Thursday, April 09, 2009

Game #81

Habs In Playoffs; Lucky That Losing Gets Rewarded

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday April 9th, 2009
Opponent: Boston Bruins
Venue: TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA

Team StripesScore: 4 - 5 Loss (OT)

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

Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev, Matt D'Agostini (2), Mathieu Schneider
Opposition goalscorers: Patrice Bergeron, Phil Kessel, Mark Recchi (2), Zdeno Chara


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

Christopher Higgins was one of the only players playing to win this game once it was 4-4. He, like every fan in the world, must have realized that playing 'defensively' with 14 minutes left is the best way to get scored on. He had a great effort on a partial break, but the play of the game came a few minutes later. The play started when Weber dumped the puck into Boston's end without crossing centre (a horrible tendency of ours tonight). Icing looked a certainty yet again for a line that was getting tired (hence the dump in). Higgins, however, would have none of it and put on the jets to beat out the call. Because of that the Habs had the puck and Metropolit was able to pin it in the corner. This resulted in a Boston penalty which enabled us to avoid 1 1/2 more minutes of them coming at us with everything they had. That single play, in my mind, was a big reason why we are going to the dance.



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

Matt D'Agostini
Wow, two games and two game pucks for the forgotten kid on the Habs. Matt scored 2 goals tonight, both of which showed us how much talent he has on offence. The first goal was a give-and-go with Kostitsyn which fooled Boston very well and his second was a demonstration of incredible speed as he flew up the left wing to beat his man and then placed a perfect wrist-shot.


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

Christopher Higgins
Chris played a very strong game as he continues to thrive on the 4th line. I hope that Gainey realizes that this is the only role in which he has had success this season and therefore leaves him there for good. He may not have picked up any points, but he did play with tons of energy and passion.

Matt D'Agostini
For two games in a row now we have had a decent second line. I still think that we could get more out of Plekanec, but I at least feel that Matt's arrival has awoken Andrei. He only had 11 minutes of ice time tonight which is probably unfair considering the way he played. Does Gainey want guys on the ice that have experience like Dandenault (horrible game tonight) or does he want guys who are playing well at present? Unfortunately we all know the answer.

Alexei Kovalev
Alexei got the ball rolling when he scored a PP goal early in the second. It was another top-corner wrist-shot that was so perfectly placed. He was used for over 21 minutes tonight and played well in both ends. He looked much more comfortable on the PP as he now had 2 viable pass options on the blue-line.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
That is more like it Bob. Roman led the team in minutes with 27 which is what we need. Gorges and Komisarek had considerable trouble tonight so I glad Hammer was on. He was on the ice for a few goals against and, by no means played perfectly in his own end, but he was about the most solid. The thing that stood out to me, vs. our other D-men, was the control he had once he got the puck. He looked the least nervous out there and I think that really helped.

Mathieu Schneider
I am sure that you all know how happy I am that I can write Mat's name in here tonight. I never fully believed RDS's story, but I did admit it was the most likely scenario. I was hoping that, in this case, their pathetic journalistic values would prevail and that they would be wrong, yet again. For his part Schneids looked fantastic as he played a very calm game. He happened to be on the ice for all of our goals and only one of theirs (can't blame him on it though - was too easy to stop for Carey). He scored on our once-again clicking PP which netted three altogether tonight.

Goaltender

Jarsolav Halak
This game was a must win, we had to get into the playoffs tonight. This was by far our biggest game of the year and that meant the players had to treat it like that. As a unit our offence was productive as they scored 4 goals and took 39 shots, on the road, against the best team in the East. The defence certainly had their troubles, but managed to at least keep the shots below 35 for a change. Carey played so, so, but not well enough to beat the top-placed team in their barn. 5 goals on 33 shots just isn't the type of hockey that will win you a series. We will likely be playing a higher-ranked team than us in every round of the playoffs and that means we need some games to be stolen. Tonight was the same as we needed a steal. At the end of a tight game (tonight, next week or throughout the playoffs) I would put in our goalie who stops a higher percentage of the shots taken against him. Price had his chance, but has yet to prove that he is better than Halak. I will admit that he made some nice saves tonight, but come on, what goalie doesn'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

I was watching the game with a Habs fan of 30 years years tonight who made a very simple observation: how come I can't see the players in Boston's end when they have the puck or in our end when they come in, where are they? Maybe the fact we only see 1/4 of the ice on the TV had something to do with it, but I knew what he meant. For a good portion of this game we applied no pressure on the fore-check as we let Boston waltz out of their zone. This meant that they had better control of the puck and more speed as they skated through the neutral zone. Then in our end we just back up in front of them to see what they were going to do. We became so obsessed with getting caught on a pinch that we rarely attacked the puck-carriers. For some reason we thought that the way to hold a lead, or a draw, was to never get caught. Well, good teams, get caught, but then they get back and most of all they support each other. We should be able to afford two fore-checkers as we have the speed to get back. We should be able to stand someone up as he enters the zone as there should be someone covering if we get beat. It was probably more to do with nerves than anything tonight, but I'll tell you one thing, nervous teams don't win the cup.


Overall Comments

Going into this game we knew we couldn't rely on other teams, but I got the feeling that we assumed that somehow things would work out. Needing at least a point to clinch one would think that a good goal would be to win this game, to play with desperation and to treat it like a playoff game. That, however, wasn't the case as we played a very cautious first period. We certainly had our chances, but at the same time had no interest in letting Boston score. They did of course score and that changed things. Soon after they potted one Kovalev tied it up on what was the first goal of a wild period. That second period, despite being scored on twice within 4 minutes of Kovy's goal, went the Habs' way. We dominated play for the last 15 minutes of the 2nd as we scored 2 PP goals and another all within 10 minutes. Once the third period started we were the cautious bunch again. 20 minutes looked like too long to hold-on to a one-goal lead the way we were playing and, of course, it was. Boston scored and then we had 14 minutes to go without conceding again. For the first part of those 14 minutes we just let them come at us, but then, with about 7 minutes to go we started going for their goal. It was Higgins that really shifted the momentum with his breakaway and thankfully the last little bit of the game then went a bit faster. With playoffs now a certainty we played a little more carelessly in OT which of course led to the loss. The bottom line, however, is that we finished the round-robin in the top-8, now we can focus on some real hockey.

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