Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Game #42

A Hard Fought Game, But no Result

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday January 13th, 2009
Opponent: Boston Bruins
Venue: TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA

Team Stripes

Final Score: 1-3 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Tim Thomas (W)

Habs goalscorers: Andrei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Zdeno Chara (2), David Krejci



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

There were a few scoring chances, particularly Andrei's at the end, that could have gotten in here, but I thought our goal was the best of the bunch.

Our all-of-a-sudden potent PP was back at work tonight; it took less than a minute with an extra man to score a goal. Sergei was controlling the puck well to the left of Thomas and kept looking for some sort of opening. Once he realized that his brother had gained good position in front of the net he decided to take a shot. I think the shot was taken with the intention of becoming a juicy rebound. Indeed that is what happened and the puck came right to his older brother. Andrei was able to beat two defenders, and Thomas, to the puck and managed to get two whacks at it. The second one, as he was being pushed to the ice, proved to be our lone goal on the night.



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

Jaroslav Halak
Jaro was by far our best player tonight as he kept this game much closer than it could have been. He really excelled during our penalties as he made countless saves with his shoulder, gloves and pads. In all he stopped 26 shots, but it was Chara's shot, on a 5-on-3, which took the wind out of our sails. The shot was deflected by Markov up and over a perfectly positioned Halak; a goal which I felt killed what was turning into a perfect night for the Slovak.



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
Andrei scored our lone goal, but was also one of two Habs in the box for Boston's game-winner. I felt that he was unfairly punished for what looked to me like a very soft hit from the side (not from fully behind). He was awarded a 5 minute major which was the turning point, in my eyes, of the whole game. Once again the refs penalized based on the result (Ward fell in a massive heap and had to leave the ice) and not the action. Case in point would be a later hit from behind, by Latendresse, that went uncalled. I felt that Andrei was one of the only players trying to score tonight from beginning to end.

Sergei Kostitsyn
Sergei's great play on his brother's goal was just one of his good moments tonight. There were actually quite a few times where I was very happy with what he was doing. He worked hard in both ends with strong defensive play and a creativity that I didn't see in too many others. He continues to work very well with his brother as they continue to produce. Lang wasn't as big of a factor tonight as in previous games, so it really seemed like the brothers, at times, were out there alone.

Kyle Chipchura
Kyle played for less than 10 minutes tonight, but I felt he made full use of his time on the ice. He was 60% in the face-off circle, leading the Habs, and also played strong in his own end. I really appreciated his fight vs. Mark Stuart after he came to the defence of D'Agostini. A player like Kyle doesn't have to fight, no one expects him to fight and no one would be mad if he hadn't fought in this situation - for those reasons I love this play. He wants to prove he can old his own in this league and, although the fight wasn't the best I've seen from a Hab, I felt he did admirably. A team is built by team players and tonight that is exactly the type of player Chips was.

Defencemen

Francis Bouillon
This was not a strong game from our defence. Halak bailed out the usual suspects too many times for me to count so, in the end, it doesn't appear too bad. But, things weren't easy for our group tonight. A potent Boston fore-check meant we had to be more alert in our own end and frankly I didn't think we were. Francis is among the very small group of defenders who actually didn't play that badly. He was able to settle things down in our end on numerous occasions and was even one of our best at moving the puck up the ice.

Andrei Markov
You can add covering for a completely out-of-position-Komisarek to the list of Andrei's many talents. Time and time again Mike went for the big hit (and most of the time he did make a good hit) which left a lot of odd man situations. What Komi obviously doesn't realize is that a hit at our blue-line with the puck behind him is no different to him falling. We gain nothing from those plays apart from a 1 on our hit tally; and occasionally a 1 on the goals total of the opposition. Andrei couldn't help being on the ice for both PP goals against us and was unlucky to see the winner go off his stick. He did, however, have a very strong game on the PK. He played well offensively, but didn't do anything special when that is what we really needed.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
I am really happy with the way Halak is playing as of late. He, like tonight, is giving us a serious chance to win in every game. Boston is a strong team, especially at home with a lead. So, it may have taken a shutout to beat them as it is so hard to get goals of our own. Jaro actually wasn't too far off shutout form and I find that very encouraging. He controlled rebounds well and played well with the puck behind the net - all in all it was a good effort.



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 really didn't like what I saw with 2 minutes left from Carbo. Instead of going with 2 offensive lines he went with the media darlings and it cost us not only a chance to tie it up, but it also cost us a goal. I love the work Lapierre, Latendresse and Kostopoulos are doing, but we can't forget they are a grinding line, a third line at best, who are great at eating up minutes and occasionally creating a goal. They are definitely no sure bets when it comes to needing that goal and that is why I would have never played them with 2 minutes left. It is one thing giving them some PP time in recognition of their hard work during the game, but it is another to look to them as the clock is ticking down. What Carbo must also be aware of is that not only do they have a lower chance of scoring, but they are also (of the 3 top lines) the worst defensively.

I decided rather than just claiming all of the above I would back it up with some stats. I looked at the combined totals of the three members of each line and divided them by the total number of games played by the trio. Lapierre's line bottoms out in all 3 categories I looked at. They score 0.16 goals/game which is considerably lower than the other two lines, Lang's and Plekanec's, which are at 0.32 and 0.24 respectively (40 and 20 goals less/season). The gap gets larger when it come to points/game as Lapierre's trio's mark of 0.37 PPG is almost half that of the other lines - 0.65, 0.62. So offensively they are not the answer, that much is clear, especially when you have two better lines that have been playing well, but I also wouldn't want that trio on at the end of the game when you know a 2-goal deficit would be impossible to make up. Their line is +0.07 /game which again is less than the +0.21 and +0.16 of Lang's and Plekanec's lines.

A coach should play the odds in times like these, because if he doesn't you can bet the odds will work against him. That, of course, is precisely what happened. Boston wanted a goal of their own to secure their lead and they had the easiest go of it as we didn't put our most capable assets on the ice. I really love the work that this line is doing, but let's not all mix up excellence with normal expectations. Right now they are playing like a third line should, better than any third line we have had in years, but that won't (on average) win us games.


Overall Comments

The start of this game was another classic case of us not capitalizing on our chances. We were all over Boston in the first period, but we came out of it no better off than they did. Our shot total of 17 (with no PPs) was impressive, but with no goals to show for it I felt it helped Boston more than it did us. We did carry that strong play into the second where an early PP goal put us on the board. But, as you know, if we get a PP then so will the opposition. It is not NHL-possible to not be penalized in a game after you have had (and especially scored on) a power-play. So, all Boston had to do was wait for their chance and the game of baseball would begin. They definitely got the benefit of doubt on two straight calls that saw them get a 5-on-3. After that, with the score at 1-2, the Habs seemed out of it. We didn't seem like we were mentally strong enough to overcome a third period deficit against a team who has yet to lose a game while leading after 2. It was, however, exciting till the finish, but the quality chances, for the Habs, really dried up in the latter half of the game. The game itself wasn't a must-win and I can't say we played poorly, so in fact there is nothing to worry about. We'll call this a routine loss as we start to focus on Thursday's game.

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