Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Game #70

Habs Secure Crucial Point, Price Laughable in Tie-Break

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday March 17th, 2009
Opponent: New York Rangers
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-4 - Loss (SO)

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist (W)

Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev (1, SO), Maxim Lapierre, Andrei Markov (1, SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Nikolai Antropov (1, SO), Nikolai Zherdev, Ryan Callahan, (Markus Naslund - SO, Chris Drury - SO)



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

The first time we came back wasn't the most crucial, but it was our nicest play of the game. With the game at 0-1 we were presented with our 5th PP of the night. Time was running down in the second period so a goal was almost needed to keep us in the game. A Ranger tried to shoot the puck out of the zone, but Schneider made a great play at the blue-line to get his body in front of the puck and keep it in. He then got the puck to Markov at the left point. With little to no hesitation Andrei fired a perfect pass to Kovalev. Like we have all seen so many times before a quick one-timer followed, the puck was in the net and Kovalav was dramatically rolled over on his back.



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

Andrei Markov
What an excellent player, what an excellent game. Andrei picked up points on all 3 of our goals and scored on the shootout. In a post-2nd period interview he stated that it was like a playoff game and that it was a really important game. It is no surprise, therefore that he contributed in a such a way. His 2 goals were absolutely spectacular as was his pass on Kovy's.



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
The thing I was most excited about tonight was the return of Kovalev and he didn't disappoint. He was very involved offensively and gave us a few things we lacked in our past 2 outings - creativity and the ability to enter the opposition's zone with ease. He scored a crucial PP goal and added one on the shootout that should have been enough.

Christopher Higgins
Chris played a good game beside Max and Kovy and had he been given the gift of hands he may even have scored a couple of goals. His best moments tonight came when he was penalty-killing as that is really a role that he seems comfortable in. He played with energy tonight and was rewarded for it with 20+ minutes of ice.

Maxim Lapierre
Rounding out our dome line is the third member of our third line. Call it what you will, but any line with Kovalev, to me, is a better line than one with Pacioretty and D'Agostini. Nothing against those 2, but let's face it this wasn't a demotion for Alex, but likely a promotion for Max and Chris. Lapierre for his part played a very good game in all aspects. He scored a crucial goal (our 2nd of 3 tying goals) on a beautiful move, he also led the team in hits with 6 and face-off wins as he went 10-6. Max, like Chris, was also a force on the PK and was equally rewarded for his strong play with 20 minutes of ice of his own.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Where oh where would we be without this player? After a week that has been all about Brodeur and Roy I started to think about the best Hab since Patrick. There have been a lot of great candidates - Kovalev, Recchi, Theodore, Koivu, Malakhov, Damphousse, Ryder, Souray, Streit, Turgeon, Zednik - but I think Andrei is slowly moving into a top 3 (if not top) spot. Tonight he not only shone on offence, but was stellar in his own end. He was on the ice for all of our goals (including a SO goal) and wasn't on for any of New York's.

Mathieu Schneider
A great play on the PP led to our first goal. Before that, however, he had put together 2 solid periods. He played a very sturdy game at the back, exactly the way you would expect a veteran (if only...) to play and a way that you would hope a youngster (who wears an 'A') would play. His 2 blemishes were a penalty he took, which didn't result in a goal, and being on the ice for New York's third amid total team confusion.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Price didn't have a horrible 65 minutes, but they weren't spectacular either. He faced 42 shots and only let in 3. I felt two glaring deficiencies were evident on all of their goals - huge rebounds (a very serious problem tonight, not just on the goal) and the speed at which Price goes down. Other teams, all having at least 18 players each that can do this, have learned to lift the puck against Carey; there has been no adaptation to this by us. On the shootout I couldn't believe my eyes. How can someone be so bad at breakaways? Antropov, Naslund and Drury are NHL 2nd or 3rd liners at best and in the end they all looked like they were the All-Stars. When our team scores 2 in the SO it should be enough, let it be a lesson for next time - if Carey is in nets, no it isn't.



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

We still let up 40+ shots tonight, but I thought that overall we played a decent game and that included an improvement, remarkably, in our defensive play. There was one simple play that we did over and over that I hadn't noticed much of late and I was actually happy to see. What we were doing was we were playing the puck backwards in the neutral or defensive zones. Instead of dumping the puck or inevitably giving it up in another fashion we were turning back when there was no route out and starting again. This all comes back to the key of any team sport and that is possession. Once the Habs realize that possession at all costs is the key I think there will be a turn around. The good news is that I saw slight indications of this tonight and think some players may be seeing the picture. We certainly have the players to break the zone, but we must be smart enough to realize when it may not be available for another moment or two.


Overall Comments

All it would have taken tonight for a win would have been 1 or maybe 2 movements during the shootout from Price. Instead he played the 'just stand there and go down' card 3 times. It basically cost us a feel good extra point, which would of course coincided with one less for NYR (a 2-point swing). Aside from the shootout I felt we played quite a good game. I was more nervous than I had been in a while and I think I sensed that in the players too. I will give them credit though as they came back 3 times. We played with a lot of energy and generated some very good chances. No players really stood out for the wrong reasons tonight as they all seemed to want the win more than anything. Starting in the first period this was a game that could go down as one of those great team-working/team-building examples. We all played for each other and you could see it on the players' faces. New York definitely took advantage of some opportunities, but I didn't think they were the outright better team. This game should have gone down as a tie if it wasn't deemed that a tie was too boring for non-hockey watching Americans to bear. Both teams probably deserved the win, neither deserved to lose. The bottom line, however, is that we took the loss and that means we face two MUST-WIN games against our neighbours from Ontario this week. It won't be easy against the golf course-bound clubs as they seem more content on finishing 11th than getting Tavares. I say, for heaven's sake, let's help them get Tavares.

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