Friday, March 20, 2009

Game #71

Halak Shows How Wins Are Possible - With Saves

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday March 19th, 2009
Opponent: Ottawa Senators
Venue: Scotiabank Place, Kanata, ON

Team Stripes

Score: 4 - 5 Loss

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price, Jaroslav Halak (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Brian Elliott (W)

Habs goalscorers: Guillaume Latendresse (2), Alex Tanguay, Tom Kostopoulos
Opposition goalscorers: Nick Foligno, Jason Spezza (2), Jarkko Ruutu, Daniel Alfredsson


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

Gainey made the play of the game tonight, it was, however, made too late in the game. He had the chance to make it before the game started, he then had chances to make it after our third goal and even after the 1st period, instead he waited till Ottawa scored 4. The play of course was pulling Price and putting in our best goalie, our best chance at a win. Since I have seen this film before I knew that after the second goal Price was done, there was no way we could win with him in nets. The 2 subsequent goals proved that he can be very consistent at certain things.


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

Guillaume Latendresse
I have an idea - Gui is playing well, let's move him up to a top 2 line. Ha, that not only would be about the third time we had rewarded him this year in a similar way, but it would also likely be the third time he shuts down. Gui does very well on the 3rd line and if that works for him, then it works for me. He played with a lot of energy and heart and scored 2 very important goals. He once again proved how good of a scorer he can be when he gets the puck in the right spot. Put him in the slot, put the puck on his stick and give him a bit of space and I like his chances.


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

Tom Kostopoulos
I quite liked the way Tom played tonight and to boot he added 3 points. 1 goal and 2 assists led the way for the Habs tonight who were happy to get some serious production from their often quiet players. He may not have had too much to do with any of these goals (a deflection being the highlight), but it was the way he played in the lead up that was encouraging. He is not afraid to fight hard for the puck and what he lacks in skill is often made up for by persistence.

Christopher Higgins
Chris had a few chances tonight, but was once again good at what are becoming his bread and butter: fore-checking and battling. I no longer think of Chris as a scorer, I don't think you do, I don't think the team does, but finally I don't think he does. Since about January he has realized he will likely never be a 40-goal man, so instead he has focused on other areas. Tonight he stood out in those areas and for that I am happy.

Guillaume Latendresse
Gui became our 10th 10-goal scorer which shows just how spread out our scoring has been. It probably explains why coaches (and media and fans) with little patience can't stand watching each player go between 60-70 games without scoring; hence the constant line changes. Gui was our best player tonight, but probably won't be on Saturday and that is really a huge trend with the Habs this season. When we realize that the only thing that matters are wins, and not personal stats, or how many goals our stars get, we may actually get some of them. Keep the players happy, keep them working and get goals from whoever. Tonight Gui played a great game, as did his linemates, but don't be too shocked if we don't see them on the scoresheet for a few.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
How many pucks did Andrei keep in at the point tonight? He wasn't just keeping plays alive on the PP, but was doing it on a consistent basis at even-strength. It looks like Gainey finally saw what I (and everyone in the world) have been seeing from Komi - horrible play. The solution was Schneider was playing with Markov and Mike played only 16 minutes (his second lowest total of the year). Andrei was only on the ice for 2 goals tonight, both were against, but neither were anywhere near his fault.

Roman Hamrlik
Roman contributed with a big shot (assist) on our 4th goal, a goal that looked like the start of what was going to be a great comeback. The comeback was not to be, but that didn't stop Hammer from finishing the game very strong. He played a solid defensive game which included a solid play on Ruutu's goal - it was shot that should have been stopped. Hamrlik had taken Jarkko to the outside and given him nothing (on most goalies) to shoot at.

Goaltender

Jarsolav Halak
Price was quite bad tonight as he once again let up 4 goals. This time it was 4 on 15 shots; by 22 minutes he had given us a mountain to climb. Jaro came in 1 goal too late, I thought, but still gave us a serious chance to win. He let in 1 goal on 24 shots and made a save on a breakaway. The worst part, however, is that Halak took the official loss tonight, not Carey. Fuel for Carey supporters (Gainey), no doubt, at the end of the year when they compare the two keepers. They should have another column, a 'cost the Habs a game' stat, something to show this wasn't really Halak's loss. The bottom line is this; we are not a good enough team to go anywhere with Carey. He could probably win the cup with Detroit and we have even seen him do very well with good teams in front of him (Canada, Hamilton), but we also saw that he was no miracle worker in Junior (a bad - average team). Our only other option is Halak and we all know he can't do any worse. Can he make the playoffs for us, or better? Who knows, but I will say, for the 100th time, why not let him see how far he can take us?



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

There was a play in first period that was simple enough, but I think really sums up a lot for the Habs. The puck was sitting on the side of the net, by Price's feet, and he swept it, quickly, into the corner. Markov was right there, about to collect the puck before Carey had basically given it over to Ottawa. The turn-over led to over a minute extra in our zone and another 30-45 seconds after an icing. This play tells me a few things. When players rush things such as simple plays in their own end they are nervous, nervous players cannot win. The fast sweep was the equivalent to a soccer team kicking the ball out of play at all costs when it is in their end - it is desperation defence. It also says that there is very little trust between goaltender and defence and vice versa. This is a sad fact, especially considering the two players concerned were both All-Stars and we are in March. It was a simple play which was amplified into some serious chances against us. This play, unfortunately, was a just a snippet of what is happening in our own end on a much too consistent basis. Trust, Patience and Confidence apply to virtually every facet of life, including sports. And, like in life, you will never succeed in sport until you, and your teammates, posses all 3.


Overall Comments

Sadly I thought that the Habs played one of their best games, if not their absolute best, under Gainey. Whether Carey was derailed thanks to Tuesday's shootout or because of today's 1st couple of goals is neither here nor there as an NHL-starter cannot get hung up on previous mistakes. I felt that the team played quite well in front of their goalies tonight as 4 road goals is no small feat. We once again let up a lot of shots (39), but at least we were able to take 32. Ottawa allowed us to play the style we wanted which was an open, offensive style. Had Jaro been in the whole game I think that this would have been a big win. We were smart about penalties as we were only called for 2 minors, we lived without any unnecessary boxing matches (no fighters were dressed) and were really just interested in trying to score. We are at our best when we can skate fast and when we can get creative in the offensive zone. We are horrible at trying to be defensive and, when we do pull that off, it is our offence that tends to suffer. So, overall this was a positive game, I thought. The best thing that could come out of this is, of course, Halak gets more starts which will hopefully lead to the only thing that matters at all - wins.

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