Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Varlamov (W)
Habs goalscorers: Cammalleri, Gionta, Moore
Opposition goalscorers: Ovechkin (2), Knuble (2), Chimera, Backstrom
The Habs were down by one, but had a quick answer for the Caps and it came in the form of a goal from #13. It was Mike who did well to win an offensive zone face-off before he found his way to the net. Hammer threw the puck around the boards and Sergei made a great play to let it go through to Metro who was behind the net. Glen showed his touch around the goal by getting the puck out to Pyatt's 4th line replacement; all of a sudden the Habs were right back in the game, in the blink of an eye.
Sub-par showings from Pleks and Gomez meant that the door was open tonight for Moore. He certainly didn't run away with the title of top pivot-man, but I couldn't help but notice his strong defensive play throughout the game. He added to that with a great effort on our 3rd goal (even if it didn't matter for tonight's game, it may set the tone for Friday) and was our only centre to be above 50% at face-offs.
Sergei Kostitsyn - Game Puck
Is it a good feeling or a bad feeling for a coach when you can re-insert a player who then, in turn, is your best? On the one hand, maybe he was motivated by his benching and, therefore, wanted to prove something. On the other hand, however, is the possibility that Martin sat a very useful player for no good reason at all. Sergei showed tonight that he is a valuable tool in the coach's toolbox as he was very involved at both ends. Martin only used him for 8 minutes (maybe fearing that people would question the benching), but that didn't stop Kostitsyn from ending the game at a team-high +2.
Maybe the only top-6 who played like one tonight, Mike actually did quite well. He scored a goal early and, while he did fade as the game went on, had other moments of greatness. I felt that he represented our best chance at a goal and my only wish was that he would have played for more than 18 minutes. Despite it all, however, he led the team in shots (5) and out face-offed all of our centres by posting a 60% winning percentage.
Another player that wasn't being used was able to step in and play well tonight. I can say with certainty that he was better than Hamrlik and Bergeron and it is debatable whether he out-played the others. What I do know, though, is that this shouldn't happen. Your #6/7 should not be able to come in and be one of your top D-Men. The rest of the D has a lot to think about over the next two days as they really have to be better. I don't, however, want this to overshadow the fact that Ryan played well, stayed out of the box, led the team in hits (7) and blocked-shots (4) and was our only D better than even (+1)
Again, why can't all players just play like Josh? Maybe it wouldn't be exciting, maybe we'd never score, but don't you think if everyone played near mistake-free hockey for 60 minutes that we would have a chance, a very good chance, in every game? Like O'Byrne, Gorges was big on hits and blocked-shots tonight and kept the chances down to a tolerable level.
Is this 2008? Are we really still be cursed for trading away an All-Star for nothing? I don't expect our goalies to steal these games for us, but they both have to be miles better if we are to win. It is an uphill battle against the Caps and the time for 4+ goal-against games has to stop. The Habs aren't a team that will score 5+ goals a game, so we must be stronger from the back. Carey had a good first 39:53, but really seemed rattled for the remainder as he let in 3 goals and took 4 minutes in penalties. Halak probably wouldn't have done better, and that may be our problem, but, somehow, one of them has to find a way to be their best.
I am sure that you are all reading that this series is over, that summer is coming and you are probably all thinking about what players we can get. Maybe we can get Crosby and Ovechkin, oh wait, I'd actually prefer Datsyuk and Malkin. Who's kidding who, though, this is it, this our team. Who knows if we'll be in the playoffs next year or in the next 5 years. Who knows if we'll improve this summer at all. The time for worrying about the summer is, well, in the summer. We are down, but not out. I, for one, am focused on one thing only, our only option, a game #5 win. Who cares what players miss practice, who cares what the lines will be, who cares what the predictions are. All we should be caring about is getting one win, just like we do when we have lost 3 straight in the regular season.
There are 2 huge positives that I must call on and that are certainly giving me hope. The first is that we have outplayed the Caps for extended periods during this series and have led in 3 games. Washington is a team that we can beat in one game and that is all it is, one game. The second big positive has to be that we have the potential. While Varlamov, Backstrom and Ovechkin are all playing up to their potential we still have players like Halak, Markov, Pouliot, Plekanec and Hamrlik that can be better, much better. Halak may not be Brodeur, but the Olympics and regular season taught us that stealing games is something that he knows how to do. Markov didn't ignite a PP by chance, he can be better and rarely plays this far below his standard for too long. Pouliot may not be the scorer that he was in December, but he also isn't the scorer that Gui was(n't) in October/November - he has to find a way to be average, or better, and to contribute. Pleks led this team in scoring by playing with passion and determination throughout the season, let's hope that he remembers why some (me) were calling for him to be captain. Hammer has been better, much better, in his career (even this year), but has rarely been much worse. Focus and drive from him can mean there is only one way to go. The rest of the players, too, must find that extra gear as any little mistake or break in concentration often ends with a puck in our net.
Friday will be hard to watch as no one wants to see the season end, but now we finally know that there is no tomorrow, now we can see what this team is really made of. I have seen enough losing, and subsequent winning, streaks from the Habs to know that we are still in it. If our group can believe and the Caps can, somehow, not be at their best then we certainly have a shot.