Saturday, December 01, 2007

Game #26

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday December 1st, 2007
Opponent: Nashville Predators
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 4-5 (SO) - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (SO)
Opposition starting goalie: Chris Mason, Dan Ellis (W)

Habs goalscorers: Christopher Higgins, Tomas Plekanec, Guillaume Latendresse (2), (Saku Koivu - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Jed Ortmeyer, David Legwand, Greg deVries, Radek Bonk (1, 1 - SO), (Martin Erat - SO)



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 Shorthanded Goal conceded by the Habs this season
1st 3 Goal-3rd Period Lead blown by the Habs this year
1st Multiple Goal Game for Latendresse on the year
1st Time Tom Kostopoulos has been a healthy scratch as a Hab



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

We managed to score 4 goals tonight, all of them even strength, all of them were nice. The play of the game goes to our first goal, Higgins'.

Markov hit Plekanec in the neutral zone and then he turned around and served Kovalev with a great outlet pass up the right wing. There Alex did very well to beat his man and cut towards the net. At the last second Kovalev lost control of the puck, but Higgins was right there to pick it up. Higgins, who had his back turned to Mason, spun around and swept a low puck right through the keeper's legs.



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

Guillaume Latendresse

Guillaume gave us something that we haven't seen in a while; a consistent even-strength performance. He scored 2 goals tonight, a season best, and was a threat on most of his shifts. At his best, which he was tonight, Guillaume gives the Habs something a little different - a robust checker with a good set of hands. He had great chemistry tonight with Chipchura and I would like to see that duo stay intact. Let's forget numbering the lines, let's just find some good combinations and role with all 4.



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

Alexei Kovalev
- He set up our first two goals and again stood out in Nashville's end. He had a chance on the shootout, but he didn't connect, can't blame him though because tonight without him it is just a plain old L

Guillaume Latendresse
- Something has happened to this young man in the past 2 weeks. After starting the season with just 2 goals in his first 16 games he has managed to score 5 in his last 8 and look more like the player we saw last season. The only problem is, however, as Latendresse is enjoying a good spell, the Habs are not. Scoring in a loss in one thing, being the reason we win is totally different, so far this year he hasn't won us anything

Saku Koivu
- He scored on the shootout with his patented move which continues to stun goalies. I felt that despite a 'demotion' Koivu played quite well tonight. He was reunited with Streit up front; a combo that worked very, very well for us last year while Higgs was hurt He created a ton of chances both on the PP and even-strength. We need Saku at his best to be a dominant team and tonight he was more or less there - the only problem is; he isn't the only piece to the puzzle

Defencemen

Francis Bouillon
- Unlike a few years ago Francis in no longer an impact player night-in, night-out. Tonight, however, he seemed to play with more of his old spirit than we are used to seeing these days. With Streit moved to forward and Markov not fully fit Bouillon was asked to play more the role of #3 D-man tonight and he responded to the added responsibility quite well. Great in his own end, but was nowhere to be seen up past our own blue-line

Roman Hamrlik
- Roman was on the ice for all 4 of our goals and finished the night with 2 helpers and was a +2. His play for Chipchura which led to Gui's first of the night was especially clever; he floated it off the boards into the neutral zone, hitting a top-speed Chips. Another solid night in our end and wasn't the cause of any part of the collapse

Goaltender

Carey Price
- I didn't think this one was happening. It seems like every game that we have lost recently can be traced back to the keeper. We are always told as kids not to blame the goalie, well back then I thought that was a load of rubbish and I still do today. Your goalie is what can make or break your night and if you score 4 goals you expect a perennial All-Star to keep you in it. If you are the worst player on the ice, I am sorry to all the coaches in the world out there, you get blamed. Huet gave us another sample of his sub-par puckhandling skills on our PP; the mistake led to their first goal. Had we ended that power-play with the scoreline still at 3-0 I bet it would have stayed like that right until the end. Cristo could not give us a chance to win in the shootout either, letting in 2 goals; 2 against in the shootout this year in the league means a loss. Price, it should have been you tonight, and would someone please tell Carbo to always do the opposite of what he thinks, I mean it can't get any worse. Where is Felipe when you need him.



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

Alex added 2 more points to his total for the year and finished at +1. He was strong all night against Nashville. The Predators are a fast team up front, but have a lot of question marks on their blue-line. Kovalev exploited their D tonight and gave the Habs a serious chance to win. No major body-checks this time, but I am totally okay with him saving those for The Leafs.

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good


Overall Comments

Our offence was not a problem tonight at all. We had 4 good lines and we stuck with them all game. I really liked what I saw from Carbo this game, I thought it was very progressive of him. Like Buffalo (especially while they still had Briere and Drury) Guy looked for 4 good duos and filled the 3rd spot on each line with a lesser player. Duo 1a featured Plekanec and Kovalev or Kovalev and Higgins or even Higgins and Plekanec, it depends which way you look at that one. That was our best trio with 3 excellent players having great seasons. Duo 1b saw Koivu reunited with Streit; they worked well all last season and showed that again tonight. Duo 1c saw a pair of Belarusians - Kostitsyn and Grabovski. This duo offered us something we haven't seen much of this year - raw speed and raw talent, it worked well. Duo 1d is maybe the combo that I am most excited about - Chipchura and Latendresse. These 2 have been playing very well together as of late and really give us a viable 4th option.

Another great move by Carbo tonight was reassembling the former top 2 lines for power-plays. To me this is a genius idea. Instead of going with the same lines that we see at even-strength for the man advantage he is going back to the well of previous success. As we all know our PP has been doing well, so why switch those units up. This also gives us 6 lines of attack to work with rather than the usual 4, so if something isn't working on a particular night there are more options to look at. I like this approach way better than changing the lines in haste during the run of the game and I think with 4 even-strength goals most would agree.

Yes I had to say it, this is a game we should have won. Every one of you knows that and I guarantee that every Hab knows it too. Unfortunately having them realize that still doesn't get us anywhere. Will this loss make us play any better in our next game? Judging by precedent: no. Each game is so different; if you want proof look at last night and tonight. Last night we played horribly making us all wonder where the goals would ever come from. Tonight we were solid (offensively) showing no ill-effects of last night's loss. So, obviously we have the ability to put the past behind us, which is good, because that is what we are going to have to do, and fast. This game was lost by one player, a player who usually can be trusted, so he can be forgiven.

'We should have won that game and every one knows it' - to me that shows confidence, I hope. The game of hockey is nothing more than confidence and if the Habs truly believe that they could have and should have won the game then they aren't too far off from would have won. Let's keep the same forward-thinking approach for the Wings on Tuesday, choose the non-obvious goalie, play 8 D-men again and we should be fine.

4 comments:

CheGordito said...

Confidence - exactly what I thought watching last nights' game (and at one point I thought this game was exactly what was needed to boost the flagging confidence). But I don't agree at all that Huet was the reason for the loss. This team has to stop playing as if the goalie will save the game for them every night. The goalie will do his best and save quite a few games at first, but eventually that pressure can destroy the goalie. Huet stopped at least his first 30-odd shots tonight (some of it luck, no doubt), but ended up saving only 40/44 (or around there). The problem isn't that he let in 4 of the last 15 shots, the problem is that the rest of the team let 44 shots come at him. Not too long ago, the Canadiens were celebrating getting 50+ shots on goal. Well, Nashville wasn't too far off that tonight, and blaming the goalie is just scapegoating.

Tobalev said...

I don't like to blame goalies either, but at some point you have to realize it may be their fault. The first goal was a lazy play by Huet and it gave Nashville a chance to get back in it. After that point, yes the D let us down too, but Huet did look weak. Not only did he let in 4 and another 2 in the shootout, he also had 3 posts, all were shots where he was clearly beat.

I have no problem with a goalie letting in 6 goals and another 3 behind him if the team can anticipate that. I blame Huet for this loss simply because he isn't the type of goalie (all-star) that should be doing this. The team have come to expect his saves to win and he didn't deliver. A team that can trust their goalie is a team that can let up shots and don't worry - as this generally leads to the Habs getting more chances of their own. To me this is no different than blaming Ryder for not scoring (and winning us games), as that is what he his paid to do.

Huet has played like the starter he is all season, but last night was a bad night for him, a night where he didn't step up. If we have to play a defensive style where we won't allow more than 25 shots/game you can say goodbye to any goals for us. We need our goalies to keep us in these ones.

Topham said...

I agree Tobalev. Criticising goalies sucks. But they inevitably are at fault some of the time. Trying to limit shots to 25 means bringing more forwards back, and thus they can't get up into the play in time.

See Habs 2000-2004 for examples of this tactic.

CheGordito said...

Fair enough that they shouldn't change their whole game around and be so defensive. At the same time, I'd expect them to use the opportunities that do open up. And by opportunities I mean shots on goal. It's not the best stat, but it does indicate when a team is creating scoring chances. In the third period, the Canadiens had all of FIVE shots on goal compared to Nashville's 20. If you ignore OT shots then Nashville had double the shots on goal than Montreal. Sure, one team was trying to catch up to the other, one was playing more defensively, etc. Still, they let the momentum of the game slip away and were pretty incompetent in the last 10 minutes.