Monday, May 05, 2008

Game #2-5

Price Ends What Should Have Been Close Series Early

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday May 3rd, 2008
Opponent: Philadelphia Flyers
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC


Team Stripes


Final Score: 4-6 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Martin Biron (W)

Habs goalscorers: Tomas Plekanec, Alexei Kovalev, Christopher Higgins, Andrei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: R.J. Umberger (2), Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell, Scottie Upshall, Mike Knuble



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 6 Goal-Against Performance of the Playoffs
1st 4 Game Losing Streak of the Season



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

Plekanec's Goal which was scored early, on the PP and before any Flyers goals was the hi-light for me. We did all the things we hadn't been able to do all playoffs in those 3, but at the end of the day the same result. It was a simple goal by Habs standards, but it reminded Habs fans every where how easy hockey could be - the rest of the game proved us all wrong yet again. The goal itself was a deflection from another Brisebois point-shot.



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

Tomas Plekanec

Plekanec came to play in a must-win game which was surprisingly not a trait I saw in each and every Hab. He was very active in both zones as I thought he had his best game of the playoffs. He did very well against the bigger Flyers defenders as he used his speed to easily get around them.



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

Andrei Kostitsyn
- His goal to tie it up in the third gave the Habs and their fans one last bout of false hope in what became a series filled with 'what-ifs'. He used his speed better than any Hab in this game and actually seemed more comfortable in this pressure-packed situation that he had been all series

Tomas Plekanec
- He won 78% of his face-offs, had a goal and assist and played nearly 20 minutes of hockey. I personally thought that he outplayed Philly's #2 centre all series long and that was never more evident than in this game

Saku Koivu
- Do you all still want to trade this guy? For all of those who want our captain to go I want you to remember this series and these playoffs. I want you to remember how he has battled back from torn knee ligaments, cancer and a major eye injury. I want you all to remember him playing with broken ribs in 2004 and with a broken foot now. Saku is the ultimate playoff performer and though he does well in the regular season I think he has learned what has become blatantly obvious to all the fans out there - those 82 games mean absolutely nothing. This game he was again at his best, he also kept his point streak alive tonight with another assist - 9 points in 7 games, at least one in each

Defencemen

Mike Komisarek
- I didn't notice Mike too much in this game, but as well as being a bad thing it can also be a good thing. He was the only defenceman other than Markov to have a positive +/- tonight and actually did a good job of holding back Philly's big (over-paid) names. He has a lot of work to do though if he wants to be another Chelios or Markov, but I am sure this series will help

Andrei Markov
- He wasn't a star in this game or the series really, but he was still our best defenceman. He played 21 minutes, was +2 and was not on the ice for any Philly goals. Yes our goaltending was pathetic, but if we had 6 Markovs it wouldn't have mattered

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
- Is it Price's fault he was made the #1? Is it Price's fault we traded our best goalie since Roy for nothing? No, of course not, but it is his fault we lost the game and the series. He clearly does not have the skill or mental ability (yet) to be a true NHL star, but at 20 that is to be expected. I don't, however, feel one bit bad about calling this loss his fault. I haven't seen worse goaltending since Theo's last days in MTL and I only hope that Price can recover better than Jose did. Halak may not have done better, but he for sure would not have done worse. Price's calm, no-care attitude served him well in the regular season, but in the playoffs, against teams and players that actually wanted to win it caught up with him. His puck-handling and rebound control will need a ton of work if he wants to even be in this league a year from now. I have seen rookie phenoms like Raycroft and Ward follow a similar path and as of now am worried that Carey is going to do the same



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

Kovalev played well for us in this game, in the playoffs and all year. You can't ask much more than a goal and an assist in a must-win from your star and he delivered. He had 11 points in 12 playoff games with 5 goals - pretty much his phenomenal regular season pace. This game showed how much he cares about this team and about winning and if anything that bodes well for next year.

Kovalev's Assessment - Good


Overall Comments

I wish I could have been proven wrong about the whole Huet thing, I really wish I could. It seemed like in this game and series we had all the tools to win other than goaltending. I think what Gainey, Carbo and hopefully Price realized was that winning at the NHL level, where fans and players actually care, is way different than winning the Calder Cup. Price has all the skills to win hockey games, but he proved time and time again in this series (and the one against Boston) that he isn't mentally strong enough to deal with the pressure of playing in Montreal with the whole of Canada watching. I think having Huet around would have been a nice back-up plan as his 10 extra years would leave him a little calmer in the net. Trading Huet and never using Halak was the stupidest thing Gainey could have done this season. There was no point to ridding ourselves of an All-Star for nothing and then never using his replacement. I know the whole idea was to make Price feel like a starter and to give him confidence - well, for future plans, that doesn't seem to work.

I still think that the season was a success and that we learned a lot about what this team can and can't do. We can and should be able to make the playoffs again. We have good enough scoring to score when we need to and it is balanced enough to give us options. Our defence has all the tools, we just don't know how to use them yet. With a lot of solid prospects in the system our defence corps should be OK, but I hope we remember than veteran defencemen (Hatcher) end up out-performing young-guns (Komi) any day come spring time. We have hopefully learned that all we need is a confidant goalie. Philly proved that skill at that position is nowhere near as important as belief in one's self. It will be a long summer for sure, but at the end of the day I am happy. This team is on the rise and did well to win the East, have the top PP and get 5 playoff wins. I expect bigger and better things from these guys in the near future - that all starts in early October, let the countdown begin

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