Friday, October 26, 2007

Game #9

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Friday October 26th, 2007
Opponent: Carolina Hurricanes
Venue: RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.


Team Stripes


Final Score: 7-4 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (W)
Opposition goalies Cam Ward (L), John Grahame

Habs goalscorers: Kyle Chipchura, Tomas Plekanec (2), Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Mark Streit, Mathieu Dandenault
Opposition goalscorers: Jeff Hamilton, Eric Staal, Ray Whitney, Rod Brind'Amour



2007/08 first
There's a first time for everything, so they say. What they didn't tell you is that every game, something happens for the first time, you just have to look harder in March...

1st Game with 7 goals scored this season
1st Time The Habs have scored 5 PP goals since 1975
1st Game with 4 points in the NHL for Plekanec
1st in the NHL in PP % - 32.6%



Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

Goals, goals, goals. What a fun game to watch, especially the 1st period. As a team I would say defensively we weren't that great. Huet was bombarded with 36 shots against, by a great offence, but still he wasn't that great. Tonight our offence got us the win with quite a few nifty goals to show for it.

The goal of the game was Kovalev's. What a player, what a special night. Tonight he netted his 338th goal, which was his 800th point in his 1000th game. The goal was a great collaborative effort culminating in a low, quick one-timer from Kovy. During one of our many 1st period power-plays the puck looked like it was on it's way down to Huet as 2 'Canes converged on it in their own slot. In came Plekanec with a diving effort to push it back to the left point to Markov. Markov then threw it right across to the right side where Alex was waiting impatiently.



Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Tomas Plekanec

A career night for the second-line centre. It seems that he likes playing this Carolina team as he is now better than point-per-game in his career against them (12 points / 10 games played) . He had 2 goals and 2 assists and a lot of great offensive plays tonight.



Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec
- Had a great game in Carolina, again. His offence tonight was spectacular taking him to 10 points on the season, tied with Saku for the team lead

Alexei Kovalev
- 1000 games into his career, but seems better than ever. Tonight he gave us a crucial goal at a time when Carolina were trying to get back in the game

Bryan Smolinski
- Didn't get on the scoresheet tonight, other than for his penalty, but had a great defensive game. The Habs tonight were 5 for 5 on the PK which is pretty good for a team that was under 80% for the season coming in

Defencemen

Mark Streit
- Very effective on the power-play, even scored one of his own. A useless penalty in the 3rd tarnished an otherwise perfect game

Andrei Markov
- Great game quarterbacking the PP, he ran the show and the results speak for themselves. A few great rushing and outlet plays from his own end as well

Goaltender

Cristobal Huet
- Played well. He did what he had to for the win tonight. At times when Carolina looked like they may get back in it and make a game of it Huet stood tall. Nothing really spectacular, but a good solid effort behind a team that knows they can trust him back there. Got unlucky having a penalty shot scored against him as he did stop the original play



Eyes on Kovalev
Did he flit and float? Someone ought to keep track...

Tonight was his 1000th game and 163rd as a Hab. He played very well, as he has done all season, and was again the main reason we didn't need our 1st line to be our sole scoring option. He has been interviewed quite a bit over the past few days and again tonight and I have noticed the same thing every time - he loves hockey, he loves playing to the best of the abilities and he loves the Habs. What more can you ask from a superstar? Tonight his goal gives him 5 on the year to go along with 3 assists. A great start for a great player.

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good



Overall Comments

Tonight the team again played very well as a team and as each game goes by I am getting more and more of the sense that these players are playing for each other. We aren't relying on one line or 4 individuals anymore, we are playing and winning as a team. The funny thing is that as this happens the lines and players that we are used to relying on are actually better than before. It is as though each shift a line goes out there and feeds off the energy that the other 3 lines have just left out on the ice. We did well to score 5 in the first, but after that happened I knew, especially against Carolina, we would have to keep it going. In the end 5 would have been enough, but I am glad that at the end of the game when they were pressing it was 6-4 and not 5-4. We never sat on our lead, we kept trying to score, which is the way it should be done. When we were up by 4 I saw the usual power-play units out on the ice for every PP. To me this is key, the longer you keep playing offence the less time you have to think about not letting them back into the game.

Our power play is the real deal. It is too bad that the mainstream media is only realizing this now. Go back to some of Topham's pre-season posts and you can see that he made this very clear - losing Souray was more likely to help our team than hurt it. I totally agree and I can't imagine anyone arguing that now. Souray's departure has meant a more creative power-play with shots coming from spots other than the left point. It has allowed players like Higgins, Koivu, Kovalev, Streit and Markov more time with the puck. It has given them more time to show us that they have a lot more skill on the PP than we had been exploiting over the past 2 seasons. If you disagree you can ask Edmonton fans how well their power-play specialist is doing. They may tell you that they wish Lowe would have done a bit of a better job scouting, if you can even call looking at a sheet of paper scouting.

It was a good game and a good way to start our first series of back-to-back games for the season. The win gives us 2 wins in Carolina this season, something a lot of other teams main find hard to do. I'm sure come springtime we will look back and be very happy we took 2 of 2 from the 'Canes in their rink. The game followed a usual pattern of penalties which we should be more careful about. It is obvious that if a team is leading in the 3rd and they have scored some power-play goals that they will be penalized a few times, every chance the refs get, especially if the home team is losing. Remember, this is a business and the league wants exciting, close games, with exciting finishes for home fans, otherwise they may never comeback. They gave us 2 penalties in the last 10 minutes, but luckily we were up to the test. It is weird that the league caters more to people that don't like hockey than people that do. When was the last time you didn't go to the Bell Centre because the Habs had lost the last time you were there? Or maybe it was that the intermission entertainment wasn't entertaining enough to get you back.




3 comments:

Topham said...

Phew, usually you don't win against the Hurricanes if you let them score as many as that. Then again, the past two games serve notice that you better score a lot if you want to beat the Habs comfortably (I'll enjoy that while it lasts...).

I noticed you quoted me on the PP change, and, though I'd love to take credit for that thought, I couldn't find the evidence. All I found was this:

http://lionsinwinter.blogspot.com/2007/06/what-do-20078-canadiens-need.html

I do in general think that variety will help on our PP, as Toronto 2005/06 found out to their peril when teams started blocking McCabe shooting alleys. I think a lot of credit should go to the coaches who show they also knew how to play in the offensive end, and especially to Markov, who is merely showing us all what a multi-talented guy he is (yet again).

Tobalev said...

Maybe you didn't say those things about Souray staright up, but in your posts I always got the feeling that you thought the Habs would do just fine without Sheldon. Maybe you (or no one) could have predicted how well our power-play is doing, and we'll see if it actually lasts, but I remember time and and time again in our discussions you mentioning that Markov was the key and that Souray was the one we had to let go. He obviously had a great shot, which is nice if you are building a team full of one-trick players. To build a solid hockey team, however, you need good all around players and I think Hamrlik is more that type of player than Souray will ever be.

Topham said...

Agreed.