Saturday, April 11, 2009

Game #82

Tough Regular Season Comes to an End

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday April 11th, 2009
Opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 1-3 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (W)

Habs goalscorers: Roman Hamrlik
Opposition goalscorers: Evgeni Malkin, Maxime Talbot, Kristopher Letang



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

Unsure about whether we wanted to win (or whether we were even trying to win this game) aside, I got pretty into it once it was 1-1. The play of the game was a play that I haven't really seen all year and I am glad, even though it took 82 games, that Carey is capable of a little magic. The play, of course, was a save that came off of a 2-on-1 which was created when Komisarek fell while tackling the ever challenging 'backwards-skating'. Up the left wing came a Pen with the puck and he fired a crisp pass to his right. A one-time shot by Matt Cooke was then quickly gloved out of mid-air by a sprawling Price who reminded me that he is capable of making some pretty spectacular stops.



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

Alexei Kovalev
Going into the playoffs you need your best players at their best and for us that means guys like Koivu, Markov, Schneider, Hamrlik, Plekanec, Lapierre and especially Kovalev. Alex gave me every indication tonight that he is ready for the real thing as he played an inspired game. He had, and created, a lot of the Habs quality chances and was our best shot, tonight, at getting into 7th.



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
Kovalev wasn't playing with his usual linemates tonight, which I found odd, but still worked well with who he was given. His 4 shots led the team and at times he brought the crowd to their feet. I could tell at times he was holding back, as this game didn't mean too much, but I know that, had we needed him, he would have been ready to play at his best.

Maxim Lapierre
The engine of the third line (maybe the 2nd tonight) did well again in this game. His offensive play continued to impress as he moved the puck very well with his linemates - Gui in particular. He was the game's best face-off man as he won 70% of his draws.

Georges Laraque
BGL isn't in here for the reasons one would think (he once again provided no toughness, intimidation nor did he hit), but instead for the way in which he played with the puck. He drew two penalties by shielding the puck very well in the offensive zone and also got himself into some decent positions in Pittsburgh's end. I would call this game a fluke more than anything, but don't be surprised if media pressure doesn't get to Gainey and we see Laraque in Game #1.

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
I actually thought that Gorges played far below his usual level, but thanks to the poor play of Dandenault, Weber, Komisarek and Schneider, here he is. The thing that stood out for me most tonight were his blocked-shots as he got in the way of 6 Penguin attempts on goal. Josh has to be better than he was tonight if we are to succeed, but I am wondering if asking him to be anything more than a #4 is a stretch.

Roman Hamrlik
Thank goodness Roman is stepping up right now. We can't go into the playoffs without a dominant force on the blue-line and, with Markov injured, that player has to be Hammer. I liked how he played in our own end tonight, but he also did well in their end too. He scored our lone goal which gives him a respectable 6 for the year.

Goaltender

Carey Price
I didn't think the rebound control was great and I also thought he let in some very weak goals, but at the end of the day he was pretty good the rest of the time. In fact, he made a few incredible saves which actually makes me think he may be getting a little more confident. In all there were 38 saves as once again the Habs conceded more than 40 shots. Halak should be the goalie in the playoffs, but, as we all know that will not happen, so it is therefore nice to see Price play a little better against a good team.



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

Now I don't think this will be a problem against Boston, but come on where was the emotion tonight? Why do you take a one game break from treating games like playoff games just because you clinched? The Habs didn't fight too hard along the boards for pucks, didn't do that well to clear the front of our net nor did they create many quality chances. I, for one, would think that this would have been a great opportunity to get ready for the playoffs, but instead we treated it as a 'don't get hurt, don't get tired' mandatory skate-out. I think that they would have welcomed the win (I don't think that they were trying to lose), but there was definitely no desperation tonight. Why wouldn't a team take as much practice in these types of situations as possible? Can you really tell me that trying, and hopefully winning, against a good team (not Atlanta, Tampa or the Islanders) wouldn't have helped? At some point you have to be better than the opposition (all opposition) on any given night - that is how cups are won.


Overall Comments

It seemed that the players were as relieved as me on Thursday to make the playoffs and equally as indifferent about tonight's game. The difference, of course, is that they are being paid to play hard, score goals, keep goals out and win games. I am not being paid to be a fan, in fact being a fan inevitably ends up costing me quite a bit. It would be nice to support a team that occasionally cared more about certain games than you, but this Habs group is not that team. All that to say the game started badly as we let up a goal very early on. We managed to score a bit of a lucky one towards the end of the first and that is when things started to get interesting. The second period was a well-played frame and the Habs definitely had their chances. Until that point we had done well to kill off our penalties, which of course included yet another dumb one by Komisarek, but had not really had a chance to work on the PP. Thanks to BGL our PP went to work in the third, but then thanks to some careless plays, and slow skaters on the blue-line, we managed to let up 2 SH goals on the same PP. After that the effort level went down and the 'don't get hurt' effort went up - from both teams. The last few minutes were played out as though nothing could really be done to avoid the inevitable outcome. Next up we have Boston for four or more in what should prove to be quite a series. Last year (and every year before that) will tell you that the standings mean nothing and that this could really go either way. In theory they have us on goaltending and defence (unless Markov and Bouillon come back), but we have them on offence (the way we played for all but mid-January until March), passion and crowd. Too bad hockey isn't played on paper though; we'll see in about 5 days time what we are really made of.

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