Saturday, February 28, 2009

Game #63

Halak Brilliant Against League's Best

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday February 28th, 2009
Opponent: San Jose Sharks
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-2 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Brian Boucher (L)

Habs goalscorers: Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, Saku Koivu
Opposition goalscorers: Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton



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

Sent into the zone by Saku Koivu Matt D'Agostini was off to the races. He beat his man to the outside, but had run out of room to get to the net. So, instead of a tough-angle shot he took the puck around the net. He then caught an edge and went down, he didn't, however, give up on the play. As he was falling he fed the puck out front to Gorges who had made a very timely pinch. Josh had a pretty wide open net to shoot at as Boucher was still on the other side thanks to Matt.



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

Jaroslav Halak
The kid did it again tonight, he stole a game we probably shouldn't have won. It was another 40+ save performance (46) for the man that has suddenly become our best player by a country mile. He let in 2 quick goals early in the second period, but really shut the door after that. It was a dominant performance and I think everyone who has watched this team over the last 2 weeks knows that in Jaro we have something very special.



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

Saku Koivu
The captain played as strong a game as anyone of our forwards tonight as he scored a goal (a gift from Markov) and added an assist. The 2 points give Saku 5 in his last 4 games - all wins. I felt that during our losing streak Koivu was the one player still working hard each night and he was the one leading this team. It is no surprise that now, with the team winning, he is, again, leading the way. His line played well against a very talented San Jose team.

Matt D'Agostini
I saw great energy from Matt tonight, it was the type of energy and play that I believe has won him a permanent spot on the roster. Tonight we saw with his speed, passing and shooting that he is the complete offensive package. He also knows how to fore-check and isn't a liability in our own end. I think MaxPac has a place in this team's future, but when Tanguay comes back Matt gets my vote to stay on one of the top 3 lines.

Christopher Higgins
Chris has found a way to stay off the scoresheet this year, but that doesn't mean he isn't involved. Tonight he was right there on 2 of our goals, but he didn't get any points. I for one don't mind that at all. If he can do what he did tonight - check, skate and win battles - then I am not too worried about points. I think he is the digger that Saku needs on one wing and soon I think we'll see the scorer he needs on the other.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Andrei got the ball rolling tonight with a PP goal and then added an assist, on a sublime pass to Saku, to give him 2 points on the night. In all he now has 50 points and continues to lead the team. After that he went on to have a very strong defensive game as he was paired with all sorts of people throughout the game. He was our best player at making sure that San Jose's chances weren't dangerous as when he was on the ice there were shots against, but very few quality chances.

Mathieu Schneider
Mat was +2 tonight as he was on the ice for all of our goals and none of theirs. He probably has Jaro to thank for that, but you don't play 20+ minutes of calamity-free hockey by accident. Tonight as our team looked worried in front of a scary Sharks team Schneider was the calming influence that we needed in the back end. There were no major mistakes, no give-aways, just sound, defensive play. Offensively he was quiet (we only had one PP), but he did pick up a single assist to give him 6 points in 6 games in his new uniform.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Beating San Jose doesn't just happen by chance you know. They had only lost 10 games, of 60, in regulation prior to tonight and it seems that they are there in every game. Tonight they didn't have a bad game by any means, but it does show that one player can make a difference. Halak's play was the only reason the Sharks weren't celebrating their 94th and 95th points of the year and that we were instead celebrating our 74th and 75th. In his last 6 games Jaro has been incredible as he has gone 5-1, he, in fact, is the main reason we have turned things around in the past 2 weeks. His save % over that stretch is an incredible .944; how can you argue with that?



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

What we did tonight was we not only beat the best team in the league, but we proved something very valuable to ourselves: anything can happen in hockey and you are never down and out. This version of the Habs looked ready to pack it in 2 weeks ago as the world was falling down around them. There were scandals, trade-requests, fractures within the team and worst of all losses - a lot of them. Well the recent wins, and especially the one tonight, will do a world of good for this group. Not only do we get the points and move that bit closer to the playoffs with these wins, but we also prove to ourselves that we can rebound from anything. I mean if we can win 4 in a row in the fashion that we did, after what we went through, then we can do anything. If we make the playoffs then I think a lot of people will look back at the rough patch as a good thing. It was a time for the team to hit rock bottom, and at some point they realized that the answer to success lay nowhere else but within. Confidence is everything in sport and tonight, by beating the Sharks, we went and got ourselves a whole lot of that precious commodity. Right now the team must think they can beat anyone on any give night, and you know what, they are right.


Overall Comments

With 2 wins this week and 3 in a row a win wasn't a must tonight, in fact, all I was looking for was evidence that we could once again play with the league's best. Well that proof came early and it came fast. Within an 8 minute stretch during the first period we scored 3 goals and were all over San Jose. We spent the first part of the game being slightly intimidated by these giants from the west, but after the novelty wore off we played our game, and we excelled at it. 3-0, however, is a dangerous lead (ha, aren't they all) as we thought we had won. We spent the next 40 minutes watching our goalie stand on his head as we hoped they would score 2 or less. 2 minutes into our last 40 our plan didn't look like it was going to work. The Habs, however, kept at it and in the end held off the mighty Sharks. Now, we may have let up 48 shots, but a lot of those were weak attempts. There is no doubt that we were outplayed (save goaltending), but I don't think the shots tell the whole story. The quality scoring chances were few and far between for SJ as I felt we played a half-decent defensive game. There are obviously things to work on, but it is great to get the 2 points while hopefully learning a lesson or two at the same time. Next up is the trade-deadline and it will of course be interesting to see what happens with that. Following that comes 3 road games (of which we need 3 points - BUF, ATL, DAL) and then we are into the final 16 games of which 11 will be played in Montreal.

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