Sunday, February 01, 2009

Game #50

3 Mistakes, 1 Chance Too Few; Boston Win Another in Montreal

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Sunday February 1st, 2009
Opponent: Boston Bruins
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes
Final Score: 1-3 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Tim Thomas (L)

Habs goalscorers: Robert Lang
Opposition goalscorers: Dennis Wideman, Shawn Thornton, Marc Savard



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

Lang's goal was nice, but I think that a later chance by Andrei Kostitsyn was my play of the game. It happened in the second period and could have given us our second goal. Andrei broke into the zone down the right wing and found himself with a clear shot at the net. He unloaded a potent snap-shot that hit the post above Thomas' glove hand. It was a subtle reminder of how the game of hockey is really just a game of inches and of how the Bruins are not, as we seem to believe, immune to defensive mistakes.



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

Carey Price
I can trace all 3 goals to one player - Komisarek, Latendresse, Andre Kostitsyn - and I never felt that Carey was to blame. I think that he played a very good game considering how average (to way below average) he has been as of late. He only made 20 stops, but I feel that only allowing 2 goals should be enough for our team. For once we let in less than 4, but our offence, unfortunately, didn't play as well as Price.



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

Robert Lang
Late in the first period Lang took one hell of a shot to beat Thomas on the PP. His game started well as he was honoured as our player of the month for January and by scoring his 18th he kept the good times rolling. He played a decent game from there on in, but his game came to an abrupt end with what looked like a knee injury. I can only imagine it won't be good news for the Habs in his case as he was taken to hospital before the game even ended.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Like Brunet and the rest of RDS will tell you (on every shift), Andrei can be better. He has 30+ goal potential, but I must remind people that that means at least 52 games without a goal. We don't pay him to be a leader, to be our best defensive player, no, we pay him to score. I think he is doing just fine in that regard. Yes, he can be better, but he is also consistently one of our best players. It is easy to point the finger when we lose and it seems that certain players (Europeans, Americans, Canadians from west of Ottawa) feel the brunt of the criticism. He assisted on Lang's goal and had our best chance other than that.

Max Pacioretty
I liked the way the kid played tonight. He skated, won battles along the boards and had a vision that created chances for him and his linemates. Unfortunately Carbo preferred players like Kostopoulos and Lapierre to Max tonight which of course limited his chances and, in effect, the Habs' chances to score.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
Our defence played a decent enough game. Apart from Komisarek's brutal give-away right up the middle at the end of the first we were more or less blemish free. Hamrlik, I thought, was the best of the crew in our own end. He once again played with all sorts of partners, including Alex Henry, but didn't let it affect his game. He and O'Byrne were the only players without a minus rating, but, unlike Ryan, Roman was able to stay out of the box.

Andrei Markov
This again wasn't Andrei's best game, but he was still better than 4 other defencemen today. He picked up an assist on Lang's goal and now has 40 points. He is leading NHL defencemen in points, leading our team in points and now has 13 points in his last 12 games. All I can say is that it is nice to have at least one player who isn't affected by our current skid.

Goaltender

Carey Price
If I am Guy Carbonneau I start Halak in this one. I probably would have split the weekend and gone with Jaro yesterday, but considering Price played I would have given the reins to the Slovak today. Despite all of that Carey played well. For me it was important to see how he would play in a 'playoff' type game and I thought he did well. Beating Boston is proving to be harder than we ever thought, but today Price gave us a very good chance at pulling it off.



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

Are people mad that Kovalev won MVP last week? Are they wondering why he can't play like that in each and every game? I bet they are. The problem is that he isn't Gretzky, Lemieux or Ovechkin. Kovalev is a great player, but he shouldn't be expected to do it all, all of the time. Yes his numbers are down this year, but I don't believe the effort is. We all know that during his long goaless stint he was playing very good hockey. It is easy for reporters to forget that now, however, and claim he played badly during that period. If any of you are athletes that are good but aren't necessarily the best ever you will realize how hard it is to be excellent in each and every game. It isn't hard for Lapierre to hit and chase in each game (and I bet Kovalev could do it better if those were his only skills), but let's face it, that takes no skill. It takes effort and heart, but I believe that Kovalev has played with both of these all year. He is being punished for not being excellent, for not taking charge of games when in reality that shouldn't be his responsibility. In fact, that is no one player's job. We are the type of team that must play well together to win. So, why take our best option off the ice, why bench him again? Why play players like Kostopoulos and Latendresse in critical situations? I think Carbo is just wasting opportunities in the present and the future. By telling Alex that effort and heart aren't good enough, that he must score to play, we aren't really being fair to the team or fans. I always love when Kovy pulls a trick out of his hat and wins us a game, but I realize that that is what makes him special. It's his ability to win us games. The key word there is his 'ability'. He can't do it every time, even if he tries, because hockey isn't that simple, it takes a lot more than one player to win at this level.


Overall Comments

If Komisarek ices the puck instead of sending it along the ice in the slot with 2 seconds left or if Andrei's shot hits the inside of the post, not the outside, or if Latendresse doesn't leave his position to give Bouillon (after coughing it up at the blue-line) his stick then we could have won the game. Everyone, even the media, would be talking about how well we played, about how we are back on track and about how the Bruins aren't really that imposing after all. None of that happened, however, and now all I hear is negativity and the footsteps of people getting off the bandwagon. What I look for in each game is a sustained effort, an appropriate amount of quality chances and I look to see if we could have actually won the game if one or two things went differently. Today I saw all of that and so I think this was a decent game. It doesn't make up for some poor performances last week, but on its own it was OK. The Bruins are, for some reason, an incredible team this year and while I don't believe that they are unbeatable, I do believe that they are a very competitive team and that a win against them will always be hard. Today they showed that they likely have the best goalie in the league and they also played with a very high level of dedication to their defensive system. They realize that a strong defensive team who plays responsibly and patiently will be rewarded for their efforts by their less defensively-responsible opponents. Today that is exactly what happened. They never really looked too threatening offensively, but they did take advantage of 3 of our brutal mistakes. All 3 of those plays were things that could be easily avoided, but I think that it shows that we aren't quite there yet, we aren't quite a great team.

We have a chance this week to beat up on some less fortunate teams and I think it would be an ideal time to start a new winning streak. If we do, however, get ready to let a whole lot of fans back on board.

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