Saturday, October 25, 2008

Game #7

Goaltending? Defence? A Little Help Please

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday October 25th, 2008
Opponent: Anaheim Ducks
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak, Carey Price (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (W)

Habs goalscorers: Alex Tanguay (2), Saku Koivu, Tom Kostopoulos
Opposition goalscorers: Kent Huskins, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz, Travis Moen, Teemu Selanne



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

The second most penalized team in the league gave us 6 chances on the PP tonight, we scored on one. Our nicest goal and play-of-the-game was this 1/6 moment.

The Ducks' penalty-killers obviously haven't played against Kovalev much as they gave him way too much room to work on the half boards and seemed stunned with his dip-in-the-slot move. With so much time you know that Kovy is going to find a hole to make a pass or possibly score himself. Right after he gained the slot for himself he passed it through Niedermayer and right to Tanguay. The Power-Play Point-Man merely had to flick it over Giguere to put the Habs on the scoresheet for the first time on the night.



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

Alex Tanguay
For a second straight Saturday Alex potted 2. His line looked quite sharp tonight and he was especially potent. His excellent positioning and speed allowed him to get into great scoring positions all night and it was his great hands that allowed him to score 2. He is a very dynamic player and is one that is able to be a top player. With 5 goals in 7 games I am sure there are a few people out there whispering 40 and even a few dreaming about 50.



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 took 13 shots tonight which is more than some teams get in whole games sometimes. He showed some frustration tonight after being stoned time and time again by Giguere, but I have to hand it to him as he was actually getting some good shots off. He was very creative in the offensive zone and had it not been for an above average performance from Giggy he would have scored a few. The good news is he is in the right place and he and his line are getting chances. The bad news is that Sergei is not Andrei.

Robert Lang
Lang played a good game tonight and worked quite well with Higgins. It will be interesting to see where Higgs ends up, but whether Lang plays with Gui, Sergei, Tom or Higgins doesn't seem to matter as Rob is a good enough player and centre on his own that the wingers are simply a bonus. He managed 2 assists tonight and was a very impressive 14-3 in the face-off circle.

Alex Tanguay
Tonight Tanguay looked like the fastest Hab on the ice. We are known for being a really fast team, with a lot of fast youngsters, so I never really thought that the addition of Tangs would bring more speed. What he has brought, however, is not only pure speed (Dandenault), but the ability to control and handle the puck at high speeds. I think that after years of searching he has found a niche in Montreal and I think that Montreal is just about ready to fall in love with him.

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
Not being bad gets you a ticket into the dome tonight on defence. Gorges played over 20 minutes and wasn't on the ice for any goals against. Tonight he and Bou formed our best tandem as Markov and Hammer were simply not able to carry their respective dead-weights. Josh also did some good - he saved a goal (and was wrongfully called for closing his hand on the puck resulting in a penalty shot), was good in the offensive zone and moved the puck very well.

Francis Bouillon
Franc had a great game tonight and is now giving Komi a good run at #3. From what I have seen thus far Bou is having a fantastic season. Tonight he threw a lot of great hits, won important defensive zone battles and even stood up for Latendresse by fighting Perry. He was limited to 14 minutes of ice which is surprising as that was the least of all the defencemen. His speed and puck-control coupled with his physical play should surely be enough to earn him 20+ minutes as he is once again proving to be a leader at the back.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
My initial instinct was to put Price in here. Halak let up 4 goals on 12 shots, but to be fair the defence weren't really lending a helping hand. Don't get me wrong, he didn't play well, but in my opinion not quite as bad as Price. When Carey came in he knew what he had to do, yet all he did was looked as unprepared as Dominik Hasek used to look when coming in as a back-up. Price didn't look ready at all to play which may serve as a vote of confidence towards Halak, but to me shows a lot of unprofessionalism. What tipped the scales for me was his play on the Perry's unsuccessful penalty shot. Had it not been for bad ice and a slight loss of focus from Perry he would have been beaten very badly. So, don't get too happy Jaro, you didn't play well, but I would have stuck with you till the end in this one.



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

Trying to find some sort of un-sung hero tonight would have been a stretch. Just getting a dome that made sense was a hard enough. Tonight the eye-opener is more of a eyes-still-wide-open piece.

I watched Brisebois closely tonight as I needed to know whether or not he actually deserved to be in the line-up ahead of O'Byrne. I hadn't been impressed with Ryan this year and was wondering if he would hold his spot, he obviously didn't, but I don't think Carbo made the right call here on his replacement. I haven't seen a defensive effort so poor as the one that Brisebois offered tonight in a long, long time. That in itself is an incredible feat as I have been watching Patrice for 17 years. When Breezer is on the ice a few things happen that worry me - his teammates don't trust him, thus they have the look a being a man-down, he pinches at all the exact wrong times and he makes everyone in the building (apart from the Ducks) think that we have 'a man there'. I lost count of his miscues tonight as it was even overwhelming by his standards. There were defensive zone clearances right to the other team, spin-o-ramas which resulted in a lost puck and a huge wipe-out (twice!), checks that were missed and resulted in huge wipe-outs, chickening out of hits by ducking and 'passing' the puck right to the other team and how could I forget the hook after he almost tripped over his skates beside our own net.

Brisebois for some reason continues to get playing time in the NHL which baffles me every minute of the day. The only rest I get from this Gainey-blunder is while I sleep, that is provided I am not having nightmares of him tripping over the blue-line or knuckling one into our own slot for a Heatley one-timer. I think that I know at least 100 guys personally that could play an NHL shift on defence and look less out of place than Patrice, and some of those guys have trouble skating backwards. Can we really ask Hamrlik to throw away another season of offence to baby-sit this burden? Or do we put him on the 3rd unit and pray that little ice-time and no PK time will help ease the pain? We are a team deep with defensive prospects which makes this all the much worse. We are carrying 8 defencemen again this year, but I know that 2 of them aren't anywhere near the organization's top-10. I wish that certain coaches and managers would put language, friendships and loyalties aside and think about the team, because even one weak link in the armour may yet again cost us a trip to spring-time hockey.


Overall Comments

Had our defence and goaltending been just a bit better we would have won tonight. They didn't even have to be good, just better. We took 51 shots, hit a couple of posts and scored 4 goals, surely that should be enough for a team as good as us. The fact of the matter is that we aren't the same team blue-line and back that we were last year. The loss of Huet and particularly Streit (who was surprisingly good defensively) hurt us tonight and it may not be the last time. Our forwards seem to be gelling and the right combos seem to be forming, so why not that on D. 2 bad games by O'Byrne (during wins) was enough for Carbo to forget how important consistency and positioning really are for defencemen. If we aren't careful we may become one of those teams who can't score enough goals to win. Our goalies are at least average NHL goalies, but until we field an above-average defence we shouldn't be surprised with results like this.

After not playing since Monday I wasn't too surprised to see some rust. For some reason the NHL gave us a 5 night break in October! Why on earth does a team who has only played 6 games in 5 1/2 months need 5 nights off? It obviously had a negative effect on our team which is bad news as it happens again in a week. After 5 wins, however, I am not getting too excited about all of this as I know losses are inevitable and I am also a big believer in the theory that if you are going to lose you may as well make it count. We have a new week coming with our usual 3 games. Let's forget tonight and keep the momentum from our quick start going.

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