Sunday, February 03, 2008

Game #53

Montreal Blows a 3 Goal Lead Wasting a Great Start

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Sunday February 3rd, 2008
Opponent: New York Rangers
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 3-5 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist (W)

Habs goalscorers: Andrei Markov, Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Michal Rozsival, Brandon Dubinsky, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Martin Straka



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 Penalty Shot Scored by the Habs this season



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

Sorry goaltending or defence you will have to do a little better than that for a play of the game.

Since the play has to go to the offence I will choose the nicest of our 3 goals - Kovalev's. The goal was our second of the game and the second to be scored on the power-play. Markov did well to keep the puck in at the blue-line and gave Koivu, who was waiting on the half-boards, a little flick pass. Saku then fed Higgs down low in the corner. Higgins, keen on keeping the quick puck movement going, fed a tape-to-tape pass to a streaking Kovy who one-timed it upstairs over Lundqvist.



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

Christopher Higgins

For the second game in a row Higgins drew a penalty on his first shift and just like yesterday it allowed the Habs to set the tone of the game. He had a very nice assist on Kovalev's goal and had a few great chances of his own. He isn't quite back to the player we saw at the beginning of the year, but the good news is he is close. Performances like today's, where he hustled all game, are a very good sign for us.



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
- The Habs's season leader in shots added 5 more today and a lot of them were dangerous. He was very effective along the boards and his speed was very noticeable

Sergei Kostitsyn
- He was placed onto the top line today and reacted quite well. I do, however, think that he does better on the third line, much like Latendresse. He was fast and got involved all game long. He scored a very nice goal on a penalty shot and I think that now gives Carbo a different option in the shootout

Andrei Kostitsyn
- Andrei's line didn't have the best of games, but of the 3 Kostitsyn had the top performance. He, like his brother, was very quick today and exposed a fairly slow Rangers defence. Much like the whole team the first half of his game was very good, after that he looked pretty ordinary

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
- Andrei scored his 12th of the year and also started the play on Kovy's goal. He played a good game in front of Jagr as the Ranger captain was held off the scoresheet. He had a very good transition game - despite the loss the Habs moved the puck very well

Francis Bouillon
- Francis was our only defenceman not to end with a minus rating today. What impressed me the most about Franc today was his fight with Colton Orr. Standing just a hair over 5'8" Bou could be viewed as too small to drop the gloves. He, however, didn't back down from one of the league's biggest and best fighters as defending his teammates is one of his top priorities. He played another good, solid game and made very few mistakes

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
- Huet should not have started this game. There is no one happier that Cristo is now our undisputed #1 and that the Habs have been winning because of it. He shouldn't, however, be treated like Brodeur and Luongo who play 70+ games. I say this partly because I think that 3 games in 3 1/2 days is too much for any goalie, but also, unlike the Devils and Canucks, we have a good back-up, a really good back-up. Halak hasn't seen game action in a month now and I think that it is time he does so we can see what he can do. Best of all though is that this wouldgive Huet a well deserved rest. Cris let in 5 goals today which will never be good enough for a win in reality. He didn't give the Habs a chance to win and for that reason he is excluded from the dome



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

Kovy scored again and did play a good game, well at least half of it. I have noticed that the aging superstar usually doesn't play excellent in both games if we play on consecutive days. This is a trend that I can live with because like today he played well enough - most players wouldn't score during a bad game. When he plays 'badly' he is still actually very good and is a threat, but the ability to do everything all on his own fades.

Kovalev's Assessment - Good


Overall Comments

The Habs jumped all over New York right from the get go and mounted a very impressive 3-0 lead after 25 minutes. Then they thought that that was enough and they lost focus. I am also guilty of this as I was sure at 3-0, playing as well as we were, that it was in the bag. It goes to show you that if you aren't playing to the best of your abilities most teams will make you pay and even outscore you 5-0 in half a game. Games like this shouldn't be lost as there will be enough games that you just had no chance of winning at all. If the team had a collective effort yesterday to beat the Isles I would say that they had an equally collective effort to lose today. Blowing a 3 goal lead is something that hopefully we will learn from and something that, come playoff-qualification-crunch time, we will be able to use to our advantage.

We didn't have a bad week, but it was a week that could have been much, much better. We managed 5 points in 4 games, but I think we all believe that 8 points were well within our grasp. The good news is that there is always a new challenge, a new day. We have to forget this loss and now think about the week ahead. It is an all Ontario week with 2 games against Ottawa and one at home against Toronto. We will now be able to see how we match up against the best of the east (no, not the Leafs) and see if we can really win the conference. I believe that we can finish top and seeing as that would mean no first round meeting with a top seed I am all for it. One loss stings, but there is nothing that we can do about it now. Let's forget about today and start the week off right with a win against Ottawa in regulation - something that we haven't managed in a long, long time.

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