Thursday, February 21, 2008

Game #62

Canadiens Come All the Way Back Only to Lose

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday February 21st, 2008
Opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 4-5 - Loss

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

Habs goalscorers: Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins, Michael Ryder, Roman Hamrlik
Opposition goalscorers: Ryan Whitney, Jarkko Ruutu, Ryan Malone, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar



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 Game in which Koivu, Higgins and Ryder have all scored this season



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

The crowd wanted a comeback and the Habs almost gave it to us. With the score at 3-3 in the third we scored our 4th, a goal we all were hoping would have been the eventual winner.

Kovy was at the end of his shift on the power-play and simply passed the puck to Saku from his own end before heading off. Koivu then skated down the right hand side into the Penguins' zone. He made a nice move to get around the defenceman and then made an even nicer pass to a pinching Roman Hamrlik. Hammer cradled the pass and then quickly snapped off a shot right by Sabourin. It gave us the lead for the first time in the game.



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

Saku Koivu

This was another great game for the skipper as he had a goal and an assist. He skated very well tonight and created a lot of offence. He looked especially good on the power-play, working well with Kovalev, Higgins and Ryder. He won 8 of his 12 face-offs including going two for two with the Huet pulled.



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

Michael Ryder
- Ryder's strong play continued tonight with another goal. He was a menacing force all game around Pittsburgh's net, often creating good chances. He got very involved in the play which is a great sign as it becomes more and more obvious that his confidence is back

Saku Koivu
- He looked very quick tonight with and without the puck. His goal was very nice and, like Ryder's goal the other night, got us back into the game. Made some great plays and as all good passers do he used each of his four teammates with regularity

Alexei Kovalev
- For the first time this year Alex is over point per game status - his fantastic play continued tonight. His pass on Higgins' goal was spectacular and has again re-hatched the debate as to whether he is a better passer or scorer. Dictated a lot of the play in the Pens' zone, but his linemates weren't as supportive tonight

Defencemen

Mark Streit
- Mark only had one point tonight and finished +1. Towards the end of the game he was being used alongside Roman to obviously spark some offence. It makes me ask the question yet again - why is he still playing forward? When we need it the most we ask him to play D - and what does he do? He becomes our best blue-liner

Roman Hamrlik
- Roman's goal really had everyone believing that we had done it, we had mounted another huge comeback. He played a very solid game in his own end being both responsible and adventurous. He pinched up very well all game and was rewarded with his 4th of the season for his efforts

Goaltender

Carey Price
- Huet got unlucky tonight, he got hung out to dry tonight, but at the end of the day he didn't get the job done. Huet's numbers as of late have not been all that flattering making me wonder just who we should go with down the stretch. At this point I would say go with both of them. Both goalies have been great in the past month and both have been brutal. I would probably stick with Cristo on Saturday only because he seems to be the type of person that strives when the team, coaches, media and fans believe in him. Price, on the other hand, strives more in the underdog role - a big reason he is always great after sitting for lengthy stretches, but usually crumbles in his third or fourth of successive games



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

Kovy matched up well against the surprising NHL point leader tonight. Alex often tends to gravitate towards the other teams' stars whether it be Malkin, Ovechkin or Jagr. Outplaying these stars is one thing, but letting them get the better of you is another. He got the better of Malkin during their one on one battles, but it was his eagerness to target Geno that led to a penalty and the eventual game-winner. The penalty was not malicious, but did hurt the Habs big time.

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good


Overall Comments

We didn't get into this game early on as I think most people still had Tuesday on their mind - yours truly included. After Pittsburgh went up 2-0 I think we were awoken and we started to play some good hockey. The atmosphere at the Bell Centre was tense as everyone was wondering whether we could do it all over again. When we made it 1-2 not a person in the building doubted that we could claw our way back. Soon it was 2-3, 3-3 and then 4-3. We had done it, another great comeback and it was now time to relax; and there lies the problem. We stopped playing hockey with 16 minutes to go, believing that we had already won. Once one team stops playing it becomes infinitely easier for another team to score and that is exactly what the Pen's did, and they did it twice.

We can't win every game and after Tuesday's win I must say I am not as disappointed as I may have been had it been 2 straight losses. That being said a loss is a loss and it comes because we didn't follow our gameplan. Our defence was sloppy as was our goaltending - both of which have to be much better against the Malkin's of the league. The Habs have let in 13 goals in their last 3 games which is quite shocking as I thought we were known for our defence. We have to go back to basics, as they say, and that starts at the back. It looks more and more likely that we will be playing some post-season hockey, but without a good back end it could be very short lived. It has to start with Huet and Price, they have to be able to let in 3 or less on most if not all nights from here on in. It is then up to Markov and Komi to re-find their games as they haven't been themselves for over 2 weeks now. Hamrlik and Bouillon have done well lately so nothing to say there. Streit should be playing D and this is something that should be sorted out by April. That leaves one of O'Byrne or Gorges to give us 15 minutes of quality, no-mistake, no-risk hockey. Like all great Habs teams of the past we shouldn't have to rely on our offence. The guys up front will do what they can to help, but they will need far superior performances than the one we saw tonight from our back end if we want to do anything but play golf come May.

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