Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Game #27

Halak Strong Again; This Time Gets Some Support

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday December 9th, 2008
Opponent: Calgary Flames
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 4-1 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Miikka Kiprusoff (L)

Habs goalscorers: Robert Lang (2), Matt D'Agostini, Andrei Markov
Opposition goalscorers: Dustin Boyd



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

I love having fast players, and boy is D'Agostini fast. With the score at 1-0 Calgary was looking very menacing and I felt we needed a goal or two otherwise our one-goal lead would not hold up. Matt was able to break up a play at the blue-line and tip the puck between the two defencemen at the point. It took him a long time to get the puck under control, so long in fact that Kipper came out to play it. Just at the last moment D'Ags got control, pulled the puck back and easily took it around Miikka for his 4th goal in 4 games.



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

Robert Lang
Lang has quietly amassed 20 points this year as he added 3 tonight. He is currently the team's goal leader with 10; that is a 30-goal pace. I really liked the work on both his goals tonight, both in fact were quite different. On the first he used speed to get around all-star Phaneuf and get a lane to the net. On the second he used his size and strength to sweep the puck in with one hand. His play in general was great tonight, but I think his goals gave clear examples of the type of talent we have in Lang.



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
Kovy was very involved in 3 of our 4 goals. He got 2 assists and on our 4th provided the screen on a thundering point-shot from Markov. He is playing very well with Lang and I thought it was smart of Carbo to add Tanguay to that line. I feel that the odd man out in all of this is Plekanec, once again. Hopefully Higgins will be OK and the coach will see the value of Sergei over Tom on that line (or rightly so, the value of Tom on the 4th line).

Andrei Kostitsyn
Although held off the scoresheet Andrei played very well. He co-led both teams in shots with 4 and had a few near misses that almost resulted in goals. There was a great play at the end of the game on a 2-on-1 where he almost scored off a great pass from D'Agostini. The chemistry that those two players have with Saku is quite something and I feel they are the trio that will be the difference in the majority of the games from now until springtime.

Robert Lang
Aside from his goals Robert also added an assist on a great little passing play with Tanguay and Markov. He is a very smart hockey player and that can be seen nearly every time he is on the ice. I think his hockey-smarts are at their best on the power-play where he is now being deployed as a point-man. He may just be the missing piece to the puzzle as his patience and calmness are being converted into quality chances.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Markov was caught out of position on Calgary's goal, but that happens when someone pinches. There was no reason, however, that his left-side should have remained un-marked. It was Lapierre who missed the assignment on this one. In fact Marky actually beat Max back on the play which shows how unaware Max really was. Aside from that play Markov scored 1 and added an assist. He was very good on the PP and as usual at keeping the puck in at the blue-line. When you see how much trouble other defencemen have at stopping the puck, keeping it in the zone, controlling it and then doing something useful with the puck it makes you realize just how valuable a skill that really is.

Roman Hamrlik
Like Tanguay Roman had a good game against his old mates. Unlike Alex, however, he never had the chance (or misfortune) of playing for Keenan, so this win may not have meant quite as much. For a second straight game we lost Dandenault to injury and it was Hammer that picked up most of the slack. He didn't play quite as much as his young protege in white, but did lead the Habs with over 24 minutes of ice time.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Halak was a Lang assist away from getting the game puck. He played extremely well and I think a strong first few minutes played a big part in that. Early on Calgary were getting chances and Jaro was forced to make some big saves. It helped the kid, and the crowd, to get into the game and I think it was what he needed after such a long lay-off. He made great saves all night and was only beaten the one time on what was a great play by Iginla and Boyd. I noticed how well he handles the puck behind the net, but more importantly how he doesn't try to do too much - it was refreshing.



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

One thing I really liked about tonight was how we tried different things. Unlike previous games we didn't just go for the perfect play, instead we tried absolutely everything. I felt that this approach was the reason we were able to outscore a Calgary Flames team that definitely played as well, if not better than us. Lang's two goals were great examples of how just shooting and taking a chance from anywhere are always good options. In years past when we have played excellent goalies, the likes of Hasek, Brodeur, Luongo or Kiprusoff himself, we have always tried so hard to beat them that we forget that they too let in garbage goals. It was a very good thing to see tonight as I feel Kipper was only really beaten by one quality goal. You can also see by the amount of amazing saves he himself made that his true talent is stopping those perfect plays.

I think our Power-Play needs to take the try-everything approach. Right now we are over-thinking everything and trying to score into an abandoned net. When things aren't going well that isn't how you will get your goals. Put the puck on net, over and over and I promise the goals will come.


Overall Comments

This will probably be remembered as a good game, but it could have easily gone the other way for us. Early on, and throughout the game, Calgary were playing really well. They were attacking well and holding the puck in our own end for long stretches at a time. Montreal did very well to take advantage of their chances and that really was the difference. In the end it came down to the fact that we got some lucky bounces and Halak simply played amazing. Don't get me wrong though, Montreal did play well, just not 4 times better than the Flames. All 4 lines played well tonight and I was happy to see Sergei Kostitsyn do so well in his return. I didn't feel we had too strong of a game defensively, but again that wasn't reflected by the fact that we only let in one goal. The bottom line is we tried enough different stuff tonight and got good enough play from key characters for the win. We should, however, expect some losses against equally talented teams if we play like this in the future.

5 games into our 7-game home-stand and our 11 game pre-Christmas stretch and we already have 9 points. That puts us with 6 points to get over our 6 next games. Like I said before this stretch is a chance to get a good position in the standings and so far I like the way that the Habs have taken advantage of it.

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