Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Game #54

Habs Finally Solve Ottawa, Sit Just 1 Point Back of Top

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday February 5th, 2008
Opponent: Ottawa Senators
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 4-3 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Martin Gerber (L)

Habs goalscorers: Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec (2), Mark Streit
Opposition goalscorers: Chris Kelly, Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette



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 Win against Ottawa this season



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

Huet came up with some huge saves, but there is no doubt about our play of the game tonight - it was a goal.

With the game locked at 1 the Habs (Plekanec's line in particular) were looking very menacing. Kovalev received a very hard pass from 60' away and controlled it well just outside of Ottawa's zone. He then skated in, around the defenceman, and made a quick pass to the left face-off circle. There Kostitsyn basically one-timed another pass right back towards the right side where Pleks was coming in with a full head of steam. The result was a puck in the top of the net and a lead which was never again relenquished.



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

Tomas Plekanec

With 28 games left in the season Plekanec set a new personal high for points in a season by adding 3 more tonight - he now has 50. His 2 goals were really the work of his whole line and were both perfect demonstrations of the chemistry that those 3 players now have. He was the quickest player on the ice tonight and never looked out of position. He played a very smart and responsible game and that is likely the reason that Carbo rewarded him with over 19 minutes of ice time.



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
- Aside from his great offensive performance Tom also excelled defensively. He was used for 3 1/2 minutes of penalty-killing and formed our best unit in that department beside Kovy. He dominated a suprisingly slow Ottawa defence with great speed

Alexei Kovalev
- With a day of rest under his belt Alex was back to his usual self tonight. He had 3 assists and ended the game at +2. He had a great game in the passing department as he could have easily had another 3 or 4 assists. Was great on special teams as usual

Andrei Kostitsyn
- Not to be outdone by his linemates Andrei also got 3 points. He now has an impressive 34 points on the year including 26 in his last 27 games. He knew where to be all night and was always putting himself in the right place. Kovy creates so much space for Pleks and Andrei by owning opposing defenders and it seems like Kostitsyn not only understands Kovy's style, but is also able to anticipate the defencemen's movements to always make himself a perfecet target for a Kovy pass

Defencemen

Mark Streit
- It doesn't appear that the Swiss captain will ever slow down as the production just keeps coming. He had another 2 points tonight to give him 38 on the season; 10 in his last 7 games. That is not bad at all for a defenceman/4th liner. Last year we were all amazed when he managed 36 points, but I now wonder what he has in store for us this year? With 28 games left I think that it is very likely he will hit 50 points. Of all Gainey's draft picks Streit may be the most impressive as we picked him up in the 9th round at the age of 26

Josh Gorges
- With Hamrlik out someone had to step up. It looked like Carbo was giving Bouillon and Brisebois the chance to fill Hammer's void, but neither could rise to the challenge. Gorges thankfully answered the call in a big way. He played almost 22 minutes and even saw power-play time and, best of all, finished +1 and was not on for a Senators goal. This was the first time that he has played more than 20 minutes since he was a Shark and he most certainly made the most of his chance

Goaltender

Cristobal Huet
- Cristo made some absolutely fantastic saves in what was really a tight game. There were times where I thought I was watching a re-run of Sunday's loss to the Rangers and had it not been for Huet I am sure we would have suffered the same result. His worst play came when he was handling the puck behind the net - as usual. It cost us a goal and could have in theory cost us the game. At some point he is going to cost us a lot more than he did tonight so I am begging that he just stays in the net. I feel that so little is gained by having the goalie play the puck and if it weren't for the need for every coach to try and coach like every other coach it would not be part of most goalie's games



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

He was fantastic and his linemates weren't too shabby either. The difference this year vs. last is that he has a complete line. Kostitsyn gives Plekanec and Kovalev a very legitimate third option; something that Samsonov did not provide us last year. I feel that Koivu and Higgins are suffering the same fate this year as Alex and Tomas did last time around. Ryder is not the player he was last year and it has cost our whole 1st line. I used to be high on duos, but seeing the success of Kovy's line and what 3 proper threats can bring to the table I have now switched my thinking to trios. If you put 3 good, hot players together you are bound to get reults; 3 players, 9 points.

Kovalev's Assessment - Excellent



Overall Comments

The Habs may have been down 0-1 for a brief time, but other than that 10 minute stretch in the 1st period we outplayed Ottawa - until the 3rd that is. We decided that with a 3 goal lead it would be a good time to stop trying to score. This of course was the same genius strategy that we used on Sunday when the Rangers tagged us for 5 straight goals. If it weren't for Huet's heroics I think that we would have lost this game as well. We are a very successful team when we are attacking and constantly applying the fore-check. Why on earth we play in a defensive shell when we think that we have have a big enough lead is beyond me. Our third periods have to get better and it looks like it is more a coaching/strategy problem than anything else.

Despite a poor final period we still managed the win and we did it in regulation. We now sit just one point back of Ottawa with 29 games left. We play the Sens 4 more times and I think that we will have to equal them in points (or better) in those games if we want to finish top. This is the first time in a long time that I have believed we have the best team in the conference. It hasn't been since the early 90s that my goal was to finish high and get a good seeding. In the past few years most Habs fans have been content with an 8th place finish, but I think that now we finally have the team that will allow us to dream a little bigger.

No comments: