The Canadiens Game in Review
Date: Saturday February 2nd, 2008
Opponent: New York Islanders
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC
Final Score: 4-1 - Win
Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Rick DiPietro (L)
Habs goalscorers: Tomas Plekanec,Mark Streit, Alexei Kovalev, Mathieu Dandenault
Opposition goalscorers: Blake Comeau
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 60' slide by Huet this season
Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...
With the score at 3-1 well into the third period the Habs looked like they were well on their way to winning. Unlike previous versions of this team we kept trying to score and despite not scoring on this, the play of the game, we did add a 4th goal.
Koivu accelerated down the right wing and with one hand on his stick took the puck and the defender around the net. He then made short work of his defender with a quick pivot and made a perfect forehand pass to a wide-open Higgins who was standing to the left of DiPietro. Higgins didn't score, but, even so, Saku's play was good enough for play of the game.
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...
This was another great performance for Kovalev in what has become a season of great outing upon great outing. He got another 2 points to give him 48 on the season - one better than all of last season (with 30 games to play). Alex was dominant in all aspects of play tonight - a common occurence when he plays the Isles.
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)...
- Some teams, like the Islanders, are just down right scared of Kovalev. They are scared of how he can shoot the puck, how he can pass the puck, how he can win the puck and most of all how he can stick-handle the puck. He was given so much space today by the Islander defence that he could hardly help himself from dominating
- Saku's play of late has been just what we needed and is another huge reason for our success. Today he set up a beautiful goal for Streit and had a few really good plays for his own linemates. People complain that for a #1 centre he scores too few goals. I say, that as long as the passes and plays like we saw in this game keep coming who cares. We have enough goalscorers on this team and our offence all year has far exceeded all expectations. Sak had another good game in the face-off circle and was effective on the PK
- A usual selection, just under a new header. Thanks to the Habs playing 8 defencemen (well 6 if you think about it) Streit was forced to the wing. That did not seem to stop him at all. He got another 2 points today and now has 14 in 2008; only one back of Pleks for the team lead. Along with Dandy and Smoke they did form a very quick 4th unit and it brings more scoring potential up front. He should, however, be playing D as his absence (base on the identity of his replacement) back there is a greater loss than what he adds up front
- There aren't any real threats to shut down on this Islander team, but that didn't stop Andrei from making sure that absolutely nothing ever got going for them while he was on the ice. He had 2 assists, both of which were very nice, and also finished the game at +2. He now has 38 points and is +4. Do you remember when he he had a +/- in the minus before Christmas? He forms quite possibly the best tandem in the east with Komi which shouldn't come as a surprise as Marky is without a doubt the east's best himself
- Just another day at the office for Komi. He was imposing all game as the Islanders rarely tried anything on him. He hit a lot today as his targets were noticeably slower than Ovechkin and company. I saw him talking a lot on the ice today (something that I'm sure he always does, but that the camera may not always show) and to me he looked like a general in battle. He is always very focused and is obviously very committed to becoming one of the league's best all around blue-liners
- This was a fairly quiet game for Huet, until the 58th minute that is. At that point the Islanders had a partial breakaway, but the puck had gotten a little ahead of their incoming player. Huet made the call to slide at the puck, to make himself big, and to see what would happen. He got to the puck first and luckliy got it out of the zone which led to an offside. It was lucky because it could have been a goal against us, but at the same time it was great to see. I like seeing people that are into the game, that are focused and hungry like that. A lot of goalies, with a late 4-1 lead, may just try their luck on the breakaway and that is what I liked most about this play. The best part was that his team cheered him and it made a usually calm looking Carbo break out into laughter
Eyes on Kovalev
Did he flit and float? Someone ought to keep track...
What more can I say? He was again our best player. He was our best penalty-killer, our best player on the PP and, of course, our best all around player. He led his line all game and they obviously followed suit. Plekanec and Kostitsyn are wonderful players as I have no doubt there. They are both having great seasons, but where may they be without Alex? He has allowed those players to develop into top players on this team and in this league. The time and space that he created tonight, that he creates every game, is quite unbelievable. I always say that he must be so much better than other players because we rarely see any other player given so much room.
Kovalev's Assessment - Excellent
The Islanders are stricken with injuries and illnesses and they looked a tired bunch. They are a slow, non-talented team to begin with so there would have been no excuse to losing this one. They may have had 30 shots against Huet, but that is a stat that I was surprised to read after the game. I had thought that we had badly outshot them as today we were relentless. It just goes to show that a shot doesn't mean a chance, not at all. They had moments where they looked dangerous, but only for short stints. The Habs, however, looked dangerous all game. They were fast, their passing was great and, best of all, they played like a team. All season long this team has been playing like one unit and it shows. With this kind of commitment and dedication to the team game it is no wonder that we are now only 3 points out of first.
The only negative I can take out of the game are some player selections, one in particular. Carbo decided to bring back Dandenault and Breeze-by and sit Begin and Kostopoulos. The two aging french verterans have been out of action for a while and were obvioulsy itching to get back in. Dandenault played a decent game as he scored a goal and, as usual, looked fast. I don't mind inter-changing him with Begin and Kostopoulos on a rotation basis as I think they are all more or less at the same level (with Dandenault as the suprising weakest defensively). Brisebois, however, was not a good choice and the game he played strongly defends my point of view. He coughed it up 150' from Huet to allow the Islanders to score and break Cristo's shutout. Again Patrice tried to do way too much - he tried to deke out a player (last done in a 1995 practice on a water bottle). This kind of mistake is unacceptable for a 'veteran' (that word sounds like he is distinguished...bah) and we shouldn't have to live with it. We have the players to get the job done this year, there is no reason to keep playing this fossil who will never-ever learn from his mistakes. The Habs are playing well enough right now that they can afford to make such errors, but come April and beyond these are the types of decisions that can end your season in a hurry.