Opponent: Maple Leafs
Win: 5-4 (SO)
Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Toskala (L)
Habs goalscorers: Metropolit, Latendresse, Gill, Hamrlik, (Cammalleri, Gomez - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Ponikarovsky (2), Stempniak, Kaberle
The play of the game comes in two installments tonight, but both were very similar. I am so pleased about these plays as it not only was a great demonstration of our skill, but was also an example of just how weak a team Toronto is and of how inadequate Toskala is - it was great! The plays that I am referring to are obviously the to shootout goals scored by Cammalleri and Gomez. Both players came in with speed, stickhandled just a bit and then put hard and accurate shots up and over Toskala's non-existent glove hand. It was comical to see how bad he was with his glove and great to see that we knew how to expose it.
I think that it is pretty safe to say that, once again, Pleks was probably one of our best forwards tonight if not the best. His assault on last year's assist total of 19 continues as he is now more than halfway there (10). His 2 points last night give him 13 in 14 games and he is actually playing better than his numbers would suggest as well. He was great against Toronto and seems so at ease in his role on the team this year.
It is hard to believe that Mike didn't pick up a point in this one because he was absolutely everywhere. He was instrumental in Ha Gill's goal, but thanks to the NHL's way of assigning points he didn't collect one. He also scored a great goal in the shootout, but again this isn't recognized by the league. What the league will record is the fact that he led the team in shots (6) (and, although not noted, he likely led in quality chances too), led the game in takeaways (3) and played for nearly 20 minutes.
Glen's good play continued against Toronto and this time he was rewarded with a goal. Call it a gift from Toskala (it was horrible technique) or call it whatever you want, but a goal is a goal. The main thing is that he tried the shot from a horrible angle and, by knowing his opponent and his weaknesses, it turned out very well. As his solid play continues he'll likely continue to see increased PP time (3+ minutes - more than 10 times more than Kostitsyn), higher than average ice-time (17+ minutes) and, hopefully, he'll be valuable at face-offs (he was 71% in this game).
Roman Hamrlik - Game Puck
Roman is certainly getting the job done this year and, I think, that last night he was at his best. Just by looking at his numbers it will help to paint the picture. 1 Goal, 27+ minutes, 4 shots, 4 hits (team-high), 3 blocked-shots and a +1 rating. Martin is using him in all situations and actually used him more than any other player in this one. By playing nearly half of the game he gives the Habs a very good chance (during that half at least) of outplaying the opponents. Both defensively and offensively I am really liking what I am seeing.
Paul was able to outplay Gorges and Spacek in this one (Gill and Bergeron are givens) as he really did a good job defensively. He was very strong in one-on-one situations and did well in his battles along the boards. I never saw a major mistake and liked how he never over-commited by taking himself out of position (Komisarek's presence makes you thankful when your own D-men don't stray too far from developing plays for stat purposes). He didn't get a point and wasn't on the ice for any of the 8 goals. That type of neutral hockey, however, is quite alright with me; especially when it lasts 20+ minutes.
Is Halak our starter now? Has he earned #1 status? I really think it is hard to say and I am pretty sure that Martin and Gainey couldn't answer that now, but, you know what? Who cares. The bottom line is that Jaro is finding ways to win games. Maybe his opponents haven't been the cream of the league, but he is making sure that, as a team, we are winning the games that we should be. To me that alone is enough justification for the increase in playing time. I wasn't too impressed with his play during the game(4 goals on 30 shots), but some were lucky on the Leafs front. His play, however, in the shootout was what impressed me. He made two big saves on the only two shots he faced and, thus, gave the Leafs no chance at all of winning this game.
As usual in a Montreal-Toronto affair the game was competitive. It rarely matters how either team is doing in the standings as, for the most part, these games promise to be close. Toronto got on the board first, but we did very well to answer with 3 goals within a relatively short period of time. Our 3-1 and then 4-2 2-goal leads, however, weren't enough for a shaky (at times) D and goalie and Toronto, themselves, found a way to get into this game. Getting to OT was big for the Leafs, but once there you could really see the signs of a team with no confidence. In all they managed just the one shot in the extra frame as the Habs outplayed them and, thus, came close to beating them, again, in OT. It wasn't to be, however, but I am happy to report that we carried that momentum into the shootout. We exposed a weakness of theirs (Toskala's glove-hand...I was just going to say Toskala) on our first two shots and they made it pretty easy for Halak by being very uncreative in their attempts.
So, all in all, it was the week that I expected; 4 points and no wins (or points) against the tougher competition of the week. I am pretty happy that we beat Toronto and I'm not even that worried that it happened in OT that I doubt 45 or 46 points on the year for the Leafs will matter to us much. Atlanta, Boston and Tampa Bay is the week that we have ahead of us and I think this is a good chance to get some extra points. I am going to set the expectations high at 4 points as I think it is time we get on a real roll here and about time that we get moving up these standings.