Sunday, March 08, 2009

Game #66

Stars Fail to Capitalize on Gifts From Refs and Habs

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Sunday March 8th, 2009
Opponent: Dallas Stars
Venue: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

Team Stripes

Score: 3 - 1 Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Marty Turco (L)

Habs goalscorers: Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexei Kovalev, Christopher Higgins
Opposition goalscorers: Loui Eriksson

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

The play of the game had as much to do with Dallas' shortcomings as it did with our brilliance. Towards the end of the first period we took a series of penalties that could have been devastating to a fragile team that has trouble winning on the road. With the Stars already leading 1-0 we were really playing with fire and it was going to take a big effort to come out no worse for wear. We did it though as we managed to kill off 4:45 straight, including 3:25 straight at 3-on-5. Dallas didn't exactly test us too much during this stretch, but the important thing is that we held our ground. By not going down by 2 or 3 we seemed to gain some confidence and I think that this helped us a lot and I believe that it was the main reason we came back to score 3.

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

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks was our bet penalty-killer tonight and was very effective during the 5-on-3s. In all he played over 5 minutes of short-handed hockey and was very energetic for most of it. Aside from that he played a solid game which include a team lead in shots (3) and a very respectable 10-7 face-off record.

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)...


Tomas Plekanec
He played well with Kovy again tonight, but I think MaxPac added a little more energy to their line which slightly improved their overall make-up. All 3 players were quite dangerous offensively, but it was Tomas that had the most chances - he came very close in the 2nd to beating Turco on a wrap-around.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei was much more effective tonight as he made a return to the RW. I know that one of our readers has been asking for this switch and I think he has a valid point. I always liked the Koivu-Andrei duo that we saw earlier in the year and I think he can bring a lot more to Saku's line than Higgins can. His departure from Plekanec's line isn't something that I think hurt the team tonight, nor will it hurt them in the coming days. He and Kovalev are our 2 best shooters and I am all for spreading them out. Tonight Andrei had some great chances and just seemed more involved altogether. He scored a goal and had at least 3 other glorious chances.

Alexei Kovalev
Kovalev scored an excellent goal to put us up 2-1. The goal wasn't just a great shot, but came at a time when we needed something to happen. He played a great game tonight and, like Plekanec, did extremely well on the PK. His goal was his first in 4 games and I know that as we move down the stretch we'll be seeing more of this. He currently sits at 16 goals and 31 assists and I wouldn't be surprised if he hit about 23 goals and 40 assists - I expect a strong push from the Habs over the next few weeks and Alex will certainly be at the centre of that.


Ryan O'Byrne
It is nice to see someone other than the big 3 in here for once. Ryan played over 17 minutes tonight which included over 4 on the PK. He kept his game about as simple as he could which is exactly what I want from our #6 defenceman. I certainly wish that Komisarek would look at this performance as a reminder of how simple defence can be when you don't take yourself out of position.

Roman Hamrlik
Roman and Ryan were our best duo which is the first time a pairing other than Markov and someone has held that distinction in quite some time. Roman, like his young protege, also played a simple game tonight as I never really noticed him getting into trouble. He picked up his 23rd assist of the season on Kovalev's goal to give him an impressive 27 points on the year.


Carey Price
I didn't think that Carey should have gotten the start tonight as I feel that winning is something one should be rewarded for. Halak won us games we should have lost and all Carey has done of late is lose games for us. Tonight, however, he found a way to get the win. I can't say he was tested too much early (especially not on Dallas' PPs), but when he was he made saves to keep it close. His puck-handling was bad, but was way better than Turco's who, for his part, should be ashamed of how poorly he handles loose pucks. Towards the end of the game Carey made some great saves when we needed him to preserve our lead.

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

It is possible that when Gregory Stewart fought (or punched) Ott we woke up. I didn't, however, like why he was fighting the Star's agitator. Ott was, at the time, flying all over the ice and hitting everything that moved. The key to his play was that it was clean and that it was giving Dallas a clear advantage in the energy and momentum departments. Why then did Greg fight him? I see it more and more often throughout the league where a player must fight, to defend himself, after he makes a good hit. There is no reason that Ott should have to fight or why we should even touch him at all. In fact, if I had my way Stewart would have been tossed from the game as his assault was unprovoked and uncalled for. It is a sad state we are in now in the NHL where every clean hit is followed up with a scrum and some punches. I am sick of fighting for no reason and find that this type of fighting is as stupid as the premeditated boxing we see when Laraque is in the line-up. I am happy that in this case the Habs were able to feed off the incident and were able to turn the tide in the game, but I wish they would have done it differently. What happened to the Habs intimidating teams by fighting or, heaven forbid, by scoring goals? I for one wish we were a smart enough team to know that a clean hit isn't worth us taking 4 minutes of penalties, after all it isn't always going to result in a change of momentum and a comeback win. More often than not these stupid penalties will come back to haunt us and I would love to see us completely take them out of our game-plan.

Overall Comments

Carbo pulled out all the stops tonight as the lines were changed, the 7th defenceman was relegated to the press-box and he made a confusing goaltending selection. It was a pretty classic display from our coach who has so few tricks up his sleeve. The changes, however, seemed to all pay off for us tonight, especially the line changes. I think Guy may have finally found 4 combinations that maximize our assets. There are of course a few minor changes that can be made when we are healthy - 2 of Sergei, Gui and Lang would join Higgins on the 3rd line, Lapierre, and Kostopoulos would join Stewart on the 4th, MaxPac and D'Ags would fight for that spot on Plekanec's left and O'Byrne would have to beat out Bou for a roster spot. Other than that I think we have a line-up that can help us win a little more often. Tonight our balanced approach paid off as we got strong play from each line and goals from the top 3. Dallas, however, could have easily run away with this game, but with strong penalty-killing we held off. After we weathered that storm I felt a little better about our chances. Unlike Friday night in Atlanta we caught a few breaks in this one and that was probably the difference. I wouldn't say that we played a great game, but we were at least as good as Dallas. We thus ended this trip 1 point short of our goal and we now enter the last 16 games with a mountain to climb. The good news is, however, that we are half way up and we know the best route to the top, we've done it before.

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