Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Game #76

2 More Habs Fall in Crucial Win

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday March 31st, 2009
Opponent: Chicago Blackhawks
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes
Final Score: 4-1 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (L)

Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev, Guillaume Latendresse, Andrei Markov, Mathieu Schneider
Opposition goalscorers: Patrick Sharp

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

This play started with Higgins and a few minutes later ended with him. There was 4 minutes to go in the game and our 2-goal lead was not looking like it would hold up. Chicago was all over Montreal and 2 more goals (maybe even 3) looked like a very possible outcome. In a moment of attack Higgins hit Kostitsyn with a nice pass and he was then more or less alone in on net. Andrei got off a quality shot despite being slashed; that put us on the PP. 2 minutes of clock-wasting would have probably done the trick, but scoring a 4th seemed like an even better plan. Chicago thought that they had a clearance along the glass, but there, as he always is, was Markov putting up both hands and keeping the puck in. He quickly played it to Schneider who one-timed a shot by a screened - courtesy of Higgins - Huet. There is too great of a chance at 1 point only in OT - I like this approach much better.

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

Andrei Markov
After Hamrlik went down we started seeing more of Andrei as he was at times being double-shifted. It should also say a lot for Hammer's ability as Markov was the only defenceman that Gainey trusted to mop up Patrice's mistakes after he left. Markov moved the puck very well all game and out-did all of Chicago's big-name (big-money) defencemen. It proves that over-paying on July 1st is a great way to pay too much for a player who wants to make as much money as possible, but that isn't exactly the way to get the best in the league. I would much rather have a player playing for me for less money because he loved the city and the team and not because I offered him the biggest contract.

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)...


Guillaume Latendresse
Gui and Max played very well tonight and either player could have found their way in here. The clincher was Gui's goal and his fight to get it. It was a great example of how you should always stay with the play and never give up until the whistle. The shot was lucky to go in, but it does take a true scorer to get two quality shots on net back-to-back like that.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Kostitsyn did everything but score tonight and I really liked what he brought. It was his first game in a week and I felt that he came back a bit better than when he went out. He definitely added some punch to our second line and I believe it was him who set the tone for the whole game. Andrei uncharacteristically dropped the gloves to come to the rescue of his injured brother and, though it cost us him for 19 minutes and the team for 4, it was the right play. After missing most of the second period he came back to be an offensive force in the third as he got off two high quality shots and drew a crucial penalty.

Alexei Kovalev
His goal, 25 seconds in, was a great way for him and the Habs to start the game. That goal showed how alert the Habs were tonight and was also a nice example of, what I believe is, a more aggressive fore-check. He also added an assist on Markov's goal and now all of a sudden has 56 points. He has amassed 17 points in 15 games since his break and 8 in 4 games since being put on a line with Saku and Tanguay.


Andrei Markov
Andrei's career year continues and we still have 6 games to play. Like Kovy, Markov picked up a goal and an assist and now has 62 points - he continues to lead the Habs. If Hamrlik is to miss any time then we will have to rely on this pillar even more (which I am sure will be no problem for him). I hope, however, for the team's sake that isn't the case. I am confident that Markov will pick up the slack, if needed, but not as confident that Brisebois, Bouillon, Dandenault or O'Byrne can do what Roman does.

Mathieu Schneider
A few defensive zone giveaways for Mat tonight ruined an otherwise solid effort. Like Markov, Mat will be needed for more if Roman is out, but I think the veteran can do it. This is the time of year when you need guys with experience to help the younger players and I think Schneider has done a formidable job. He scored a late insurance goal tonight and now has 8 on the year. With Atlanta he had 4G, 11A, 15Pts and was -10 in 44 games. Since coming home he has added 4G, 10A, 14Pts and is a respectable -2 (lets not forget he lived through Carey's troubles) in only 19 games.


Carey Price
Carey had an excellent game tonight as he made some crucial saves and played with a supreme amount of confidence. His teammates rewarded him with some solid play of their own as they not only scored 4 goals, but also only let up 29 shots. He faced shooters at the top of his crease, often stood up, if the butterfly was not needed, and controlled his rebounds very well. He got a bit lucky with some near misses and posts, but then again, what goalies don't.

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

A lot was made before the game about whether the Habs were back on the right track after a decent haul last week. The main argument was that we were only able to beat Tampa and Atlanta while only getting a single point against the Sabres. Maybe the 'experts' who were doubting us failed to recognize that those are the types of teams that we usually lose to. Those are the types of teams that, had we beaten, would have given us enough points to avoid much of the slump talk. If you wanted to know if we had turned a corner you could have done what few actual experts do and that is to watch a full game. The way the Habs played last week was clearly an improvement from previous games and that continued tonight. Against the 'Hawks we beat a team that most people consider great and that was supposed to be a hard test. In the eyes of those on TSN and RDS we are back, we passed the 'good-team' test. In my eyes, however, we played as well tonight as we did last week and that is the evidence that tells me that we are back to being our old selves.

Overall Comments

The game couldn't have started better for as we scored a goal after 25 seconds. Poor old Huet was hung out to dry after his defenceman made a brutal giveaway. The Habs kept it coming despite a pretty constant parade to the penalty box. We didn't, however, sit on our 1-goal lead and by the end of the 2nd period we were up by 3. Then Chicago turned it on and got some (disappointingly predictable) help from the refs. Playing the puck from the bench, tripping, holding Higgins' stick and obstructing Kovalev all got over-looked as the refs let 'them play' - Don Cherry style. The refs of course claim they don't want to influence the game at this point which means that there is a huge advantage for the team who is cheating (Chicago). How on earth they don't think allowing a team to cheat and thus get the puck and more chances isn't a form of influencing the game I'll never know. Luckily for us though our hard work resulted in a penalty that the refs simply had to call (although I wouldn't have been too surprised had they not) and that killed any hope that Chicago had. The 2 points turned out to be essential as Florida also won tonight. We hold a game in hand, a one point lead and the advantage (for the time being) in the event of a tie between the two teams. With 11 games left to be played by the two teams, however, all of this will surely change. All we can do is win our remaining games; I think 2 more points this week is a must and 3 or even 4 would come in extremely handy.

I have a few questions that maybe some people can answer. Tonight we were supposed to wear our barber-shop 1912-1913 jerseys for the second time of the year, but instead we wore the 1915-1916 reds for the 3rd time overall and 2nd time in 11 days. Any idea why they changed this after it had been published? Also, why are we booing every ex-Hab? I am not as naive as I once was when I thought we were the classiest team in the league, but now I think we may have the worse fans, worse that Toronto. We boo every player who ever played for us (despite their excellence with us and the fact that they would have done anything to stay), we also boo every other team's best player (Bertuzzi can be booed, as can Samsonov and Briere, but Chara, Alfredsson, Sundin and Iginla? Really? Those are all great players who should be respected) and we also jump on and off the bandwagon more than Alouette fans. It is becoming a disgrace and even though I know that the boos aren't representative of what we are all thinking, I still ask the question as to why so many people feel that way? To think that I used to be annoyed by the D-Fence (this isn't football) cheer and that was it.

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