Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Game #64

5 Goals on 27 Shots; Just Where He Left Off

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Wednesday March 4th, 2009
Opponent: Buffalo Sabres
Venue: HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY

Team Stripes

Score: 1 - 5 Loss

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Patrick Lalime (W)

Habs goalscorers: Tomas Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Derek Roy (2), Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Gaustad (2)

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

I suppose the play of the game was our goal. The goal itself was quite simple - face-off win, shot from point, rebound, in - but it was the fact that it came when we were down 5-0 that made it significant. The team didn't give up tonight and they kept trying right until the end; that goal was scored with 1 minute left. They may have changed their style of play during the game, but I thought that they tried hard for 60 minutes.

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

Andrei Markov
Markov saw who was in nets and he did his best to make sure that we kept our shots-against down. Andrei was the main reason we let up about 20 shots less than we have been doing, but unfortunately, it was still not enough. The PP didn't score tonight, but that wasn't for a lack of chances. Of all the players on the man-advantage, Markov was the best.

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)...


Andrei Kostitsyn
Right from the start of the game I liked the way that Andrei was playing. He took 4 shots and they all looked pretty dangerous. He skated well and was part of quite an effective zone-clearing trio. It was his best game in a few as I feel the stats were the only part missing tonight. A switch to Saku's line may help him and the team, but as of now he is doing good work as the third member on a hot line.

Saku Koivu
Saku led the attack again tonight with another very solid performance. He was setting up his linemates all night, but Lalime seemed to get the better of them. Koivu fought well along the boards and in the corners and was, yet again, dominating in the face-off circle - he went 9-3.

Christopher Higgins
Ever since he was stripped of his 'A' he has been playing some great hockey. Maybe being the 2nd assistant on the Habs is a cursed position. I mean Komisarek was already having a brutal season, but since he was anointed as the assistant captain he has been atrocious. Higgins played with a lot of heart and spirit tonight, but again was unable to finish. He took a team-high 7 shots, but, you guessed it, they were all stopped. So, by my count that line has a play-maker, a crash-and-bang puck-retriever and now only need a scorer - cue Tanguay.


Andrei Markov
This, surprisingly, was our best defensive effort in weeks. The defencemen as a group sure didn't make it seem that way (Brisebois, Komi and unfortunately Schneider all had horrid games), so I think it was thanks to the hard work of the forwards and, of course, Markov. He took 7 shots (3 on net) and was used for over 25 minutes, but despite Carbo's best efforts it was not enough; there were 35 minutes played without him.

Roman Hamrlik
Not a bad game from Roman at all. He was on for 2 PP goals against, but I really needed to see more from our main penalty-killer (Price) before I would call either of these goals Roman's fault. He kept fighting right until the end of the game and even managed to pick up an assist on Plekanec's shutout-breaker.


Marc Denis
Ouch. It is hard to believe that we are pinning the hopes of our franchise on a guy who concedes the top of the net on every potential shot and who lifts his stick away from his 5-hole on every breakaway, but we are. This was Carey's 6th (in 11 starts) 5+ goal performance since he showed the home crowd in Montreal that he was no All-Star. He never looked like he believed in himself tonight which didn't bring much confidence to his team or us fans. I have seen this movie before (Theo, Aebischer) and I know how it ends. If Price plays we can (and rightly should) anticipate losses. So, with the playoffs far from a certainty that means: see you next season Carey. Tonight we could have started Denis and that is exactly what we should have done. We are so worried about Price getting down on himself by pulling him or by taking starts away, but could he really get any lower on himself? All we are doing by playing him is costing the team.

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

The Habs made no moves today and so it is with this group (plus - Tanguay, Lang, Sergei, Chipchura, Halak, Bouillon, O'Byrne and Latendresse) that we will move forward. I think we could have used a back-up goalie who could stop pucks, - a back-up at 1/2 price went to Toronto and hopefully was considered by us - another defenceman who may have played less than 1000 games, but who hopefully would have had the faintest clue what he should be doing out there and maybe another centre as we wait for Lang to come back. There you have it though, our needs are already here. Look at who was missing tonight and you can see a suddenly improved team. Tanguay, Sergei and Latendresse give us options, a chance to take a few 3rd/4th liners out and put some talent in. Bouillon gives us a #5 man (Komi, I'm sorry, but you are 6th at best) and allows us to take out our worst defenceman since we had, well, him in the 90s/00s. And, best of all Halak gives us a guy who gives the team a chance to win on every night. I think Denis can be the back-up we need in the playoffs, well, it isn't like we have any other choice. On top of all of that we have Lang, Chipchura and O'Byrne who can all help and who all have done so in very recent memory.

So, this was a loss that hurts, but it was also a game in which we put our worst elements on display. Once we allow Patrice his 1000th game (anyone know why we think he deserved that? I mean, can I play in the NHL too? I have skates and can almost make a pivot) and realize that our 'future' is not now then hopefully we can put our 20 best players in uniform. We have the players we need, all we need now are injuries to heal and a few decisions based on hockey and not on favoritism.

Overall Comments

The Habs started the game very well, but we failed to score in the first period and that really shaped the game for us. During the opening 20 minutes we had 18 shots and 3 PPs, something that should be enough against a goalie as weak as Lalime. I knew we were digging our own grave by not scoring early in this one as I had this strange hunch that Price would let in a few...Well, let in goals is exactly what Carey did and with that he sucked away all of the momentum and confidence we had coming into the game. The players played differently after we went down, gone was the high-flying explosive play that we saw last week and back was the nervous, cautious play that comes hand in hand with a Price appearance. The goals came fast after the first one and soon enough Buffalo was up 5-0. The Habs, once they realized they had lost, seemed to pick it up at the end and actually played a strong final 10 minutes. In the end it was a predictable loss, - starter sick, road game against playoff hopeful, coming off 4-game winning streak - but it still stings. We now go into Atlanta on Friday to face a very weak team. We have one objective: win at any cost.

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