Habs Goalie: Halak (L), Price
Opposition Goalie: Varlamov (W)
Habs goalscorers: Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Gordon, Laich, Fehr, Ovechkin, Bradley
Tonight, as I am struggling to think of a good play, I am going to go in a different direction. Instead of saying how good Moore's hit on Backstrom was or how our goal gives us hope for the next game I am actually going to focus on the one play that may help us more than anything on Thursday. With the game winding down MAB was on for one of his last of 27 shifts (27!!!) and made two of the worst plays I have ever seen him make (and I had been watching the whole game). A pass up the middle which was intercepted and thrown towards Price was only to be outdone by another soft clearing attempt that went straight to a Cap and then to the back of our net. I am hoping that this play will result in the benching of Bergeron as I am struggling to comprehend what Sergei could have done that was anywhere near as bad as what Marc-Andre did (or didn't do) tonight. Him out of the lineup may be our only chance to sure up our D as, clearly, playing him for 20+ (more than Hammer, Spacek and Gorges) is not the answer, no matter how hard he can shoot.
Anytime that a player can be -4, take 6 minutes in penalties, be out-played by the opposition for most of the game and still be one of your top-3 you are in trouble. I liked a bit of what Tomas did tonight, especially the goal, but, for the most part, am not pleased that he is in the dome. The team needs to be better and that has to start with our top regular season point-getter.
Maxim Lapierre - Game Puck
Max actually played a decent game and I felt that he, at least, understood that tonight was a playoff game. Putting him on the 3rd line may or may not have been the right move (would not have taken Sergei out), but at least he did what was asked of him. The fact that during his 11+ minutes (all at even-strength) he was able to lead our team in shots says a lot.
Another player that was -4 and another player that was still better than at least 9 other forwards. You never want to be the guy who is on for 80% of the goals against in a loss, but I think that the goalies and D have a lot more to answer to than does the winger whom we knew was no defensive specialist. He had moments of danger early on and I am beginning to believe that he is back and that he represents our best shot at consistent scoring.
Kudos to Markov for going all out to draw us that high-sticking penalty. If the refs aren't going to call stuff that actually happens to us then at least we can get them to call stuff that hasn't. Markov was one of our top-2, but after a Spacek blunder, a Hamrlik off-night (way off, horrible in fact) and a Bergeron catastrophe (playing him) it wasn't really too hard to do: outplay Gill and you're in. Nothing going on the PP and -2 and you can see how bad the rest of the corps was if Andrei is in here.
Josh is the only D-man that I actually felt played a good game. Unfortunately he probably played about 4-6 minutes less than he should have as the need to see MAB on the ice was consuming Martin. He and Gill (and Hamrlik) were only -1 tonight which tells me if more players had followed Josh's lead we may not be down 1-2. I was happy, in particular, with his puck-movement/puck-carrying and shot-blocking tonight and, for some reason, really hope that he plays better and plays more next game as it seems reliable options on the blue-line are hard to come by.
Jaro didn't get much help, again, tonight, but at the same time was not strong at all. We need him to not just be good, but to be great as without him at his best we are perhaps a nothing team. It wasn't Halak's fault that we lost (or that we are down 1-2), but I think that he is the path to the upset, and he must be at his best. Carey came in and played quite well. Washington took 23 shots on him and he only let in two. The best part was that I was never too worried with him back there (but that may have been because the game was slipping away very fast). I'll leave guessing the starter for Game #4 up to you guys and my only hope is that whoever they choose it is the right decision.
A good first period, in which we didn't score, was like a curse. You have to be careful when you start that well, because if you don't score the other team always finds a way to get you. We certainly had our chances early on, but players like Pouliot and Spacek had to score. The goal isn't just to play well and give effort, it has to be to score at all costs. Right now Washington are doing what it takes to score (pushing our goalies in the net, capitalizing on weak D and taking slap-shots). We are countering with gentle play in their crease, letting their D look good and taking 10's of weak wrist-shots from the point or beyond; we simply aren't being aggressive enough. With aggression will come those bounces that we never seem to get, by getting in Varlamov's face the refs will eventually blow a call in our favour and by shooting with some authority we'll earn some respect from a D that is having a pretty easy time with us of late. Game #4 is obviously a must-win as a loss on Thursday would likely mean a certain exit. I feel that Washington have been the better team thus far and that we had better start trying our all-out hardest. We may get a lucky win here or there, but to go anywhere in these playoffs we have to be harder and more opportunistic, we can't keep seeing if the other team will beat us, we have to go out and beat them.