The Canadiens Game in Review
Date: Sunday February 17th, 2008
Opponent: Philadelphia Flyers
Venue: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA
Final Score: 5-3 - Win
Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Antero Niittymaki (L)
Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev, Francis Bouillon, Michael Ryder, Saku Koivu, Maxim Lapierre
Opposition goalscorers: Mike Richards, Braydon Coburn, Riley Cote
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 Goal for Bouillon this season
1st Time the Habs have been 1st in the conference since 1994 (non-October)
1st 3-Point Game for Markov this year
Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...
With the scored locked at 1 and the first period coming to a close Josh Gorges made the best play of all. Upshall came into our corner and laid out Andrei Kostitsyn with a questionable hit - it was an obvious reply to Begin's hit on Tolpeko. A scrum formed around Kostitsyn as 3 Habs players skated up the ice. The Flyers, playing as dumb as ever, had 4 players commit to the scrum while we carried the puck up. Eventually Jeff Carter decided to skate back as he saw a 3-on-1 developing; he was too late. Gorges was taunted, but he kept his head about him and didn't drop the gloves, thus avoiding a whistle. This allowed our 3-on-1 to continue and out of it came a top shelf laser, Bou's first of the year, and a 2-1 lead with 1 second to go in the period.
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...
Kovalev dominated tonight which should be no surprise to anyone after yesterday's 'good' performance. Like I have mentioned before Alex rarely dominates on back-to-back nights, but it is always almost a guarantee that he will excel in one of the games. So I guess I can say he was due, yet again, for a great game. He had 3 points tonight and was an absolute force in all aspects of the game.
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)...
- Rydes played a great game after being a healthy scratch for the past few. He scored a goal and he now has 9 on the year. That number of course isn't that good as he should have 15-20 by now, but sometimes (like tonight) he can bring more to the table than just goals. He fore-checked very well all game, had four shots and most importantly played with heart. Unlike our Ryder of last year (Samsonov) this year's version has responded with dignity and class and deserves every chance he gets. I would much rather have a player like Ryder on the ice than Kostopoulos for example - neither score that much, but at least Ryder has that ability to score embedded within him
- The 'tough' Flyers again proved no match for Max as he proved for a second time in 24 hours that he can out agitate anyone on that team. He played with speed and conviction and was rewarded for his efforts with his fourth goal of the season. He is the third line centre that we have been hoping for all these years - he skates, can move the puck and gets in the other teams' face
- Alex set the pace of this game whether it was while he was killing penaltes or on the power-play himself. Everytime that he was on the ice he took control of the situation and made a slow, downtrodden Flyer bunch look worse and worse with each new shift. He made his linemates look way better tonight as he just conituned giving them chance after chance
- Markov had 3 assists tonight in what may have been his best offensive game of the season. I am not just basing that on his assists, but rather the work he did on the power-play. He is one of the best passers in the league right now and one of the best to ever suit up for the Habs. He kept finding his teammates all night long with passes of all kinds. Did a very good job of shutting down Philly's 'stars'
- When Andrei plays offence, Mike plays defence and the Habs win games. Mike had 8 blocked shots tonight and was fearless time and time again in front of Flyer shooters. He played extremely well on the PK and was a big reason that Philly was 0/6 with the extra man
- Carey played another very solid game. He may have let in 3 goals, but on two of those he was not to blame. He made 33 saves, making 30-31 of them look routine. He has the unique ability to slow the game right down at the most hectic of times. He was one of our best penalty-killers - his calm play sends confidence to the rest of the team and must scare the crap out of the opposition. His positioning was again very good and he took no chances out of his crease. Play like this is great news for the Habs, we just have to be careful not to over-use him as we did in December
Eyes on Kovalev
Did he flit and float? Someone ought to keep track...
His goal and two assists give him 59 points on the season; 27 goals and 32 assists. Alex is now on pace for 37 goals and 44 assists which would not only be his best season as a Hab (by 16 points), but would be his second best ever (he had 95 points with Pittsburgh in 2000-01). He has 13 points in his last 9 games and is getting even hotter at the right time. He can be counted on in absolutely every situation and I think it is only a matter of time before he tries nets or maybe sees what kind of deals he could swing at the deadline.
Kovalev's Assessment - Excellent
I seem to remember making a claim that we would be a better team this weekend due to Hamrlik's return and I must say that Roman did not let me down. He played excellent in both games as we managed an incredible non-OT sweep of the Flyers; giving them their 6th, 7th straight losses. The good news for us is that they play Ottawa on Tuesday and they may just be ready for a win. This game was not too different from yesterday's. We played well as a team and the chances were there, the difference being 4 more goals scored. Like yesterday's match this was a penalty-filled affair which is never shocking against Philly. The Flyers only seem to know one type of hockey - 'Bobby Clarke Style' aka cheap and dirty. This was our 4th win in as many games against Philly this year. We match up against the Flyers much like we do against Boston as our speed and skill dominate their slow, 'tough' approach. 20 of our 73 points come from those two teams alone and I can only hope that they both make the playoffs. Unlike some of the other teams that are lower in the standings we have absolutely no problem with these two teams and a spring meeting would suit me very well.
We now sit at the top of the conference with 73 points in a tie with Ottawa. We are a better team against the rest of the conference than Ottawa is, but they still have our number. We still have 3 games left against the Sens so there is still a big chance to prove ourselves to them and maybe prove a little something to ourselves. Whether we finish first or not doesn't really matter at this point, but of course it would be nice. To me making the playoffs is our top priority and avoiding the Sens as long as possible in the playoffs is priority #2. It now looks more and more likely that one of the two of us will finish first in the northeast divison and barring catastrophe that should mean we won't face them in round 1. We need 23 points in 22 games to book our ticket to the big show and that remains our main goal. It will, however, be inteesting to see how the Habs handle their new found glory - this of course is a poistion that we haven't been in for almost 15 years.