Friday, February 29, 2008

Game #65

Another Big Canadiens Win Puts Them 1st in the Northeast

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Friday February 29th, 2008
Opponent: Buffalo Sabres
Venue: HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY


Team Stripes


Final Score: 6-2 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Ryan Miller (L)

Habs goalscorers: Tomas Plekanec (3), Mark Streit, Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Thomas Vanek, Tim Connolly



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 Hat-Trick for a Hab this year
1st Career Hat-Trick for Plekanec
1st 4-Point Game for Kovalev this season
1st Time that 3 Belarusians have each got a point in the same NHL game



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

2 of Plekanec's goals were near identical and both deserve mention. The only really differences were that one was a one-timer, the other was a cradled wrist shot and one was second-assisted by Hamrlik, the other by Streit.

The puck was about to exit the zone on a power-play when Streit made a great play at the left point to keep it in. He then chipped the puck back into the zone hoping that someone would be there to eventually collect it. Kovalev reached out and with his incredible skill was able to instantly gain control of the puck; most players surely would have missed it by a mile. He then took a look around and spotted a wide open Plekanec on the right side. He fired a perfect pass right to Tom who quickly one-timed it home.



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

Tomas Plekanec

Pleks scored his first ever hat-trick and added an assist for his second four-point night of the year. This also marked the 18th time that he has had a multiple-point game this year. Tonight was a great example of how hard it is for opposing teams to stop Pleks when he gets going. He loves getting all of his offence out in spurts and when it comes the opposition had better watch out.



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
- Tom has been fairly quiet over the past few games; he hasn't played badly, but he hadn't scored many points. You could say that he was due for a big night and here it was. His 4 points were great, but he also had a great game defensively. He was too fast for the Sabres to handle tonight

Alexei Kovalev
- The bad news is he didn't score, the good news is that he got 4 assists. He is so well known for his shot and stick-handling that sometimes people forget just how good of a passer he is. If you need a little reminder watch tonight's highlights

Mikhail Grabovski
- He has been on a serious tear with Hamilton lately and it looks like the change of scenery isn't about to slow him down. He brings our third line a lot of speed and creativity and makes that trio into a very serious threat. He had 2 assists this game and finished +2

Defencemen

Mark Streit
- Mark played a little bit of D and a little bit of O tonight, a trend that will surely continue in the coming weeks. His incredible season continues and it now looks more and more likely that he'll hit 60 points - he currently sits at 47. Not bad for a guy who was a last minute choice in 2005 to be our 7th defenceman ahead of Ron Hainsey. His speed and creativity were both very evident tonight, both on the power-play and at even-strength

Roman Hamrlik
- Played a very aggressive game, but never lost his cool. This is the kind of effort we need from Hammer on a regular basis; that of course shouldn't be a problem for the big-man as he has been a force all season long. He had an assist tonight and finished with a team-high +3 rating

Goaltender

Carey Price
- Another solid outing for the 20 year old. His confidence, maturity and attitude continue to amaze me considering just how short he is in the tooth. The only negatives of his play tonight were when he was was caught out of position while venturing behind the net. Twice Buffalo had a serious scoring chance because of carelessness out of the crease. He made himself very big in front of the Sabre shooters all night long giving them very little to shoot at



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

After 65 games he now has 67 points which is his best as a Hab in 3+ seasons. He was again excellent in all facets of play tonight and looked to be in a league of his own. The most amazing thing about this season is that he has yet to play a bad game. He has had the occasional average outing, but in general he has been very good or better. It makes me remember why we started this section in the first place. This was going to be a way to track Kovy's play on a game by game basis so that at the end of the year we would have raw data to support our claim that he is a great player. To me the only difference from this year to last is about 25 points. He has been the same aggressive, crafty and talented player that he has always been with the Habs - the difference is that he is now putting up mainstream media-friendly numbers.

Kovalev's Assessment - Excellent



Overall Comments

This is not the same Buffalo that beat us in our last 3 meetings, or maybe we aren't the same Habs team. They did not play with very much speed at all and they lacked all semblance of a transition game. Campbell will be missed by this Sabre squad more than they know, while Bernier will soon fade into the background. In fact, I don't remember seeing Bernier or hearing one word about him all game - he played over 18 minutes. There are 5 different areas that I look at to see if the Habs had a good game - offence, defence, goaltending, power-play and penalty-kill. All but penalty-kill did well tonight and that was the big reason for the 4 goal win. We need to be good (or at least better than the other team) in 3 of those categories each game to make some noise - 4 if we want to go far. We played as a team and each line played with conviction and chemistry. It was a good way to start the weekend and it sets us up nicely to have a big week.

Thanks to the Habs win tonight and Huet's shutout we are now in second overall and are just one point out of first. We are also now first in the divison, moving one point ahead of the Sens. I can't remember the last time that we were ahead of Ottawa after October, but I'm pretty sure that Cunneyworth was still their captain. Ottawa shouldn't be counted out just yet, but judging by their play as of late our current situation was only a matter of time. We have 17 games left and we have 17 more points to collect, so the work is nowhere near being done. We can afford to lose half of our games from here on in if all we want is the 8th spot. If we want higher than 8th, or maybe even first place, it can all begin tomorrow when Brodeur and the Devils visit Montreal in what promises to be one of the best games of the year.

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