Monday, October 20, 2008

Game #6

Halak Shines as Montreal Holds Off Florida

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Monday October 20th, 2008
Opponent: Florida Panthers
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Tomas Vokoun (L)

Habs goalscorers: Saku Koivu, Francis Bouillon, Tomas Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Keith Ballard



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

There were great saves tonight and our first 2 goals were also nice, but I am going to go in a different direction for this one as the following play was as crucial as any.

After we took a penalty with about 2 1/2 minutes left (as per league's orders?) I thought that was it. I had confidence in our team holding on, but after what happened against Boston last week there was some lingering doubt. The Panthers were all over us in those final 2 minutes and came close on a few occasions to tying it up and stealing 1 maybe 2 points away. Towards the end of the penalty we caught a lucky break and the puck was sitting near our blue-line as the other net was wide open. Plekanec took a pass from Kovy and then went in on a 2-on-1 and fired it home, sealing the deal. I am happy for a few reasons here. First it was good of Pleks to shoot and to not try a pass to Kovy for stats sake (had that been intercepted we're looking at a 5-on-2). Secondly you don't want to give away points within your own conference. I didn't want to lose, but I also didn't want to only gain one on Florida. It was a simple play, but it potentially made a huge difference.



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

Jaroslav Halak
Best 'back-up' in the league? After watching him over the past 2 games, the past 2 seasons and following his Hamilton and international careers very closely I would say a resounding YES. Tonight he was near unbeatable and played with a certain level of confidence and poise, something that is generally reserved for goalies 5-10 years older than the kid. He let up one juicy rebound which resulted in a goal, but apart from that one instance he was very solid.



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

Tom Kostopoulos
Tom played a simple game tonight, but was very effective at what he did. Tonight the violence was down as certain players weren't in the line-up. It strikes me as funny that our stars only need to be protected in games in which we choose to dress a fighter. How on earth do they cope on most nights? Anyway, this change of play meant Tom could focus on offence rather than the rough stuff. His fore-checking paid off as he was the one that forced the turn over on the game-winner.

Saku Koivu
I noticed Saku a lot tonight. He was all over the ice as he played extremely well in both ends. He scored another goal and added to his league leading +/-. What stood out the most tonight was the way in which he was winning and protecting pucks. As a small player Sak has always had to rely on good positioning and lower body strength. I noticed how well he was able to keep the puck away from players 6" taller on numerous occasions.

Maxim Lapierre
Max played a feisty game tonight and also showed what incredible amounts of speed he has. He was very good at winning battles, beating the opposition to pucks and moving the puck. He had a good night in the face-off circle too as he won 2/3 of his draws.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Marky notched his league-leading 9th assist of the year tonight. The pass was kind of a fluke as he whiffed on his own shot and then made a great backhand pass to Saku - Vokoun had no chance. Andrei was also very good in his own end as he stopped the Panthers time and time again and made up for Komisarek who played a sub-par positioning game.

Francis Bouillon
This was Frank's first game of the year, but it didn't show. He started the game as a forward, but was to soon bump O'Byrne as he was reunited with Gorges once again. He played quite a physical game and I thought looked very quick, both with and without the puck. He scored the game-winner on a very good, low shot, a shot that reminds us all of his ability to play and shoot from the point - something that will surely come in handy now that Streit is gone.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Halak certainly doesn't waste his opportunities. If Price wasn't also playing so well I think it would be safe to say that Halak could steal the #1 spot. I am, however, for now, happy to have such a dependable back-up. The Habs have always been known for having good starters and above average back-ups, but this may be the best tandem we have seen in a long time (pre-Huet that is). He made some fantastic save tonight, his puck and rebound controls were outstanding and his positioning was near flawless.



Eye-Openers
In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

Robert Lang got called for diving tonight on a play on which he was clearly tripped. The replay clearly shows that his skates were taken out from under him by Booth so Booth also got a penalty. What I don't get is why the refs are scared to call diving penalties. Since the lockout all we have heard is that 'diving will not be tolerated' and 'we don't want this to become soccer'. Well then NHL, call a dive. Let's see some bold calls by refs and stop this double-minor business. If Fraser truly believes that Lang was tripped (which he must have) why does it matter what he does after the trip. If he things Lang took a dive then don't punish Booth. Are they calling embellishment, but simply naming it diving? If so, let's start calling a player every time he jerks his head back and grabs his face after a high-stick, let's call a player for stopping to skate when he is being hooked or held and why not fault a player for getting knocked over when being cross-checked.

If we want to get embellishment out of the game then let's do it properly. If all we care about is diving then let's see some refs grow some ***** and call a dive.



Overall Comments
I thought that this game was unnecessarily tight. Florida kept us on our toes all night and although I was never too worried about losing in regulation, I also didn't breathe easy until we scored into an empty net. The Panthers, believe it or not, are the only team in league history to have a winning record against us. Thanks to our win we are now 23-25-6-2 against them. Just 2 little wins away from being .500 or better against all teams, but more importantly from shedding this embarrassing stat. They aren't a brutal team, but I really don't know where they are going. Their unique mix of underachieving veterans with unexciting prospects leads me to believe it will be another few years of early golfing for the Miami troop.

The Habs themselves didn't exactly light the world on fire tonight, but at the end of the day they got the job done. You don't have to be a great team to win games, make the playoffs or even win the cup. All that you have to do is score one more goal in each game than the other team, being great is an added bonus. Our offense showed some signs of frustration tonight as our quality chances weren't as numerous as they had been in previous games. We seem to be trying a little too much for the perfect pass and the perfect goal. I can't, however, fault a team that scores 3 goals and bags 2 points, so why not have some fun and go for the pretty goals. At the end of the day all that matters are the wins, and so far I like what I see - 5/6, it has been a great start!

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