Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Game #67

Koivu Leads the Habs to a Much Needed Win

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday March 10th, 2009
Opponent: Edmonton Oilers
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 4-3 - Win (OT)

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Dwayne Roloson (L)

Habs goalscorers: Alex Tanguay, Glen Metropolit, Saku Koivu (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Andrew Cogliano, Sheldon Souray, Sam Gagner

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

OT was our play of the game. The momentum was ours heading into extra time and we treated that first 50 seconds like a PP as we were all over the Oilers. Our effort and desire to score led to a penalty and, thus, a real PP. Gainey decided to use his best players in this situation and that meant Kovalev, Koivu, Markov and Schneider would have a lot of open ice to work with. The passing was great and we needed just the one shot on net to end the game. In the end the play that ended it was a hard point shot taken by Schneider tipped in by Saku for his second on the night.

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

Saku Koivu
In these emotional games, these must-wins, you always want your best players to be at their best. Tonight Gainey may have been in charge and firing off instructions, but it was Koivu who led the charge on the ice. Like most, Saku had a weak 2nd period, but when push came to shove and we needed a tying goal it was his line that was buzzing. Again in OT he was in the right place at the right time as he made a great deflection to beat the ever-complaining Roloson.

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)...


Saku Koivu
Whenever you hear Saku speak it is of the team and the group as a whole. We is a word he uses instead of I. I think that whenever a team is faced with a situation like the firing of a coach or a major injury or possibly a major trade it is the responsibility of the players on the ice to show their leadership. A GM, a coach or an injured player may be able to inspire, but in times like this I don't believe they can lead. It was no surprise, therefore, that Saku was the one leading tonight. His two goals give him 13 on the year, he played 19+ minutes and won 8 of his 11 draws. He was a model player for Bob tonight and I think the troops will remain right behind him.

Glen Metropolit
Andrei Kostitsyn had a great game, but he was edged out by Glen for the dome. Metropolit played a wonderful first period that I felt helped to set the tone. We were a strong team during that frame and he himself was strong on each presence. He played very well on the PK, won the majority of his draws (4-3) and scored a very timely goal on one of our two shots in the second period.

Alex Tanguay
This was certainly Alex's best game since coming back from injury and it couldn't have come soon enough. We need Alex to be a top-3 winger and a top-5 forward and tonight he was just that. He was very creative with Saku and Andrei as their line (thankfully kept by Gainey) made up our most lethal trio. He scored a goal and added an assist and finished at +3 on the night.


Andrei Markov
I was slightly disappointed to see that Markov was back with Komisarek. I for one thought that he and Schneider had been a good duo, but tonight's performance of all 3 players involved has settled my nerves for the time being. Andrei was, once again, our best defenceman and was extremely effective on the PP. We only managed to get the one goal with the extra man, but Andrei was instrumental in that goal and the play that led to it.

Mathieu Schneider
It was nice to see Mat playing well again. I felt that he had a so-so road-trip and I wanted a little more out of our big money acquisition. He worked well with Gorges in what should be an interesting pairing. The two were on the ice for Edmonton's first, but that had nothing to do with Mat, Josh fell. He picked up 2 assists in this one including a bullet of a shot in OT that was tipped in. He played 20 minutes tonight which was fourth most amongst our D-men and I am happy with that. There is no need to play him more than 22 minutes, but I am glad he was on for close to that.


Carey Price
Carey kept us in this one in the third period when a 2-goal deficit would have likely been too much. He made a couple of fantastic saves towards the end of the game which had me believing in him again. I still believe that Halak is the better goalie (and always have), but I think Price at least looks better than he has at any other point in 2009. In three straight games he has given us a chance to win and during that span we have won 2 and have had a floundering coach fired thanks to the collective effort in the loss.

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

I looked hard tonight for things that Gainey was doing differently. There were the line-up changes which I for one quite liked. I think D'Agostini is the better player of him and Pacioretty and I have the numbers' support. I really liked Dandenault's reaction to Carbo leaving and Gainey coming (he was ecstatic) and felt his play was a reflection of that. Mathieu played better than Begin, Laraque or Pacioretty would have done as a 4th liner. I also noticed that he kept the PP and PK units very structured. There were 6 forwards used on the PP and 4 on the PK and that was it. Only Kostopoulos and Stewart saw no special teams action. I believe that this will help as certain players can focus on one area as opposed to two, and I also think it will rest our Koivus and Kovalevs for even-strength and the PP. Our play at even-strength seemed a little more imposing tonight and I think that is mostly due the fact that, for the most part, we didn't role out 4 lines. We kept our good players coming and they were followed by other good players. Lastly when I look at the ice-time of certain players I am very happy; Markov - 28 minutes - finally, Koivu and Kovalev ~ 19 minutes - why not use your best players a lot, Kostopoulos, Stewart, Dandenault - 12 or less minutes - playing time, but not over-doing it.

Overall I liked the subtle changes that were made and I feel that they were a contributing factor to the win. This team won't morph overnight, but I feel a few changes at a time will take this group a long way in the end.

Overall Comments

We came out in the first period with a lot of energy and we overwhelmed Edmonton. The problem was, however, that we only managed a single goal, clearly not enough to hold onto. The Oilers answered with a very strong second period as our period of weakness showed again tonight. In that frame we were out-shot 17-2 and allowed 3 goals. We did, however, manage a goal that would give us that one-goal deficit we have become so good at erasing. The third period once again belonged to us as we really dominated the Oilers. We had tons of chances and were once again playing with a spirit and desire that was screaming 'comeback'. When we were down 2-3 I think everyone in the Bell Centre could feel that goal coming as we were just playing too well. Tanguay made a valiant effort late in the third to stop a scoring chance when he tripped an Oiler in the slot. The bad news was he got the shot off (Price saved it), but we still got called. The penalty-killers did a great job for 2 minutes and then handed the game over to our offensive players once the single point was in the bank. OT came and went in the blink of an eye as our third period momentum, coupled with a PP of our own, was too much for Edmonton.

The Habs can (and do) comeback because we have the skilled players required to pull off such feats. In fact, our players are so skilled we should never really be down in these games in the first place. A lack of emotion or effort often creeps in during the mid-portion of a game and we are so often forced to play catch-up. In the end we win a lot of the games that we should, but we do cut it quite close. I think what Gainey, and the fans alike, want to see is consistence. That doesn't mean we have to dominate for 60 minutes, as that would be near impossible, but means that we shouldn't be forever digging these holes for ourselves. We are definitely a team that knows how to make a bad situation better, but I think Bob wants to take good situations and keep them that way. It was a good first win, but there are still many more needed. I believe, by looking at the current standings, that we won't be safe unless we get those 98 points that Topham called for at the beginning of the year. That means we need 19 points in our last 15 games, a record of 9-5-1. I know we have it in us, let's just hope the players start realizing it too. Thankfully we are 6-2 in our last 8 games, let's keep that foot to the gas, we are now so close to the finish line.

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