Habs Goalie: Halak (L)
Opposition Goalie: Kiprusoff (W)
Habs goalscorers: Gomez, Latendresse, Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Nystrom (3), Iginla
From a Habs point of view the best play, I think, was our third goal. I felt, until this goal, that Plekanec's line (himself in particular) had to be better. Well, this goal was mostly thanks to Tom himself and it seemed to ignite him and his linemates. A lot of hard work in the corners and behind the net allowed Pleks to beat the bigger and stronger Flames' defenders and get to the side of the net. He had few options when he got there as he was facing away from the net, but, thankfully, resisted the urge to go back to the point with the puck. Instead he put a backhand into the roof of the net and tied the game at 3. His backhand has time and time again proven to be world-class and I can only hope that this play was the first of many more to come this season.
Scott Gomez - Game Puck
Gomez scored his first goal as a Hab tonight, but that was just a small sample of his excellent play in this one. The goal itself was a one-timer which left the Kipper with no chance - it was straight to the roof of the net. The rest of his game could be summed up with one word: speed - everything he did tonight was done quickly. His passing, his skating and his shooting were all executed with a sense of urgency and, for the most part, he was able to catch Calgary flat-footed. His line fell short at the end, but over the last 15 minutes he was a big reason why the Habs almost forced OT again.
If Martin is hellbent on using the big three players on the same line then it really is up to Tomas to carry the second line, and in a way the team. No cup winning team can do it with one scoring line and that is why a player like Pleks (and to a similar extent, Kostitsyn) is so important. He has been decent so far this year, but I felt that tonight he started to impose his own style of play. He was first to the puck on many occasions and was strong on it when he got there. He made Kostitsyn a better player tonight and even made Pacioretty look like an NHLer. He could use the help of another solid winger (like Kovalev perhaps?) as MaxPac really can't keep up for 60 minutes. I almost think it is time to give Sergei (the kid with the best hope among all our kids) another shot.
I once again really liked what I saw from Gionta tonight. He is slowly becoming a favorite of mine and he is working very hard to earn that distinction. Tonight he was, once again, very quick and alert with and without the puck. There is no doubt in my mind that he and Gomez will always likely represent our best chance at a goal, no matter the situation. Cammalleri played very well tonight too, but I wonder if we are unnecessarily stacking our top line. Brian is the type of player, as he showed tonight, that can create something out of nothing, and he can do it often. Players like that don't need to be surrounded by the best players on the team at all times.
The 'how not to play defence' clinic was run in conjunction with the Habs-Flames game tonight, but luckily, for the viewers, it was a 2-for-1 deal. Gorges got a front row seat to both as he drew the short straw and had to play with our worst assistant captain since Brisebois wore the 'A' that time we had injuries to our top 36 players. Playing with Gill all night and coming out of it with an even rating was almost Game-Puck worthy, but in the end I settled on the dome. Josh (when he wasn't cleaning up incredible blunders) played a very solid game and was probably our best player in the defensive end. There was no offence to speak of, but with Hammer, Spacek and Weber all in I wasn't looking for any.
Another reason that Gorges isn't needed offensively is the surprising offensive play of Paul Mara. I have been skeptical so far, but tonight I felt he earned my praise. He posted 2 assists in the game giving him 3 in 3 games. Unfortunately (thanks to some brutal reffing) he didn't see any PP time, but given his past numbers and his play so far this year I am actually quite anxious for him to get some more time in that regard. He wasn't a slouch defensively tonight either as he finished the game with a positive rating; the only defender to do so.
I won't go as far as saying that Halak played a bad game, but I can tell you that it wasn't a good one either. Good games require a goalie finding a way not to let a 4th-liner score a hat-trick and require the odd stop of a screened shot or deflection. I was happy that Jaro got the start and still stand by that as I think there is no need to play Price in back-to-back games at this stage, but wonder if Martin got his order wrong. Besides the goals against (which is the only thing that really counts) I was happy with how Halak handled the puck, recovered from the butterfly and controlled his rebounds. Not enough to get in the dome, but not enough for him to not get another chance within the next 10 days either.
Winning in Calgary was never going to be easy and, despite our 2-0 start, it wasn't as if we were lighting the league on fire. Calgary played a tough game tonight and also played a very fast game. We couldn't match their toughness (beaten badly in 2 fights), but I felt we were as quick, if not quicker, than the team in red. What I can say is that our 4th line was absolutely pathetic. None of Stewart, Chipchura nor Laraque should really be playing in the NHL and under no circumstances should they be playing together. They bring nothing to the table offensively and are quite diabolical defensively too. We have 4th line players like Moen and Lapierre, but thanks to contract status (and other reasons) they get bumped up - this is where the problem starts. That leaves us with a hole and that hole was torn wide open tonight by Calgary's 4th line. I really think if you are going to use 4 lines then you have to have 3 competitive/offensive/balanced lines with one muck-it-up line. Right now we have 1.5 competitive lines (Pacioretty is not anywhere near being a top-6 forward), 1 quasi-defensive line (Latendrese is slightly out of place there as he should, ideally, be on a true scoring line) and one trio of guys who happened to have their own equipment and shirts that fit. Aside from that one aspect of our game I felt that we outplayed the Flames. When our top two lines were on we were quick, hard to the puck and we created chances. We only figured out, after 2 momentum-sapping goals, that having a constant flow of energetic players will generally help you.
Next up is Vancouver, a team that is not keen to lose again. I really hope that Martin does something about his lines because if he doesn't we may be back to .500 very fast. We have enough good players and got enough good performances tonight that we could have been 3-0. Poor coaching and soft play, however, have taught us that being labeled as 'defensive' or 'strong' or 'NHL-capable' doesn't mean anything until you can prove that at this level.