Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Miller (L)
Habs goalscorers: O'Byrne, Pyatt, S. Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: None
I felt that Halak was on tonight and made some fabulous saves and I also felt that our goals were all timely and pretty, so choosing a single play for tonight was difficult. What I will go for, though, is the third goal, the goal that assured me that this wouldn't be a repeat of last week against Buffalo, a goal that deflated Buffalo's spirit. The play all started when Moore was applying a whole lot of pressure on the Sabres' D. He forced a turn-over and then, from behind the net, found an open Moen out in front. Travis struggled to control the puck, but at the last second managed to get it over to Sergei (I think that this was on purpose). Sergei now had a big chunk of the net to shoot at as Miller had committed fully to Moen. Kostitsyn made no mistake and fired a hard one (hard enough that even two deflections couldn't keep it out) to put us up by that magic number three.
I was thrilled when I saw that Sergei was taking warm-up and I am sure that some of his teammates were too. He gives a certain dimension to our third line that makes that unit a legitimate threat. It then also has the ripple effect as the 4th line now gets more space when they are on, so him coming back, to me, was more important than a Spacek return for tonight's game. Kostitsyn did not disappoint as he led the Habs with a goal and an assist, inching ever closer to the 20-point plateau.
As big of a fan of Kostitsyn as I may be I know that there is someone who likes the slick winger just a bit more...Moore. Dom was back to his old self tonight as his fore-checking was not just good for the third line, but was amongst the best that we have seen all season. We'll touch on the need to sign Moore this summer on another day as today I just want to focus on how crucial his play for us tonight was. He was the direct cause of two of our goals and picked up 2 assists along the way. His defensive game, especially on the PK, was also strong and one more reason that he was likely our best forward tonight.
I wanted more from Max and I got more from Max. When he can play like this and get Darche and Pyatt to follow it doesn't really matter that your top two lines are being neutralized as he can give us a very legitimate 4th option. He made a few very good rushes throughout the game including one that ended with Pyatt potting his 2nd NHL goal. I was very pleased with the offence, aggression and poise that Lapierre showed tonight and truly hope that he can be this player for us in the weeks to come.
Andrei was again outstanding for us as his play not only going forward, but in his own end too, was impeccable. When people are calling out our best payers to be our best they always tend to focus on Cammalleri and Pouliot (??) which is fine, but as much offence as you need you also need D and goaltending. Tonight our 2 best players were again, two of our best and that to me is how we have 4 points instead of 0 this Easter weekend. I can live with no stats from Markov, especially when he plays over 26 minutes of world-class hockey.
Like Markov, Josh also picked up where he left off in Philadelphia last night. He was very solid all night as he was blocking shots, moving the puck well and always seemed to be in control of what was going on around him. His 3+ minutes on the PK were about tops on the team and his play during that time helped to make Halak's job that much easier.
Jaroslav Halak - Game Puck
Wow, that is some serious goaltending. Jaro just put on 2 hours worth of the best goaltending display that we have had in years. I was never actually once scared that he would let this game slip for us as I recognized early that my confidence was eclipsed by the confidence the young Slovak had. I wouldn't expect him to play like this on all nights, but to be going into next week (and beyond?) with a goalie this good has to make all Habs fans not just hopeful, but hopefully confident. His 28 saves tonight came in all shapes and sizes as he not only made the easy saves look easy, but also made the hard saves every time that he was asked to do so.
Montreal took it to Buffalo early and, unlike last night, never took their foot off the gas. This had to be one of the best team efforts all year as we were all over them in their own end and seemed in control in our own. This wasn't one of those games that you could point to a lucky break here and there and just thank your lucky stars that we got points. No, this was a team effort and a team win and never was there any doubt that it should have been just that. I can't think of any one player that didn't play well and was thrilled that quite a few of the players that I had asked to contribute last night came through. I don't expect O'Byrne, Lapierre, Pyatt, Moore and Sergei to always be putting the puck in the net, but anytime that they do it certainly helps the process.
I knew that 4 points this weekend would go a long way for us, but I was ready to live with two. I can't, however, describe how happy I am that, for once, we haven't just gone for the minimum. 89 points will book our ticket into the playoffs and that means a week of .500 (against sub-.500 teams) is all that we must accomplish. That won't necessarily be easy, though, and I can only hope that those still present from the 2007 team will let this version know just how silly it is to try and wait until the last night to clinch. 86, 87 or 88 points may very well do it too, but I say let's aim for 90+ and aim for 6th. Going into the playoffs hot is better than not (see 2009) and getting to play the 3rd place team (likely Buffalo) would be much better for the Habs than the other top seeds. We have to play next week like there is no tomorrow as obviously playing like that (thanks Mr. Halak) has proven to be the thing to do.