Saturday, February 07, 2009

Game #53

Halak's Illness Costlier Than We Had Thought

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday February 7th, 2009
Opponent: Toronto Maple Leafs
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 2-5 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Vesa Toskala (W)

Habs goalscorers: Matt D'Agostini, Tom Kostopoulos
Opposition goalscorers: Luke Schenn, Nikolai Kulemin, Jason Blake (2), Jeff Finger



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

Our second goal came after we were down by 3, but for the effort that I saw on the play it becomes the play of the game. A loose puck lying by Toskala's feet was just sitting there as the keeper had no idea where it was. One of the first players to spot the puck was Kostopoulos who dove to push it in. He didn't have to try that hard when we were clearly going to lose, but it was very much appreciated that he did. When I say that he didn't have to I only mean that, had he not, he wouldn't have stood out against this very ordinary group of Habs.



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

Andrei Markov
This was a very solid effort by Andrei. His pass on D'Agostini's goal and on a Higgins breakaway were plays that very few players in the world can make. He was our most consistent player tonight in a game that was all about ups and downs.



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

Matt D'Agostini
Matt was the fortunate recipient of a wide open net courtesy of Markov, but unlike Bou in the first, he made no mistake and buried it. He led the team with 5 shots and I felt played one of his more aggressive games of the past month.

Alexei Kovalev
No other player gained the zone as much as Alex did tonight and because of it we had a lot of quality scoring chances. On the PP rather than dumping it in Kovy was beating three men at the blue-line and stopping thus giving us possession at the point. He also added his 24th assist of the year on Matt's goal.

Tom Kostopoulos
Tom has been down on the 4th line for a few games now, but I felt tonight was his best proof that he could be back on the 3rd. In the end I think Carbo agreed with me as he gave Kostopoulos more ice-time than any other 3rd or 4th liner on the team. His 5th of the season was a great example of how you never know how or when goals will come and that in itself should be reason enough for everyone to keep trying right until the end.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Surprisingly enough Andrei was our only defenceman to get a penalty tonight - 2 minutes for interference (2 of our 37 PIM). That was, however, the only real low point that I saw in a solid game. He took a total of 3 shots (another 5 did not reach the net) and as usual led the team in minutes with very close to 25.

Roman Hamrlik
Hammer and O'Byrne were the only players to end the game with a positive rating tonight which does not surprise me in the least. Ryan has been playing well alongside Roman since his return and I think that most of that is due to the calming play of Hamrlik. Tonight he played such a solid game in his own end that I was actually never really worried about being scored on.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Wasn't expecting to play? Is that why he wasn't ready, is that tonight's excuse? 2 games in 2 nights in 2 different cities isn't something you want to make your goalies do, but when one is sick you would hope an All-Star could handle it. Well 5 weak goals and another 2 disallowed ones would make me disagree. I really don't know what is wrong, but what I do know is something has to change. Maybe Carey is the next Raycroft, maybe not, maybe this is the anomaly, his single rough patch of the year. What I do know though, is that we need wins and I don't think the Habs can keep letting up 4+ goals in every game. Right now we aren't scoring that much so it would help if we were getting some NHL-level goaltending. Carey's play was laughable tonight which is really disappointing considering the opponent and the need we had for 2 points.



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

Where has Josh Gorges been? Tonight he played 15 minutes and went a season-low -4. It wasn't, however, that far from the way he has been playing of late. To me it is worrying that someone we had hoped was a solid #3 is playing some very weak hockey. In his last 12 games he is -13, that is 34 points less than he was in his previous 35 games (+21). We can talk all we want about the need for more scoring and better goaltending, but at some point we need a third man to play well in our own end. This season has proven that O'Byrne, Brisebois, Dandenault, Bouillon and most disappointingly of all, Komisarek are, more often than not, liabilities in our own end. So, to see Josh slipping into that category makes me very worried, it makes me wonder how on earth we expect to win that Cup we all want when we are slowly playing ourselves out of the top 8.

I think that in Josh's case he is suffering from what O'Byrne suffered from earlier this year: very high expectations. Last year and at the beginning of this year we were all so impressed with Josh and saw whatever he did as a bonus. The casual hockey fan didn't even expect him to make the team last season and there he was playing as a valuable #4 or 5 man. With Komi's weak play, however, we have turned to Gorges too much in my opinion. We are asking way too much of a guy who has won our hearts by not being noticed. The overall minutes are up, the partner is worse and I think the most detrimental of all factors is the fact we are tiring him out on the PP. It doesn't take a hockey genius to see that he doesn't really belong on the PP and I just think we are wasting him (and the chances of our PP) by putting him out there. I think he needs to get back to the game he knew up until Christmas - behind the scenes, solid defensive play.


Overall Comments

When your goalie is unable to stop shots from 40'+ and when your offence is unable to score a goal before the other team you will get yourselves into trouble. Tonight was another one of those games that we were unable to impose our style on a team and they ended up having their way with us. It is like we lost the point tonight as we were often looking for big hits and fights rather than goals. More often than not that type of stupidity is reserved for the Leafs themselves which makes this one even harder to take. The whole Grabovski issue killed us tonight as we played right into the Leafs' hands. Trying to impress fans or the media players like Laraque, Komisarek and Bouillon went above and beyond to find Mikhail on the ice and I think that is one major factor why we lost this. Grabo was wise, however, as he didn't get involved and seemed more than happy with the 2 points. Another huge factor tonight, as it has been since Obama has been President, was the fact that the team did not look confident in front of a keeper who had even less confidence.

We are about to go on a 6-game road trip and I think this trip will make or break our season. If we can come home with 6+ points (please Habs, just go to OT once in a while) then I think we should be able to end the season strong. If the losing continues, however, and we come back with less than 6 points then I think we are in serious trouble and we will become a true contender for spots 9-15.

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