can be attributed to horrible plays by our defence, but I know that a great goalie has no excuses. Aside from those 3 shots there were no excuses for Halak. Komisarek and Brisebois did their best to test their keeper with brutal giveaways left, right and centre, but the Slovak was up to the task. In the end he put in a very solid 35 save (.921) performance to grab us the 2 points - points that 2 weeks ago would not have been ours.



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

There is one glaring 'good' from this game, but, in my eyes, a more worrying 'bad'. It is good that for a second straight game we killed all our penalties (8/8), but honestly, what is with all of the stupid penalties? Tonight, as usual, Komisarek led the charge as he picked up 4 minutes and 7 other Habs visited the box once. Amongst those 9 calls I can't pick out a single useful play, they were all stupid, careless penalties. We were very lucky to come out unscathed as the Flyers have the best home PP in the league. So, I have decided that we have to be a bit smarter and make an honest effort to make the refs work for the calls. It is no secret that a home team gets more PPs (especially when they are losing), in fact the numbers are astounding - 4130 home PPs vs. 3643 road PPs. That translates to 13% more per game, or on average around 1 extra chance. That is something that the Habs must be aware of and something that we must work on. Our penalty-killers and Halak are doing incredible work, but eventually a team will find a weakness. We can start by playing a little smarter and we should start that on the road. Home ice is where you can cheat and break the rules, on the road, however, we must learn to be good boys.


Overall Comments

It didn't take long for this game to get going as within 20 seconds the Flyers were all over us, after 28 they had a lead. The goal was the result of a defensive meltdown, a trend that would be prominent all night. Philly kept coming and another defensive lapse led to their second goal. What Philly didn't bank on, however, was our ability to not only comeback, but also to expose extremely weak defences. Within 10 minutes of the Flyers' second goal the Habs had about 9 scoring chances of which we scored on 3. The second period proceeded much like the first with chances at both ends and very little defence to be seen anywhere on the ice. Brisebois' worst (but not anywhere near his only) cough-up of the night led to the tying goal and it seemed like once and for all Philly was back in control. The rest of the second period, as well as the third, belonged to Halak as he was very strong, making quality saves to keep his team in it. Towards the end Patrice tried his hardest to ensure this game didn't go to OT, but Jaro would have none of it. In fact, it was a horrible Briebois play (he let Upshall whiz around him and then fell) that led to our OT PP. A real defenceman would have stopped Upshall himself, thus he would have never had a quality scoring chance, nor would he have bowled over Halak. Carbo didn't waste any time on the PP as he put his 4 best weapons on the ice - Markov, Schneider, Koivu and Kovalev. It seemed like he would stick with them until the game was over - and he did. Schneider ended it with a great shot after a very good deke and pass from Kovy.

We needed a win on the road and playing a fellow Eastern Conference Playoff Hopeful made it that much more of a must-win situation. It is a shame that we allowed them to get 1 point, but at the end of the day we got the 2 and that is the most important thing. Tomorrow will be a big test as San Jose is in town. A good effort, or better yet, a win would be a good boost for this team that seems to be headed in the right direction. It also represents our last game before the trade deadline, a day that is exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time.

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