Monday, April 20, 2009

Game #1-3

Injuries, Gainey's Choices and a Weak Third To Blame This Time

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Monday April 20th, 2009
Opponent: Boston Bruins
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 2-4 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Tim Thomas (W)

Habs goalscorers: Christopher Higgins, Yannick Weber
Opposition goalscorers: Phil Kessel, Shawn Thornton, Michael Ryder, Chuck Kobasew



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

I knew that scoring first would be a huge boost for this team that needed a good bounce tonight and thankfully we got it. After an offensive-zone turnover by the Bruins Weber was very quick to hit Higgins on the left-wing with a breakout pass. Christopher led the charge in what turned out to be a 3-on-2. The defence conceded the shot and Chris was able to put a good one on net. At the time it looked like the Habs were on track.



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

Yannick Weber
Nothing against this intriguing rookie, but player-of-the-game, really? How about Price stealing one for us, maybe a veteran D-Man like Komisarek or Gorges dominating or guys like Plekanec or Latendresse contributing? I am very happy with the way that Weber played, but would have hoped to see another name in here on such an important night. It is, however, nice to see that we at least have one youngster coming up who may actually exceed expectations (rather than fail like Chipchura or Price).



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)...

Forwards

Alexei Kovalev
Alex could have been better as it would have been nice to get a dominant performance out of him, but I am not surprised that we didn't. He has been our best player this series and is probably wondering when some support will arrive. He didn't score tonight, but did have a very strong game with Koivu and Kostitsyn, Tanguay's replacement.

Christopher Higgins
Our 4th-line secret-weapon scored another goal tonight as he is creeping up towards his regular season totals. Aside from the goal he played a pretty decent checking game and contributed with a few other chances. It would have been nice to maybe see him and Metropolit play with Sergei or even Pacioretty instead of Laraque who proved that he is useless no matter what line he is on.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Now here was a player who stepped it up tonight. Don't let the media tell you that he had a bad game because he killed our momentum in the first with a penalty as that just happened to be the one of about ten offenses that got called. He was our most exciting forward tonight as he complemented Koivu and Kovalev in a way reminiscent of the way Zednik did back in 2004. His four shots on net tonight led the team and were all good, hard chances.

Defencemen

Ryan O'Byrne
It looks like we can throw the 'experience' of Dandeault out the window and by now we have realized that Komisarek is just plain bad. I thought that Gorges and Hamrlik may have done better, but they have been pretty good as of late so I won't go on much about them. Ryan, therefore, was our second best D tonight; both are rookies. He didn't get into any trouble with penalties, made good and timely hits, but only got to play for 11 minutes - Bob preferred to go with those players who were playing worse.

Yannick Weber
For me, this is about the only positive to come out of this game. Weber proved tonight that he can do well on the biggest stage and that he can shoot the puck hard - something we are lacking at the moment. He scored a goal and added an assist (a real, goal-generating assist), so who knows where we would have been without him.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Price, once again, couldn't steal us a game in another must-win, biggest-game-of-the-year scenario. I am not sure how many that makes in a row, but if you weren't convinced that this guy isn't quite the Steve Mason, Pekka Rinne, Jonas Hiller (need I go on with new goalies that are capable of stealing the show?) you were hoping for , are you now? Two of the goals against him were inexcusable and while he did play semi-decently during other parts of the game, what goalie, in the NHL, isn't good most of the time anyway. Halak has been our better goalie all year, but especially since January 1st. Since then Price has managed to win 26% of his decisions (7-20) post 0 shut-outs save 89.0% of the shots he has faced while allowing a whopping 3.42 goals/game. If you consider those to be his season stats (I do as 2008, to me, is too long ago to consider, ie. this is the Price we are getting, not the one before his injury) only Johan Hedberg (Atlanta's back-up) has worse numbers. A list of over 45 other goalies beats him and this is who we decided to go with. Halak had to start tonight and not playing him proves to me just how bad of a coach/GM Gainey really is and, on top of it all, it is a huge slap in the face of Jaro. Don't, therefore, be surprised when Halak asks for a trade this summer and we are left with absolutely nothing in the goaltending department. See, the price of waiting for someone to be good (rather than using players who are good) can be great indeed.



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


This game was the final straw, Gainey's last chance to set things right. I am now, however, convinced that he has to go as he does not give our team the best chance to win. He, of course, can't help the injuries to Tanguay, Markov, Lang, Bouillon and Schneider, but he can help in other ways. How about not playing your best LW on the 4th (checking line) line where he is more likely to get hurt. How about, as a GM, finding some strength and conditioning coaches that can prepare us better for a season and for each individual game. I am tired of us running out of gas in both an 82-game and 60-minute format. Also, don't think for a second that better fitness and health coaching wouldn't have prevented the injuries and sicknesses. He could help by playing Koivu and Kovalev for more than 3 shifts in the final 12 minutes in tonight's game, the game of the year, and maybe he could have gone easy with Kostopoulos (3 shifts in the last 6 minutes). And, for the sake of your job Bob (and this team), you could have given us the best chance to win by playing the better of our two goalies. Was our team good enough to win with Halak tonight? Maybe not, but we aren't good enough for Price, that is for sure. A team like Detroit can carry goalies like Osgood, but with our defence (especially the defence we have when Markov is out) we are not one of those teams.

As a coach Bob didn't give us our best chance to win this series and as a GM he didn't give himself, the coach, a chance to make this season a success. I have always liked Gainey as I think he is a great man and was a great Hab, but any man who thinks that Price is the future and that Huet and Streit aren't worth keeping around isn't really doing the best for this hockey team.


Overall Comments

I have said most of what I wanted to, but I will go on to give a brief re-cap of the game. We started this game very well and during the first few minutes looked like a team that should have been up 2-0 in the series, not down. We were all over Boston and we managed to score first and out-shoot our opponents. Then, Mike Komisarek (who is quietly having one of the worst seasons of any Norris hopeful (hahaha)) fired a no-look pass up the middle which was picked off and ended up in the back of our net. Price is not to blame on the goal, but a big save, with a minute to go in the first, might have helped. Poor defensive-zone coverage by Glen Metropolit, among others, led to Boston's second goal (by their fighter - see that BGL) on a shot that was too easy to not stop. Metropolit made up for his weak defensive play by winning a key draw in the offensive zone just moments later. Weber scored the ensuing goal on a shot that probably should have been stopped by Thomas. The period ended with Ryder scoring his second of the series into a wide-open net after a brutal rebound was given out by Price. The third period belonged to Boston as we never even really came close to tying it up. The Habs will play it out on Thursday, but I wouldn't hold your breath. This is not the team we saw before Christmas and is not the team we saw 3 weeks ago. Without Halak and Markov we are going nowhere and thanks to Bob I think we'll never even get to see what half of the solution would look like.

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