Saturday, January 19, 2008

Game #47

No Crosby, No Problem as Pens Blank Habs

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday January 19th, 2008
Opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 0-2 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Dany Sabourin (W)

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Jeff Taffe, Evgeni Malkin



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 Loss to Pittsburgh this season (2-1-0)
1st Game Against the Penguins since the lockout without Crosby



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

There weren't too many offensive chances to speak of this game so it is only natural that the play of the game would go to Huet.

With Sabourin playing surprisingly lucky I knew that a 2 goal lead would likely suffice for the Pens. In the second period Huet was called upon to make great save upon great save. His best was a breakaway stop against the talented Petr Sykora. Sykora received a beautiful pass right through the middle, across 2 lines, from Malkin. He then went in alone on Huet. Cristo, like he did on Thursday in the shootout, stood tall and made a great save keeping the score at 1-0 and keeping us in the game. Had Sykora scored I felt the Habs would have had no chance at all.



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

Cristobal Huet

He was by far our best player tonight. The offence wasn't that bad, but it was always obvious to me that this was going to be a low scoring affair. In games like these you can call it a day if your goalie lets in 3, 4 or 5 goals, like we see almost every night in the league. Huet kept the Habs in the game and gave us a serious shot at winning. He continues to shine in the Canadiens' goal as being declared the undisputed #1 has seemed to have flipped his confidence right-side up again.



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

Christopher Higgins
- Like Michael Ryder and Saku before him Chris is going through a little rough patch in his season. Since the team has been winning I wasn't too concerned about his lack of production, but on night's like these it would have been great if he snapped out of it. Whether he scored or not tonight is irrelevant because I thought he played a great game, he had energy all night and was hounding Vezina candidate Sabourin right from the first minute

Alexei Kovalev
- Chance after chance, but no goals - the story of Kovy's night. You can't score them all and certainly can't win them all either. Tonight was a perfect example, however, how you must capitalize on your chances and it also makes me really appreciate the amount of times Alex has done just that this season. He seemed about one step ahead of his teammates tonight as he was firing on all cylinders, but most around him were not

Andrei Kostitsyn
- Comfort + Confidence = Speed + Creativity. It looked like Andrei was at the most confidant that I have ever seen him with Montreal - no doubt due to his fantastic goal last game. He is trying new things every game and it gives us just one more weapon each night. Sometimes if too many people get unlucky in the same game you get what we got tonight. With this much firepower though the Habs will unlikely all hit the wall together again. Kostitsyn is just one of about 8 or 9 Habs that can win a game for us on any given night - tonight was not that night, for anyone

Defencemen

Mike Komisarek
- He was a warrior tonight as he played a very good game in both ends again. He held the Pens to 0 goals while he was on the ice and it was noticeable each time he was out there. There was absolutely no confusing #8 for #6 tonight

Francis Bouillon
- He was used the least of all our defencemen tonight, only about 15 minutes. I think that at this stage of his career and with the players we have on the team now that is precisely how I would want him to be used. He still knows the game very well and is able to play at a much higher level and be more effective when he isn't over-used. Tonight he was very good in his own end, especially when it came to his 1 - on - 1 battles

Goaltender

Cristobal Huet
- He was magnificent tonight and if he keeps this up we should get more wins than losses down the stretch no problem. The goal can't really be blamed on him as it was more a function of the team and defence underestimating Laraque's skill and strength as they allowed him to control the puck in our end for what seemed like an eternity. I noticed that he didn't wander too much from his net tonight and I liked it. Handling the puck is a very weak part of his game and unlike things like rebound control and shot blocking, among others, it is not a required skill to be an NHL goalie; my advice - just leave it alone



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

Alex played a good enough game, but it was obvious tonight that the team was toying with the notion of 'if not him then who?'. He has carried this team all season, not single handily, but he has been a big reason for our success. We are at our best when we have 2 lines (or more) going up front and our defence and goaltending are sound. Tonight the goalie and defence did their job, but the offence didn't match. Kovy and the boys have been struggling to find the back of the net on the PP as of late and I think I know what may solve the problem. Have Kovy with Higgins and Saku on the first unit and then leave him out as his normal linemates come on as the 2nd unit. He would have no problem with a 2 minute shift (just ask Keenan) and it would increase our chances considerably. Kovalev for Latundressed may just be what the doctor ordered.

Kovalev's Assessment - Good


Overall Comments

I knew that for some reason we would be in tough tonight against Sabourin. It reminded me of the game we lost to Tampa Bay at home before Christmas, a game in which Marc Denis got his first (and only) win of the season. French guys love coming and playing in Montreal and for some reason always look like they have something to prove - as though the Habs really missed the boat. I can assure you that in Sabourin's case we most definitely didn't miss the boat as I would suggest that this game may go down as the highlight of his career. He is the #3 keeper on a team known for horrible goaltenders and it is actually quite disappointing that we allowed him to get the better of us. We had chances and made plays, but things just weren't clicking. Like the 21,273 people at the Bell Centre I think the Habs were slightly let down that Sid wasn't there and I honestly think it changed and messed up our approach to the game.

One thing that got to me at the end of the game was the amount I saw the 4th line on the ice for us. 4th lines are time-killers and nothing else. You put on a 4th line when the other team puts on theirs and it is a declaration by both teams that you are happy with the way things are going in the game. We were trying to score a goal (at least I thought that we were) and we had a ton of momentum, but that was killed each time I saw Lapierre, Kostopoulos and Dandenault on the ice. To make matters worse it was Dandenault that took a stupid, offensive-zone, penalty that killed all the momentum we had gained in the third. With TV timeouts and constant whistles there is no way that these professional athletes can't role with a 3 line system, or even better a 2-line one. Playing your 4th line when you need a goal is a horrible strategy and one that we must shed as I anticipate many more tight games in the days and weeks to come.

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