Friday, November 07, 2008

Game #11

Losing With 45 Seconds to go? Yeah, I'll Take the Point

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday November 7th, 2008
Opponent: Columbus Blue Jackets
Venue: Nassau Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-4 - Loss (SO)

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Steve Mason (W)

Habs goalscorers: Alex Tanguay, Patrice Brisebois, Sergei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: R.J. Umberger, Marc Methot, Fredrik Modin, (Kristian Huselius, Derick Brassard - SO)




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

Remember when (constantly) the Montreal media needed a player on one of the top 3 lines to pick on? It seems that if each player doesn't have at least 10 points by now there is something wrong. Well, the target this week was 2-goal scorer Sergei Kostitsyn. He supplied the play of the game tonight to give him 3 on the year, a respectable 22-goal pace - not bad for a 21 year old with 62 games of NHL experience who is playing on the third line.

The goal was sweet and timely. Carbo went with the Kostitsyn boys centered by Plekanec to end the game as Kovy had just been on with Saku. The goal itself was a nice brother-to-brother pass and bagged the Habs a point. I call it clutch.



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

Alexei Kovalev
Kovy had a few giveaways tonight, but then again, who didn't. He was really slick with the puck all night and probably deserved a lot more than his single assist. Like I said last year your best shooters have to be #1 & #2 in the shootout. Kovy was slated to be third, but never got to shoot. No offence to Tanguay or Andrei, but I would have preferred to see Kovy have a go, especially after the way he had been handling the puck all night. Putting one of your best shooters #3 (and leaving your best off - Koivu) is stupid really, because what if the other team scores their first 2 and you don't?



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
Over the past couple of games we have seen a little more flair from Andrei. Tonight he played his best towards the end of the game and I had a sense that he was our best shot at a late goal. I think he is still a little timid after the big hit he took a few games ago, but at least seemed to be using his body a bit more than in the past couple of games.

Alexei Kovalev
Alex must love playing against defences of this calibre. Yes, Columbus beat us, but come on, it had nothing to do with their D. After games against Florida, Carolina, the Islanders and Columbus it looks like Kovy should have a pretty fun year. As Sam Roberts would say, 'Where Have All the Good Defences Gone?'

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks put together a nice little third period for himself and even did well in OT, until his 'penalty' that is. He had 2 assists in the final frame and was instrumental on our tying goal. He may have failed to register a shot, but was one of our more creative and offensively-dangerous players tonight.

Defencemen

Francis Bouillon
Bou was a rock tonight, he played over 18 minutes of good, mistake-free hockey. He threw a team-high 5 hits and was our only defenceman not to be on the ice for a goal against. I am happy that his minutes are up, but still think he could be a 18-21 minute-man.

Mike Komisarek
Let's get one thing straight - Komi is no offensive defenceman. He looked quite out of place a few times tonight as he tried stuff in the offensive zone that is well beyond his means. If we look past that, which in his case we must, you can see a solid 'one-way' defender. He is a true stay-at-home defenceman (unlike Brisebois, who we just wish would stay at home) who played a very good game in his own end tonight. He had a quiet night in the shot-block department, but did make a very key block on a late penalty-kill that at least gave us the chance to go for 2 points.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Not the game I was expecting from Halak. He looked very uncomfortable all night and the fact that he only let in 3 goals probably makes it seem like he had a better game than he did. I didn't like his rebound-control, positioning (committed on shots way too early) or his confidence. I thought that he looked very rusty in the shootout on 2 shots that should have been saved. Tonight I go with Price, because after all this is Columbus and 3 goals for should be plenty.



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

I am happy that we got a point tonight, but come on, how stupid is that extra point? A point for losing! The object of the game has become not simply 'don't lose', but instead, don't lose during a certain portion of the game.

Do you remember when they brought in the bonus point for losing? It was about 10 years ago when ties were still fashionable. This of course was also before the shootout. The reason that the OT Loss Point was brought it was to encourage teams to go for the win as the league deemed too many teams were simply playing OT not to lose, thus there were too many ties. The NHL, in their never-ending quest to change the game, thought it would be better if teams went all out for 5 minutes (after 60 minutes of stale-mate hockey) if they knew they literally had nothing to lose. It made the losing team feel better, but made everyone else in the conference feel worse. Think of it, your two division rivals are playing each other on your night off and they both catch you in the standings.

Well, then came the shootout - hockey's answer to NFL OT (a stupid way to end any game). It meant that every night there would be exactly 1 winner and 1 loser per game. No more ties (thank goodness for that, it was making me feel too European), just 65 minutes of excitement followed by a 5-minute ice clean and then a very non-exciting climax to end your game. So instead of dangling the extra-point carrot in front of teams' noses during OT the NHL was eating the carrot themselves and forcing a win no matter what. So, can someone please tell me, why do we still have the extra point? It used to be to encourage people to try and win in OT, it is now a way to encourage them to get to OT. The same type of hockey that the NHL wanted to avoid in OT all those years ago is now happening in the last 5 minutes of regulation (traditionally the best portion of the game) as no team wants to miss their chance at a free point. I am sure the geniuses that brought us 4-minute high-sticking penalties and dives/trips as one call would have a very good answer for this, but after 3 years I haven't heard it. It couldn't be that the NHL really has no clue what they are doing, could it?


Overall Comments

Why is it that teams look worse after 5 days off than 20 hours? Probably because hockey players should be playing hockey. This was our second 5-day break of the season already, the season that is only 4 weeks old. From now on, however, you should get used to watching and reading a lot about the Habs. We just started a stretch of 13 games in 23 nights after which we should be able to gauge exactly where we are as a team and where the rest of the league really is too.

The game itself tonight wasn't bad, apart from a mediocre second period. I assume that teams like Columbus, with a fan base in the 4-digit range, are used to non-energetic spells in their games, but I'm not. The Habs had a big chance during that second period to go up and stay up, but, like the BJs, we got caught napping all over the ice. It took a Patrice Brisebois point-shot to wake both teams up in the third and finally the fans were treated to some good hockey again. Maybe this is a game that we should have won, but more importantly it was a game that we shouldn't lose, in regulation that is. As long as the league wants to hand out points for failure I am in. I can tolerate losing, but you must admit it softens the blow when you are rewarded for it.

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