Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Hedberg (L)
Habs goalscorers: Plekanec, A. Kostitsyn, Bergeron (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Kovalchuk, Antropov (2)
Halak made some game-savers in the third and OT and our OT goal was quite something, but, for me, the play of the game was the tying goal. I could sense that the Habs were going to score midway through the third and I thought that all they had to do was avoid letting Atlanta go up by two. Andrei Kostitsyn, therefore, cut it very close by taking a slashing penalty with 4:32 to play. Luckily our penalty-killers got the job done, again, and we now had a 2-minute window. Furious at himself (I hope), it was Andrei who, fresh out of the box, drew a PP of our own. We then went to work, our 5 best players, and it didn't take long. The goal itself was a bomb from the point (Bergeron's 8th) which was the end result of some very slick passing from Plekanec and Markov.
Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
4 more points for our top player and all of a sudden he has outscored his last year's self. Last season he put up 39 points and wasn't half the player that he is now. Was it because Koivu left? Kovalev? Did he need a player like Cammalleri? I have heard them all, but I don't think those are why. I believe the reasons are that he is finally using his speed, his coach is finally using him in more key situations and he is super confident in himself. It would be nice to see him get 80+ and even better to see Gainey sign him soon.
Mike picked up 2 assists tonight, both of which were world-class passes. He seems to know exactly how to find his linemates on the ice as all three seem very comfortable with each other. He only had 2 shots himself and didn't quite look like he was going to score, but you can rest assured that he was a big part of all 4 of our goals as he is lending quite the hand to Plekanec as they guide our offence.
Kostitsyn ended the game with a single point, a goal, but was right there for goals 1 and 3. On our first goal he made a very nice play to let a pass go right by him towards Pleks. Many players may have stabbed at that loose puck, but Andrei didn't and the result was a confused goalie and a tie game. He was later in front of the net, causing problems, creating a screen and waiting for a potential rebound when the third goal went in. So, you can see how points don't always tell the whole story; they often miss the subtleties that help to create the goals.
Markov was on the ice for 3 of our goals and 1 of theirs, but, whenever he is on, I feel more confident than I have all season. Tonight he really did it all as he hit, led the team in takeaways, led the team in ice-time, picked up his first assist of the year and was, quite simply, our best all-around defender. It is quite something to have him back as this year really felt like the new Habs and that, for the most part, hadn't included him.
He may have seen some time as a forward tonight, but it was as a defenceman that he shone. He very nearly took game-puck status as he managed to score both the tying and winning goals - both in dramatic fashion. His shot from the point continues to be a major threat and has to be placed amongst the best in the league. It may not have the power of a Souray shot (although I would bet he could go 98.0+ mph), but boy does it get through. Accuracy and timeliness are his main strengths and, unlike some players, he doesn't always try the shot. His OT goal showed that he is more than a shot, that while playing offence he has the skating and hands to get it done.
There were 3 goals against and 3 posts, but let's not forget that there were 50 shots. That means that in 2 games he has saved almost 97% of his close to 100 shots; not too shabby. I am not, however, basing this on last game, just this one. He was good enough for the dome, though, and could have been a game-puck recipient had it not been for Plekanec's heroics. He made a plethora of great saves and managed to keep us in the game when we needed it the most. I would like to see him get 1 or 2 more starts (at least) before 2010 as I feel he seems to be finding a way to win despite how poorly the team in front of him may play.
Tonight Atlanta, as a team, were stronger than us, but our secret weapon happened to be a certain 6 players. They were more balanced than us, had better core defence, but we were able to get the most out of our best players and they weren't. It is great to see your top line click like that and great to see your PP work, thanks in large part to the solid work of your two point-men and it is great to see your 'back-up' play so well. So, the one question has to be - where were the other 13 guys? Certain players like Gorges, Spacek, Gomez, Lapierre, Metropolit, Sergei etc. had moments, but honestly guys, come on. You can't always expect one line to do everything and you shouldn't just accept losses when they aren't having a good game. Players like Gomez and Lapierre and Metropolit have to step up and they have to be consistent. I don't need to see goals from those players every game, but I need to know that they can be trusted. Right now we are getting a lot out of our best players and I feel that there is only one way for their production to go. It is great to think of Plekanec as an 80-point man and Camms as a 40-goal sniper, it would be amazing if Bergeron and Markov were better than point per game, but we cannot expect it, nor should we be surprised if none of that happens. Tonight showed that winning in this way does take it's toll as certain players are getting over used, are getting fatigued and eventually they will get hurt or play worse.
So, I am thrilled that we won and pumped that Plekanec and Bergeron and Halak could play such big roles, but we have to start getting more out of the rest of the team because even if one line can get you points and wins and maybe a playoff spot, they probably can't get you a cup.