Thursday, December 18, 2008

Game #31

Habs' High-Tempo Play Too Much For Philly

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday December 18th, 2008
Opponent: Philadelphia Flyers
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 5-2 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Antero Niityymaki (L)

Habs goalscorers: Matt D'Agostini, Sergei Kostitsyn, Steve Begin, Alexei Kovalev, Guillaume Latendresse
Opposition goalscorers: Arron Asham, Braydon Coburn



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

The Habs started the game quite well, but I felt had Philadelphia weathered that storm then things may soon have gone bad for us. I felt we were an unlucky break, a penalty or two or even a scoreless first period away from allowing Philly to run the show. That is why the play of the game wasn't only spectacular, but it was also pivotal too. It not only gave us the lead, but gave us the momentum we needed to carry us through the game.

A hard, crisp pass came all the way from the face-off circle beside Halak to just over centre-ice. A few years ago this was a two-line pass, tonight it was a beaut. It was a hard pass to handle, but the speedy D'Agostini appeared to have no problem at all with it. He skated in on the left side, at full speed, beat his defender and almost effortlessly beat Niittymaki.



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

Jaroslav Halak
Jaro only had to let in 3 or less tonight and we would have been OK, but I still believe he kept us in it at critical times. He made some unbelievable saves in this one and played with a certain confidence that was readily apparent to me, sitting at home. Towards the end of the game he let in a bad goal (an unlucky bounce off Bou), but was seemingly unphased. It is this focus and determination that are so crucial to winning.



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 notched his 900th career point tonight with a spectacular breakaway goal. He was reunited with Andrei and Pleks and I thought, until Kostitsyn got injured, they played well together. Alex was getting very involved and, although he may not have been on the ice for either of our PP goals, I felt it was he who wore out Philly's penalty-killers the most. He did a very good job to draw a penalty in the third on a play that would have been the goal of the year.

Sergei Kostitsyn
I am really happy for the kid tonight. In fact it was nice to see both him and fellow dog-house resident, Guillaume Latendresse, contribute. Sergei potted a nice goal and added an assist. Considering the ice-time and the linemates he sees I think his 11 points are quite suitable for this stage of the year. His PP goal came from a very good point-shot on the PP and I can only hope he keeps up that good work.

Matt D'Agostini
After 2 games of playing with an AHL centre-man it was back to the big leagues tonight. He played very well alongside the experienced Robert Lang, in fact I felt Matt played his best game in over a week. His goal was just one of the many chances he had, which included a shot square-off the post on a very well placed wrist-shot. It will be interesting to see what happens when we are fully healthy again as I feel D'Ags truly deserves a spot amongst the top-6.

Defencemen

Mike Komisarek
Now, I know Mike had a mediocre/poor start to the season, but that was only relative to the high standards he had set for himself. Last year he was really one of our best players and we all expected that again. Over the course of the first 14 games he was average, but believe it or not, in hindsight, that placed him ahead of at least 3 of our other choices. The good news is that tonight he played his best game of the season. I had forgotten the potential of this player and was really quite glad to have him back. He was a presence on the ice - in both ends. For all of his faults I believe he is a good leader and tonight, for maybe the first time all year, he led by example.

Andrei Markov
Andrei didn't seem to notice that he had changed partners tonight. Gone was Gorges, in was Komi. To Marky I don't think any of that matters at all. I am sure he is happy to see Mike healthy again and is equally happy to be playing alongside of him, but at the end of the day it didn't change a single thing he did. He once again was excellent in all aspects of the game. One play in particular, on a 2-on-1, stands out for me. Hartnell, coming down the left-wing, had absolutely every option taken away by a perfectly timed slide by Markov - it was truly first-class.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Halak put in yet another solid performance and is single handedly making the absence of Price seem like not that big of a deal. Of all that I have read about the Habs' troubles I see so little about the fact that Carey is injured. Mention of all other injured players abounds, but the fact that Jaro is playing so well has made people forget we are missing another player in nets. Right now the only real impact of Price's injury is the fact that we have Denis on the bench. If Halak continues to keep this play up we will hopefully never find out what that really means.



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 know what we will all be hearing for the next few days - 'Why can't the Habs play like this every game?'. Of course that would be nice, but the way we play is dependent more on the way the other team plays, the calls we get and the momentum than anything we as a team can do. Hard work and grit is a step in the right direction, but rarely is it enough to win a game. The Habs didn't decide to win tonight, much like they didn't decide to lose the past 3 games. Each and every game has it's own set of variables and things seem to go all wrong as ofter as they all line-up. If you think of a season as one long game with each game being a single goal it is easy to see how loses, like goals-against, are inevitable. A good team will win more games than it loses, but it will indeed lose. Similarly, a bad team will generally score in most games and will also win a fair share of those games. So we are all obviously happy with the 2-points and the effort tonight, but that doesn't mean we haven't been trying or that the effort wasn't there this past week. Sometimes you can explain a loss or a goal-against and sometimes you simply can't. It is a good team (and players), however, that have the ability to take them those failures in their stride. In the end all that matters are the final standings in April, how you get there is irrelevant.

Just some food for thought. Do you think Philly fans are questioning their team right now, asking why they didn't show up tonight? Maybe they are wondering where the effort was or why they let the Habs set the tone. Maybe they will question all their players that didn't score and praise their 4th line for contributing. I am betting that they do all of the above, and more. Now, from the perspective of a Habs fan do you think that is right? Do you think it was Philly that played bad and that is the only reason we won? Of course you don't. So please after the next loss (or series of losses) remember that there is another team out there trying as hard to win, and it isn't always due to a lack of effort on our part.


Overall Comments

There are so many things that I am happy with tonight and I have to start with the win. Right from the start of the game we played a very good style of hockey. In fact we played, what I consider to be, Montreal Canadiens hockey. We used our speed, took shots from good positions and even tried to be fancier than necessary. All of this, even the last point, helped us get at least 12 quality scoring chances and supplied us with a steady stream of goals from beginning to end. The fact that we exposed Philly for what I believe them to be, a weak defensive team, is also encouraging. Hopefully we (along with other teams in the East) will take full notice of this and we can all together put an end to this winning that I see they've been doing. Other areas that were nice to see tonight were goals from Kovy, Latendresse and Sergei, strong defensive play, which included the return of Komi and last, but not least, the continued strong play of Halak. All in all this is one we should be proud of and hopefully is a win that will set up a winning weekend. We have 2 games left now before Christmas and we are 4 points short of our goal. I think reaching our goal, on a 3-game win streak, would be an ideal way to start the break. To boot, Carbo will give the whole team a week off if they play well this weekend. Nothing like a little incentive to get the boys going again.

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