Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Game #21

Montreal Takes Hockeytown

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Wednesday November 26th, 2008
Opponent: Detroit Red Wings
Venue: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-1 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Ty Conklin (L)

Habs goalscorers: Maxim Lapierre, Tomas Plekanec, Christopher Higgins
Opposition goalscorers: Johan Franzen



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

Without a doubt our best play tonight was the game-winning goal which not only gave us the lead we needed, but was probably one of the prettiest passing plays we will see all year. The puck was about to be cleared out of the zone when Markov kept the play alive and kept the puck in. He found Kovy in the slot who quickly fired it to the right side. There Pleks one-timed a pass back to Markov at the point who in turn returned the favour. The net result was a quick one-time goal up over a very dizzy Conklin.



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

Carey Price
I remember in early 2000 the Habs beat Detroit 3-0 thanks to a brilliant performance from the wonder-kid of the moment - Jose Theodore. Tonight I won't go as far as to say that Price stole us this one, but he was the number one reason it wasn't anymore interesting, from Detroit's standpoint, than it had to be. It was, however, another O'Byrne gaffe which turned to be all the Wings needed to get on the scoresheet; a shame as I thought Carey was playing shutout-calibre hockey. In all he made 32 saves including 15 in the 3rd alone.



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

Alexei Kovalev
Alex was our best forward tonight. He was very flashy in the offensive zone as he put a lot of quality pucks on net. He wasn't credited with a point on the first goal, but his forechecking on Lidstrom was the number one reason the puck bounced off Sir Norris into the net. Kovy was probably the only Hab not willing to just sit back and play defence in the third and I love him for that. Maybe he defied Carbo, but when you are up you must keep attacking and that is precisely what he did.

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks played quite a quiet role in the first period, but with time he came out of his shell. He scored a great goal and had a few other glorious chances including one that was disallowed towards the end of the game. He was the best centre in the face-off circle tonight as he won more than half of the team's total face-offs (10 of 19).

Christopher Higgins
Chris scored a rather fortuitous goal tonight, but hey, a goal is a goal. That gives him 5 on the year which is about what you expect from him after 15 games. He played with a lot of energy tonight and didn't really allow the Wings to get going when he was around. Unfortunately Saku and he lost their linemate - the victim of a big hit - but the duo played well with Kostopoulos for the majority of the game.

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
Josh did a very good job tonight on the PK - he was used more than any other Hab in that department. He co-led the team with 2 blocked shots, both of which seemed to really hurt. He is proving himself as a true warrior and tonight, against the league's best, he was himself, at his best.

Andrei Markov
Andrei's ability to keep the puck in at the blue-line and create something out of nothing is a skill that is really second to no one in the league right now. His play to keep the puck in on Plekanec's goal was superb. He then immediately showed us his other talent as he and Pleks exchanged perfect passes for the goal. Great game in both ends, he was very strong against Detroit's potent attack.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Tonight Price seemed very focused and I think he was able to fuel himself with a good solid start to the game. His positioning was very good as he was square on most every shot. One thing that I noticed on a couple of occasions was that he remains standing if he can. I really like that in a goalie, most goalies nowadays will drop to the butterfly no matter what, but I think it shows true awareness and confidence to remain on your feet when the butterfly is not needed.



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

Tonight we played 3 different games, 1 for each period. In the first period we played cautious, match-the-tempo style hockey. Neither team was interested in over-committing nor making any big mistakes and that suited us just fine. In the second period we played offence. We scored 3 goals and probably could have even added a couple more. In the third period we played defence (aka - nervous hockey).

I was told this when I first started playing sports and it is something that I think Carbo could use a reminder of - 'the best defence is offence'. We just let Detroit come at us throughout the third period as we just tried to hold on. I reckon we got fairly lucky in the end to win by 2 goals. Aside from Kovalev the Habs were quite content on dumping the puck in. When the puck got too deep you would see all 3 forwards retreat to the neutral zone at the same time. This allowed Detroit to do what they themselves do best - play offence.

This strategy may have worked tonight, but it is not a good strategy at all. This is something that will more often than not backfire and it is not something that we can rely on. I know this is Detroit, in Detroit, but a 3-0 lead to me should be treated the same every single time. We got very lucky tonight as had it not been for Price, a few near misses and a couple of timely shot-blocks we would have been playing OT again - at best. The best teams in the league play their own game and never waiver from it, our third period display is proof enough for me that we are not one of those teams yet.


Overall Comments

When you need a win you may fear a trip to the Joe, but getting one there, when not expecting it, must be one hell of a feeling. I think that this result will bring confidence back to the Canadiens who have been playing quite well over the past 2 weeks or so. Montreal didn't let their opponents, nor Detroit's impressive record, phase them as they kept up all night long. We were particularly dominant for about 25 minutes in the middle of the game and were only really outplayed for about 10-15 minutes. Overall you can't ask for a better road performance than this and I hope the team is proud. We seemed very at ease in the offensive zone for most of the night and I was especially pleased with the work of Plekanec's line. Our defence played well too, but it is still obvious that neither Brisebois nor O'Byrne should be seeing anything near the ice-time that they saw tonight. This game marked the Red Wing's third regulation loss of the season and it was the first time that they have been held to 1-goal or less. This game is something that we should be very, very happy with.

Another 2 points in the bank and on we go. We have 2 games left this week and now just sit 2 points back of our goal. There is no reason why, after tonight's performance, we shouldn't think that 4 points is a huge possibility, but I will remain happy with 2 and very happy with 3. After those 2 games we will have wrapped-up our 13 games in 23 nights stretch. The verdict on whether or not that period will be considered a success is still out. Right now we have 11 points in 11 games. Wouldn't it be nice to exceed this week's hopes and also finish that long haul above .500?

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