Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Game #1-4

Defence and Scoring, Not Toughness, Sends Boston Through

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Wednesday April 22nd, 2009
Opponent: Boston Bruins
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 1-4 - Loss

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

Habs goalscorers: Andrei Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Michael Ryder (2), David Krejci, Phil Kessel



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

Our lone goal had 21,273 people believing that a comeback may just be possible. The Habs started the game extremely well and managed to score that goal 40 seconds in. Nice passing by Kovalev and Koivu led to Kostitsyn having the puck on his stick just outside of the high-slot. A quick, well-placed, shot found its way through and gave the Habs the lead they so desperately needed.



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

Christopher Higgins
Higgins completed what was quite a solid playoffs tonight with another convincing performance. He has gone from a player that I was ready to let go, about a month ago, to a piece that I think is crucial to our success. We will need 6 better forwards than him, that is for sure, but as a penalty-killer and third-liner he has done well. I liked how he fought for pucks in the offensive zone tonight and how he never gave up. He has played some of his best hockey of late, when it counted the most.



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
Kovy chipped in an assist tonight as he was once again in on our main chances. His line played well, but went up against the dominant Chara on too many occasions. He was our best player on the PP, but we were missing the point-men to really get anything going. I think that the way he played in this series was another great indication of his true value and I hope that this wasn't his last game in le bleu, blanc et rouge.

Christopher Higgins
Chris had a look of frustration on his face all night and one would have to think he was showing a year's worth in this one. His season started with injury and only went downhill from there. He worked his way off a top-2 line by mid-season and only towards the end did he turn it around. This season Christopher may have cost himself future millions, but I think that he still belongs here. That look also showed that he cared, that he was upset about the way this all ended.

Andrei Kostitsyn
I am glad that Andrei scored tonight and only wish that he would have had another couple in him. He also played a strong game without the puck as he was quite physical along the boards. His main talent, however, is clearly his shot and it will be the new coach's challenge to find a way to get that shot off more during a game. Tonight he showed that playing alongside Kovalev is no problem as they were both two of our strongest players.

Defencemen

Mathieu Dandenault
Mat has probably (hopefully) played his last game as a Hab and tonight it was a decent one. It is unfortunate when he outplays players like Hamrlik and Komisarek, but tonight that was the case. Tonight he played for 25 minutes, blocked 4-shots, was even and joined in the attack quite nicely as he contributed 2 shots.

Josh Gorges
Josh was one of only 2 of our defencemen (Weber) not to be on the ice for a goal-against tonight which is considerable because he led the team with 26 minutes of ice. His highlight was a hip-check on Lucic during the first period, when the game was still within reach - the crowd went wild. I don't think that Josh can really be a top-3 defenceman in this league, but tonight he played with enough heart that he made up for it. I hope that he'll be back, but he needs at least 3-4 guys to step up ahead of him as 26 minutes is too much for this guy.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Carey didn't exactly cost us this game all on his own, but he didn't help the cause by any stretch of the imagination. Letting in 4 goals on 30 shots won't win you many games and isn't really what we needed to claw back into this one. There were a few key saves early on, but he never looked sure of himself all game. Aside from the goal there were posts and other near misses (on which he was beat) and my personal favorite, his arm-wave to the crowd after an easy save. It reminded me of Roy's last game as a Hab, maybe this will be the end for this 'All-Star' too.



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

The Habs were, once again, obsessed with physical play tonight. It was as if their pre-series strategy was based on TSN and CBC's false analysis which suggested that we weren't tough enough to face the Bruins. The ironic part of all of it is that while we were running around hitting them, they were the ones using their speed and scoring against us. Once those were considered our qualities, but I am no longer a believer of the myth that we art a fast team. If we were fast I would have liked to have seen Phil Kessel-like speed in at least one of the games, but I never did. Instead I saw Komisarek thinking that he was tougher than actual tough guys and I saw players who don't know how to hit getting hurt or penalized for their careless play. In the end we tried to play a new style, we tried to change our game, while the Bruins took a page from our 2008 books and beat us with goals and speed.


Overall Comments

I really liked how the game started and felt that after the first 17 minutes the Bruins were lucky to only be down by 1. We were all over Boston and I was thinking that a win tonight, coupled with some players coming back for Saturday's game could make this a real series. The Bruins, however, had other plans as they scored 2 late goals in the first to go up for good. First it was Hamrlik's turn to make the cough-up of the year to Ryder and then it was Komisarek (going to centre-ice to lay an unnecessary hit - at least he can use that to make more money when he is contract searching this summer - luckily for him no one watches hockey and they all actually think that he is good) and Higgins (getting badly beat on the half-boards) that made the mistakes on goal #2. We had a chance in the second to tie it up on the PP, but instead it was Boston who got the best chance after killing it off. The play was off-side, but that didn't stop Kessel from firing past a motionless Price. At that point the game was over and unfortunately the Habs played like it until the final horn.

I felt that some players played well tonight and some had great seasons. I am disappointed with the way that it ended, but not too surprised. Here is a team that is playing one of the worst goalies in the league on a nightly basis (the frustrating part is that we had a viable option), that has injuries to 4 of of it's top 10 players, that was up against the top team in the East (who were playing not only their best goalie, but one of the league's best and who had no major injuries) and that posted a pathetic 14 wins in the final 42 games of the year. It is of course upsetting tonight, but we all knew that this was coming, we knew it about 3 months ago. I want to thank you all, however, for what has been a fun season for me of talking and writing about hockey. I will never give up on this team and tomorrow marks the first day in a long countdown until training camp.

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