Thursday, April 03, 2008

Game #81

1st in The East Still Up For Grabs; Habs Keep Pace With Pens

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday April 3rd, 2008
Opponent: Buffalo Sabres
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 3-1 - Win

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

Habs goalscorers: Christopher Higgins, Bryan Smolinski (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Ales Kotalik



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 Time the Habs have had 7 50-Point Scorers Since 1989-1990
1st Time the Habs have had 4 25-Goal Scorers Since 1995-1996
1st NHL Game for Matt D'Agostini



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

Our first goal on the Power-Play was our nicest tonight. The Habs PP is so effective these days that I have come to take goals like this one for granted. Kovalev fed it back to the point to Hamrlik. Hammer then sent the puck straight back to the right side to Streit who released a very good slapshot. In front of the net Higgins was providing the screen and had just the right touch to tip it up over Miller.



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

Bryan Smolinski

Smoke scored a pair tonight as he and his linemates (Kostopoulos and Begin) had great chemistry. He was very effective as a penalty-killer and was just all around solid in our own end. His experience showed tonight and will be a valuable asset in a week's 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

Bryan Smolinski
- Bryan got his 650th career point tonight which when you think about it is very solid. It may have taken him a while to accept his role (a la Bonk) as a checking forward, but all seems well these days. He has been one of our top forwards of late and ironically he is also getting more involved offensively

Alexei Kovalev
- For a second straight game Alex played like the captain. He was fantastic with the puck, but his play without it was equally as impressive. He got very involved physically in this game and made sure his opponents knew that he wasn't the type to back down. He was used less than usual on the PK tonight, but when he was used he did well

Sergei Kostitsyn
- Sergei was very gritty tonight as he got involved in all aspects of play. He was flashy on offence, despite not getting a point, and was also tough in his own end. He was not afraid to muck it up with the Sabres tonight which is nice to see from such a young player

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
- Another quality performance from the big man. He has not missed a beat in Komisarek's absence, he has actually looked even better. Tonight he was very physical and, though, I get nervous he will pick up a stupid injury, it is great to see such a good player being able to fight for himself

Ryan O'Byrne
- It will be a tough call for Carbo when Bou and Komi are back because at times Ryan really does look like he deserves a top-6 spot. Whether he plays in the playoffs or not is actually good news for the Habs since it means we will have 7 quality defencemen to call on when needed. He blocked 5 shots, dished out 6 hits, was +2 and had nearly 20 minutes of ice-time

Goaltender

Carey Price
- If confidence is truly the key to goaltending then I think we are in a very good place going into next week. Carey stood up to everyone and everything tonight as he truly dictated the play in and around his net. His puck-handling was more or less good with a few close calls and still remains an area of concern. His shot-blocking, however, looked fantastic as the Sabres had no real answer to his solid play



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

No points for Kovy tonight, but 2 for the Habs - the way he would want it, I am sure. Kovy proved tonight that he is there for his teammates and is quite possibly the farthest thing from 'selfish player' status that he can be. He looks very ready for the post-season as he is right now playing at his quickest and most dangerous of the the year.

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good



Overall Comments

Buffalo were desperate tonight because they knew that a loss would mean no playoffs for them. Their elimination marks only the third time that a defending President's Trophy winner has failed to make the playoffs. (Habs '71-'72, NYR '92-'93). The only good news for them is that in both those cases the teams went on to win the Cup the following season. The fact that Buffalo played a spirited game tonight and were desperate was important for us. Even though we are assured of a playoff spot we don't want to become complacent. Playing teams that have something on the line ensures a good, hard, playoff like game. The Habs did extremely well in all of the main categories and I was particularly impressed with their PK. This season we haven't been all that good with a man disadvantage, but over the past 5-10 games we have turned that around. Tonight was a good example of how crucial a good PK can be towards a team's success. If we can rely on our PK the same way that we rely on our PP then I like our chances.

Luckily for us Ottawa won tonight which kept them in 6th place. A first round match-up with them or even the Huet/Ovechkin led Capitals would be something I would like to avoid at all costs. People often say that you have to be the best team to win the cup, thus you shouldn't fear anyone. I, however, disagree and say that in order to win the cup you need to face 4 suitable opponents at the right time, you don't necessarily have to be the best of all the 16 teams. I would much rather have Pittsburgh play Washington and New Jersey play Ottawa than play any 3 of those 4 teams. Not only would a match-up with 3 of those clubs drain the Habs it would also severely limit our chances of going deep.

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