Thursday, March 12, 2009

Game #68

Habs Lucky to Secure a Single Point From a Very Disorganized Effort

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday March 12th, 2009
Opponent: New York Islanders
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 2-3 - Loss (OT)

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Yann Danis (W)

Habs goalscorers: Tomas Plekanec, Tom Kostopoulos
Opposition goalscorers: Mike Iggulden, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo

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

After we were snake-bitten on a 2-minute 5-on-3 we capitalized on a very weak Islander line change. Reading the play perfectly were the ever-smart pairing of Schneider and Markov. It was Mathieu that made the pass to a streaking Markov who had found the left side of the Bell Centre void of any New York players. With a full head of steam Markov went in and luckily he had back-up. On the right side, and fresh off the bench, was Kostopoulos. It was a 2-on-1 that turned out to be very timely as we really needed a goal. The pass was great and Tom made no mistake putting the puck to the back of the net.

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

Carey Price
It would have been nice to get this type of effort from Carey two weeks ago when the offence needed his help, but I am just happy that the kid seems to be back. Price pretty much stole us a point tonight as New York took 39 shots on goal and looked very threatening. He stood on his head towards the end of the game with a few great saves and best of all, a few of those were glove saves. He seemed confident tonight and it was the main reason this game wasn't a complete write off.

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
Saku was the best player on our best line tonight by a lot. In fact, his wingers played average games at best. Koivu was right in the middle of the action pretty much all game. A few of our best chances were generated by him and he had a couple of very nice plays to keep/get the puck in(to) the offensive zone.

Tomas Plekanec
Plekanec scored 2 goals in the first period, but only one counted. The disallowed goal, I thought, would have counted if the original call had been 'goal'. I thought his stick was right around the height of the bar and it was hard to prove one way or the other. His goal came soon after that incident and it was a very well-placed shot. That gives him 19 on the year - something we all thought near impossible just a month or two ago. He looked a bit lost out there without Kovalev as this game was a cruel reminder of what having Kovy on your team can do. Plekanec's line was good, but it was no longer the constant threat which we normally expect.

Maxim Lapierre
It was good to see Max playing well again as we haven't heard much from him in a while. His best play came when he drew a penalty and then kept the play alive long enough to draw another one. It put us on a 2-minute 5-on-3 which could have ended the game in our favour. Max responded well to his increased playing time tonight (18 minutes) with strong defensive play and a very good 12-4 face-off record.


Andrei Markov
Andrei led the attack tonight whether it was on the PP or at even-strength. He, however, also seemed a bit lost out there without Kovalev as he had to re-evaluate where to pass the puck on the PP. His assist, after a 2+ minute shift, was a perfect example of how good of a player he is and of how your best players can certainly take advantage of the opposition's weaknesses even at the expense of dumping it in and heading off. My only complaint tonight was that he wasn't used enough.

Mathieu Schneider
Mat led the team in shots with 4 and they were all decent efforts. We all talk so much about his work on the PP and his offensive play that we sometimes forget how good he can be in his own end. There was one play that stood out for me towards the end of the game where he dove to Price's left and stopped what would have been a certain wrap-around goal. His positioning in his own end was very strong tonight which was noticeable as that was a huge team-wide deficiency.


Carey Price
On the one hand Carey let in a weak goal that may have cost us the win, but on the other he was the only reason we made it to OT in the first place. So while I am disappointed in that one play in the extra frame I am quite pleased overall. He did a good job at finding pucks tonight and didn't give off too many rebounds. He was able to catch a lot of pucks to force the whistle which is something he had been having trouble with. This level of play should be enough to get us into the playoffs, now he just needs the other 18 guys to get going.

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

This wasn't the next step that I had hoped we would take after what I felt was an inspired victory just two nights ago. The Islanders on the road are a dismal team, a team littered with AHL-calibre (at best) players; this one should have been a lot different. In fact, it was this type of performance/result that cost Carbo his job. Does that mean Gainey is the next to go? Well, let's not be ridiculous. In the time since Carbo has left we have had 2 game-day skates, which aren't anything near proper practices and usually last a laughable 20-30 minutes, and one optional practice. Add that to the fact that our best player wasn't in the line-up and you can start to see that this was Carbo's team minus his most lethal weapon. Bob has a lot of work to do and has some simple, yet great, ideas. He can't, however, implement those overnight as it will take time (or at least a real practice). It would have been nice to see a more solid performance, but I am not too surprised with what we saw. This has been the way we have been playing for weeks now and I wasn't naive enough to think that it would all suddenly change. Playing like that will occasionally be enough for 2 points (when we are lucky), but tonight I think we were almost as lucky to get one. I think the root of our problems almost certainly come from our defensive play, but we are also having trouble being consistent up front. When I say up front I don't just mean scoring, I mean passing, being patient and winning battles. There are tons of little things that are all adding up right now to make the mess that we see on a near-gamely basis, but with time I think Bob and Lever can address these one at a time.

Overall Comments

First the good news: New York isn't in this race with us and we gained a point on all those teams that lost tonight. The bad news is that this was one of our 'winnable' games. We brag about how good our schedule is down the stretch and how easy our opponents are, but if we are going to talk like that it would be nice to kill teams like this. The Habs started the game, as they have been doing of late, quite well. We essentially scored 2 within the first five minutes. Then came the penalties, then it was the belief that 1-1 wasn't a dire enough situation to play desperately and then, wouldn't you know it we were down. Our comeback-juice luckily kicked in again tonight as we were able to score that crucial second goal. Then, with 10 minutes left, we played for OT. The problem was the Islanders weren't doing the same. They were all over us and almost scored on a few occasions. We looked quite disorganized and unaware for the last 55 minutes of this game, but it was particularly evident after we tied it up. The only reason we are even the slightest bit satisfied tonight is because of that stupid (and out-dated) OT-Loss rule, but I am hoping the players are treating this like what it actually is: a loss. Saturday is another big game, this time against Brodeur and the Devils. Who knows, maybe the cohesion and effort will be there, maybe our Achilles heel is a weak opposition and that is all that tonight was. The Devils, unlike New York, represent the type of team we'll have to beat in the playoffs so I would like to see us take 2 points from them as heaven knows we can't rely on them coming from games against the Isles, Tampa, Toronto or Atlanta.

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