Thursday, December 31, 2009

Game #43

Montreal's Offence Allow Its Goalies To Have A Rare Night Off


Details


Date: 31/12/09
Opponent: Panthers
Location: Florida


Win: 5-4

Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Vokoun (L)

Habs goalscorers: Gill, Cammaelleri, Plekanec, Bergeron, Pouliot
Opposition goalscorers: Ballard, Horton, Frolik, Dvorak



Play of the game


I am going to go for the nicest goal tonight as it not only was very pretty, but it also put us in the lead for the first time; a lead that we would never give up. The goal started with some hard work behind the net from Plekanec and then Pacioretty (filling in for the injured Andrei Kostitsyn). It was Max who eventually got the puck to Markov at the point and it was Pleks who went to the net. The shot came in from the left point and then, from his knees, Plekanec spun around and scored what may go down as one of the best 10 Habs goals of the year.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Forwards

Tomas Plekanec
He did it all on this night and ended 2009 on a very high note. He potted his 10th goal and 46th point, played over 22 minutes, took a game-high 8 shots and had another better than 50% night in the face-off circle. It is amazing the difference that a year can make as he now heads into 2010 as our top offensive forward and our best chance at a 90-point season.

Mike Cammaelleri
Another Hab to end the year very well is of course Mike. He hasn't scored at the same pace lately as he did throughout earlier parts of the year, but as 2010 starts he already has 20 goals in the bank. The best part about the way Camms has played is that he has found chemistry with 2 of our 2008-2009 holdovers which means we didn't have to use all 3 of our UFA signings together. He has been a big reason for the resurgence of Kostitsyn and Plekanec as the Habs can now count on 2 very good lines - something that was a serious concern in September.

Brian Gionta
Brian's hard work and high-energy style of play continued in this game. He is the biggest reason that we now have a quality second line as Gomez and Pouliot are now much better players thanks to his presence. In all that line had 5 points last night with Gionta getting 2 of those; his 16th and 17th of the season.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov - Game Puck
It is hard to think of a new thing to say every night for this player, but I am wise enough to know that I will likely have to. What I liked most from this game was that he was on the ice for 3 of our goals and 0 of theirs which is quite impressive. He doesn't, however, just happen to be on the ice for our goals, but is actually a big reason we score them as he picked up 3 assists in all. He now has an amazing 11 points (all tallied on this road trip) which puts him at fourth on the team for defenceman scoring already. I can only hope that he starts 2010 as strong as he ended this year as he has not only proven himself to be a top talent in the league, but he is also helping the Habs (in most areas of their play) to establish themselves as a quality team from the East.

Hal Gill
It isn't often that you'll see Hal Gill in here, but he does actually deserve the credit. In fact, he has been a much better player than any of us had thought which means our defence is quite a bit deeper than we had all predicted. I was happy to see Hal score his 2nd on the year as I feel he is the ultimate team guy and generally does all of the thankless tasks. He clocked in at just over 16 minutes which I think may be ideal when you consider than our top-4 are quite capable of about 20-24 minutes each.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Halak didn't play too bad in this game, but he wasn't the reason that we won either. You can still look at his 5 wins on this trip, however, and thank him for at least 6, maybe 8 of those points as he has been absolutely dominant. In this game, though, he wasn't at his best and, thankfully, his teammates took care of him. The first two goals were tough to stop and the other two may have been gettable, but in the end you can't really let up 4 to Florida on the road. Now, I will certainly let him off of the hook thanks to his recent play, but I will still put Carey in the dome as I know Jaro could have been better and that Price probably would have been.


Comments


This game was wide open and exciting and was exactly the type of game that you would expect to see from the Habs at this stage. They certainly had the will to win, but you could tell, especially by some of their defensive lapses and giveaways, that they were a bit mentally fatigued. This game marked the end of a ridiculous December which included 17 games, a 7-game road-trip, Christmas, the Centennial and Gala and quite a few injuries. You have to, therefore, hand it to this group for ending on such a high note and for, somehow, finding the will to win this game. No one would have batted an eye had they lost as their trip was already deemed a success, but they were greedy and they had no interest in seeing 2 winnable points go to waste. So, they ended this most hectic of months (and most tumultuous of years) on a very positive note. They didn't reach my (ambitious) December goal of 20 points, but to get 19 (and 12 of 14 on the road to finish up) is still a major accomplishment. They are now very much in the mix for a playoff spot which I think is now goal #1 (and only). They have 39 games to go of which the majority (21) will be at home which should serve as a bit of an advantage. First up, however, is January which won't be nearly as crazy a month as December was. In all we have 13 games (4 less than last month) of which 7 will be at home and I think this our time to make a move. I am hoping for 15 points and will, therefore, set that as our goal as I continue to take this season one step and one challenge at a time.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Game #42

Habs Get Another 2 Road Points As Refs Let 'Em PLay

Details


Date: 30/12/09
Opponent: Lightning
Location: Tampa Bay


Win: 2-1 (OT)

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Smith (L)

Habs goalscorers: Gionta, Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Foster



Play of the game


When the refs decided to put their whistles away (at the start of the third) the Habs were slow on the uptake. They did, however, by OT realize that cheating was not only allowed, but was quite advisable. It was Cammalleri who took the most advantage of this when he tripped Stamkos in our own end and stole the puck away. Doing this in OT meant that there was a lot of open ice and so off he went with Pleks on a 2-on-1. Tomas had the puck and waited and waited before he decided that shooting was the best option. He put the puck in the opposite (left) bottom corner and grabbed 2 points for the Habs.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Forwards

Tomas Plekanec
Tomas played a much better game tonight than he did against Ottawa. The obvious thing to point to is the OT winner, but he was also much better at face-offs and at winning his 1-on-1 battles too. Today was a good day for our star as he was not only our OT hero, but he was also named to his country's Olympic squad.

Matt D'Agostini
Hamrlik's return meant something had to give. Taking Bergeron out seems silly as he is a true force on the PP. Likewise for Gill as he has been nothing but solid as of late, especially on the PK. So, it was really between 3 players - D'Ags, Pacioretty and O'Byrne. MaxPac was the one who ended up sitting and it was, therefore, Matt who moved up to the third line and I am happy to report that he did not waste his chance. This was probably his best game of the season as he took quite a few shots and had one thing on his mind: score.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Plekanec's line was our best and I thought all 3 players did quite well. I did, however, think that Andrei was a slightly bigger threat than Mike. He had 4 shots on net including a backhand in the third period that almost surprised Smith. He may have ended the game at -1 and with 0 points, but he is so far removed from the player who was posting identical stats in October and November.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
This was Markov's 6th game back and it also marked the 6th game in a row in which he posted a point - he now has 8. Believe it or not, if he keeps that up he would end up with a 60+ point season which, in 47 games, would have to be Norris worthy. He also was +1 tonight and, therefore, is now +4 on the year. Tonight he showed, again, that he is our best player as he got it done at both ends of the ice.


Roman Hamrlik
It was great to see Hammer back, but somewhat of a surprise to see him playing almost 23 minutes, including a good amount of time on the second PP unit. Now, if that surprised me, what didn't was his play as he was the same, solid defender that we have come to depend upon. It was certainly nice to see him in at the same time as Markov as we now boast two very good pairings. A sour point on his day may be that he wasn't selected for the Czech team which I think is crazy. One can only think that if he can carry a team like the Habs' defensive corps for half of the year he could easily be a top-7 man for his country.

Goaltender

Carey Price - Game Puck
5 games off didn't seem to have any negative effects on Carey as he put together a very solid game. He was especially good towards the end of regulation and in OT. I felt that he found pucks around him very well and that he was very much in control of his crease and the surrounding areas. I assume it will be Halak tomorrow, as there isn't much rest time to be had, but I wouldn't be shocked or upset if Price go the call.


Comments


The second half of the season started quite a bit better than the first half ended on Monday night as the Habs were ready for this game. Tampa, however, was also ready which meant we were in for a good game. If you wanted to see good passing, good goaltending and good scoring chances then this game was for you - a far cry from games against teams like Minny and NJ. I actually thought that it was quite entertaining and that 35 shots each was a good amount as neither team really dominated play. The Habs now have one game remaining in this busy month and this lengthy road-trip. We go into tomorrow's tilt with Florida with 17 points in 16 games in December and 10 in 6 games on this road-trip. Add to that the fact that we are now boasting a pretty complete line-up (only Mara is missing) and one has to not only like our chances of finishing the year strong tomorrow, but of also having a strong start to 2010. I am convinced that if we can stay healthy and can get good goaltending we will find a way to get into the playoffs come April time.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Game #41

Montreal Play The Waiting Game, But Power-Play Never Comes

Details


Date: 28/12/09
Opponent: Senators
Location: Ottawa

Loss: 2-4

Habs Goalie: Halak (L)
Opposition Goalie: Leclaire (W)

Habs goalscorers: Cammalleri, Pouliot
Opposition goalscorers: Regin, Shannon, Neil, Campoli



Play of the game


The Habs were flying early on and their 1-0 goal was proof of just that. It was Plekanec who, I thought, did the best work on the play by keeping a dump-in alive from behind the net. The puck then ended up back at the left point with Markov. He blasted a pass to Kostitsyn who was waiting in Kovalev's spot (you know the one) beside the net. Instead of shooting, however, Andrei fired another pass cross-ice to Cammalleri who had a relatively easy shot on goal.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Forwards

Brian Gionta
It was really good to see Brian back as I had kind of forgotten what this player brings to the table. He brought a lot of energy, great hands around the net and a chemistry with his linemates that cannot be taught. In all his 6 shots led the team and, I thought, that he was very unlucky not to score.

Scott Gomez
- Game Puck
Scott has been playing well as of late, but not this well. He is clearly not the same player without Gionta and is everything that one would hope for with him. He engaged his wingers so well in this game (even Pouliot played better) that I think they looked like our top line throughout. He also did a good job on the PK where he, once again, worked very well with Sergei.

Mike Cammalleri
Mike had chances, but he also had a lot of bad moments in his own end. In the end, however, I thought that the good outweighed the bad, the highlight of course being his 19th of the year. It wasn't the greatest 2nd and 3rd periods for his line, and I really would have liked to see them go to work on the PP, but, in the end, he was still one of our 3 best.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Andrei has played better, much better, since his return, but at the end of the day he was still our best defender, by a lot. He contributed very nicely to the offence throughout (especially early on) and was our most reliable defender in our own end. He ended up being on the ice for both of our goals (no coincidence) and was only around for 1 of the
Senators' goals - Campoli's empty-netter.

Josh Gorges
I have seen Josh play better this year, but tonight he had to compensate a bit more for a weak partner than he usually does. I felt that Gill was a bit more of a liability tonight than he has been of late and it was Gorges who, most of the time, cleaned things up. It would be nice to see Josh play with Hammer when the big-man gets back as I feel that would give the Habs two really solid and dependable pairings.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Not Jaro's best game of the trip, but still he wasn't the reason that we lost. He did let in 3 on 27 shots (.889) which is bodering on bad, but I felt that tonight was the night that his lack of defensive support caught up with him. The second goal, on the PP, was a screened shot that was hard to pick up (he barely reacted) and then the third was very questionable indeed. There was a thought that it was batted in, but, upon review, they determined that it was a good goal. How does the league then, 5 minutes later change the goal from being a Michalek goal to a Neil goal? Now, I am not saying it was clean or not, but isn't the review supposed to determine if it is a good goal? And, one would think, that a big part of knowing if it is good is knowing who actually scored it. By changing the goalscorer 5 minutes after the review one sees how the league simply lacks patience and can't wait the extra time, during the video-review, to get things right at the potential detriment of the defending team. Typical NHL, as it may have cost us the game. To me they determined that Michalek didn't bat it in with that first review, but did Neil? The guy who actually touched it last? Brutal.


Comments


I was in attendance tonight as I made the trip west on the 417. It was a good game, at the start, filled with excitement and Habs goals. At 2-0 up, however, the Habs decided to stop their attack and to play a more conservative, dump-and-chase, style. So, with 50 minutes to go they wanted to see if they could hold on. Usually this is such a great strategy that I am shocked that it didn't work...I'll tell you what the Habs were really doing though and that was waiting for a Power-Play. One can't blame a team, that hot, to expect to score on a PP (at least 1/4 of the time), but that, unfortunately, requires drawing some penalties. You can't really fault the Habs as they expected the refs to give equal chances (as they normally do) with the man-advantage despite how each team plays. Well the refs didn't do that and the Habs, at no point, really showed enough fight to have a penalty taken on them. Why would Ottawa trip us on a dump-in or hook us as we slowly skate out of our own end? Going up 2-0 and hoping the PP will carry you the rest of the way is a fair enough strategy, but they forgot that actually putting yourselves on the PP is part of that plan. Players like Lapierre, Moen and Gionta should get out there and run around as much as they can until someone pulls them down; it is actually quite simple. So, we waited for a chance that never came and Ottawa, of course won the game in the meantime.

One thing that stood out tonight for me was the play of Alexei Kovalev. He was by far the best player on the ice from either team. Critics will say that he floated, that he didn't hustle, that he was -1 and that he didn't get any points. He was, however, the engine of the Sens' offence, he was the best threat they had all night, he drew penalties and he created more chances than any other player on the ice. Ottawa fans have bought into the hype that TSN is selling about him being a part-time player, but, just like he did nightly in Montreal, he was one of the best players on the ice despite having an 'off game'.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Game #40

Halak Does It Again; Steals Win For Habs

Details


Date: 26/12/09
Opponent: Maple Leafs
Location: Toronto


Win: 3-2 (OT)

Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Gustavsson (L)

Habs goalscorers: Gomez, Plekanec, A. Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: White, Blake



Play of the game


Halak made some unbelievable saves, but I still didn't think that our single best play was his tonight; that honour goes to the crew that created our second goal instead. The play I am choosing started with a neutral zone giveaway by the Leafs. It was Markov who was the recipient of the puck and made a no-look bullet pass to the offensive blue-line where Cammalleri was. Mike was able to make a perfect deflection to his centre who was streaking in on his right. Pleks went in and was able to lift a backhand up and over the 'monster' to make it 2-0 within a matter of seconds.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Forwards

Tomas Plekanec
The Habs forwards didn't have a great game as they only posted 23 shots, but I still have to pick 3 players for this section. Therefore, I will choose Pleks who scored a goal even though he had an off-night. Like I said before these guys won't be great some games and we need the rest of the team to step up. Tonight, however, no one answered the call and it was again Pleks who played the best amongst the forward group.

Scott Gomez
I didn't notice Scott much tonight, but let's not forget that that isn't always a bad thing. The fact that he played over 1/4 of the game, never made any major blunders and managed to score a goal means that he is one of my top 3 in this one.

Andrei Kostitsyn
I actually liked the offensive fight that I saw from Andrei tonight. I'll be the first to admit that this wasn't a great game for him, but he was probably our most dangerous forward throughout the game. He took 3 shots had a few decent chances, wasn't a liability in his own end and scored his 12th, the OT winner.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Markov played a big role on goals 2 and 3 and one would have to think that without him we may not have won this game. He looked calm throughout the game and once again excelled at what I believe is his greatest strength - keeping the puck in the zone. He does this better than anyone in the league and one can only imagine how many fewer chances we would have had if Andrei was not keeping so many of our chances alive.

Jaroslav Spacek
Spacek got caught running around a bit tonight, especially on Toronto's first goal, but overall had a pretty decent game (relatively). Playing with Markov means big minutes, big responsibility and big opportunity and so far I think he has done quite well. He played a very important role on the winner as it was he who made the great play at the point to keep the puck in the zone and, therefore, the play alive.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak - Game Puck
Jaro now has 10 wins which is one more than Price in and he has done it in 10 less starts (16 vs. 26). It is, therefore, hard to consider Carey as our clear-cut #1 anymore and one would have to think that the obvious move of trading Halak must have to be seriously reconsidered. Tonight was the fourth straight game in which he has faced 40+ shots, won a road game that we probably didn't deserve to win and stood out from most (if not all) of his teammates. He was the biggest (and likely only) reason that we won this game as he seemed to make big save after big save. Right now he is playing with confidence as he is trying to prove to anyone who is watching (please be watching Bob) that he can not only be a #1 in this league, but a very good one at that.


Comments


Montreal started the game well and Toronto didn't, at all. Within 5 minutes we were up 2-0 and I don't think that there was a fan out there who thought it would end there, so abruptly, for the Habs. Well, end is exactly what it did, until OT that is. For the next 55 minutes the Habs were back on their heels, in their own zone as they simply watched Toronto put quality shots and chances towards the net. The Canadiens failed to get anything going and were unable to take advantage of what looked like a very beatable goalie. It was instead our goalie, Halak, who was the story from that point on. In all he faced 49 shots and was called upon to make at least 20 difficult saves. Toronto got a couple by him, but they certainly weren't their best shots as both took weird deflections before reaching the back of the net. My fear now is that the players are falling into a trap as they seem to think that their level of play will, somehow, get them wins. What the other 18 players must realize, however, is that our goalies cannot, and will not, always steal games for us and that they must outplay other teams to get us the bulk of our wins.

I am of course happy with this win and am happy to see these points in the bank, but I do hope that the Habs can pick up their team-play in the next little while. Having a very hot goalie and an all-star D-man in the line-up is great, but asking them to win you games, single handidly, on a nightly basis is both unfair and unreasonable. As the year ends our goal of 20 points in December now seems likelier than ever as 5 points against Ottawa, Tampa and Florida would make this a very, very good month after all.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas To All

Merry Christmas everyone. Tobalev and I wish all of you a wonderful day and a great holiday season.

We hope you got some nice presents, better than this poor guy:


See you next game.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Game #39

Ward And 'Canes Get Into The Spirit Of Giving

Details


Date: 23/12/09
Opponent: Hurricanes
Location: Carolina


Win: 5-1

Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Ward (L), Legace

Habs goalscorers: Markov, A. Kostitsyn, S. Kostitsyn, Metropolit (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Sutter



Play of the game


Gomez took a penalty when the Habs were up 2-0 and added 2 minutes to the call when he mouthed-off at the ref. That meant the Habs had 4 minutes to kill and that the 'Canes had ample time to get right back into the game. Before the first 2 minutes had elapsed Carolina scored which ensured that they would get another two full minutes with an extra man. It was the Habs, however, that had the next best chance. Plekanec led a 3-on-1 rush and Markov ended it by ringing the puck off the crossbar. Then the Hurricanes came down our way on a 3-on-1 of their own. They threatened to tie the game at two, but it was Halak that had the last word as he made an incredible blocker (or shaft) save on Matt Cullen. Disaster averted, game won.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Forwards

Tomas Plekanec
Within 10 minutes Pleks had 3 points and I was actually wondering if Sittler's 10 in 1 game had a chance of falling (he was on pace for 18). Well, that was all Tom got tonight, but he did play quite well for the balance of the game. His 36 assists now place him second in the league and his 43 points place him in the top 10. He played like our best, most complete and most confident player tonight as he has done for most of the year.

Scott Gomez
Call it coincidence, but after Gomez's penalty he picked it up. In all he also picked up 3 assists as he was able to find Metro with 2 very good passes and sent Pleks up the ice after he came out of the box. He may not be the #1 centre we had hoped for, but with Pleks playing the way he is I can say that Scott is a fine #2. Tonight was his first chance to play with Pouliot and they did an OK job; he does, however, miss Gionta like crazy.

Glen Metropolit
From waivers to occasional player to 4th-liner to prominent 3rd-liner Glen has done well. Tonight, before the midway point of the season, he chipped in his 9th and 10th goals. He showed again tonight that he has some good touch around the net and that he has hands that you wouldn't expect. Martin took a leap of faith when he took Metro off the PK (where most of us would assume a player like him should play) and put him on the PP - until now I can't say that I argue one bit with that call.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Andrei got the ball rolling tonight with a perfectly timed pinch and a well taken pass. That was his 3rd goal and 4th point in his 3 games since his injury. His value to the team is evident now more than ever as he once again was our best defender. I did notice a couple of giveaways/miscues, but overall he did do quite well for a guy who has missed so much hockey. I liked how he worked with Spacek and can only hope (and assume) that that pairing remains upon Hammer's return.

Marc-Andre Bergeron
In a game when we let up 47 shots I decided to go with offence rather than defence for this dome spot as I felt all defenders were bailed out by Halak more than usual anyway. He only picked up a single 2nd assist in this game, but did do a very good job on our Power-Plays all night. Once again he didn't look too different from the rest of our defenders in our own end as he continues to hold his own.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak - Game Puck
Another great game from Halak as he stopped 46 of 47 shots - that takes his numbers to 9-5, .923, 2.57. His wish was to be a starter and one has to wonder if the Habs have granted him that wish. He may be beating the weaker teams, but considering that he has faced over 135 shots in his last 3 games and only let up 4 goals I can say that he isn't getting easy wins. He was our best player tonight as this game could have, believe it or not, gone the other way. Better goaltending by Ward and average goaltending by Halak could have easily made this about a 3-3 toss up. I really liked the way he attacked shots tonight and how he was always in the right position. I would continue to ride Jaro while he is hot as it seems that, once again, we are asking the oldest question in Montreal: who is our #1?


Comments


Things are going well for the Habs and this is a great way to start the Christmas (2 day) break. We have one of the hottest goalies in the league, 2 of the hottest defencemen (Bergeron is leading the NHL in goals), one of the hottest passers and, believe it or not, just about the best PK and PP combo. When you add it all up you have to wonder a) why we are still struggling to get into a playoff spot? and b) can we keep it up? Tonight showed that even with all of those things clicking we do have deficiencies, though, as our defence and coverage in general is not where it should be and our offence is good, but we do lack the balance of a great team. The positives, however, are too hard to ignore and the fact that all of this coincides with the return of our best player makes me wonder if we can indeed be a great team. Let's not forget that right now we are missing two major pieces in Gionta and Hamrlik that would immediately address my two areas of concern; we could be even better. So, tonight showed me that we are good, but things may not always be this rosy. It also showed me that there is a better team in us than the one that we saw tonight. With 4 games to play in December I am curious to see if we'll meet our goal of 7 more points, because even though we have won 3 straight we can't forget what preceded those games - let's not get wrapped up in the winning and forget the losing.

Rewind To 23 Cups:

Blogger Finds OT Too Random

After much study, "Behind The Flames" blogger and fan of the downtrodden has decided that overtime cannot be counted upon to determine the result of games.

In an analysis began with the de novo hypothesis: The Leafs can't be worse than the Canadiens, he managed to get to the bottom of all the problems with the league scoring system and put the Habs right back where they deserve to be.


(As of Monday, December 21)









































































































































TeamGPWLTBWLW%GDPW%
Ottawa35131395-40.500-20.490
Atlanta34131385-30.500+60.529
Boston341011136-70.471+20.512
NYR35141652-30.471





0.479
Toronto36121681-70.444-170.424
Tampa Bay35914123-90.426-140.424
Philadelphia34121753-20.426-60.468
Florida37915136-70.419-130.440
NYI36816125-70.389-260.367
Montreal37818118-30.365-160.415
Carolina3562093-60.300-370.327




As you can see his analysis cunningly removes all wins, losses and goals scored in OT. Since he doesn't like overtime anymore than he likes the shootout, he groups all extra time results in the same way, regardless of whether the winning goal happened in open play or on the shootout.

Montreal has been the lucky recipient of 5 more wins than losses, which is 4 more than expected based on their real-time results (where nothing strange ever happens like it does in overtime). Toronto on the other hand has been so unfortunate as to lose 7 of their 8 games, which is a travesty based on the outstanding regulation play record.


Work extended into the past

His worked has inspired one of his followers to extend this excellent work well into the past. Leaf Ericson has also seen the light regarding the unfairness of overtime and has used the bulk of his internet-based research to submit a petition to the league to set the records straight.

Of particular interest to Canadiens fans is his impending civil suit to have the Hockey Hall of Fame recognise the true Stanley Cup final of 1993.

Those who wrongly uphold OT results as real wins will probably remember something about a Canadiens Cup win in 1993. But, in the new, more sanitary NHL, without Bettman scoring, that final could and would have never happened.

You see, the Canadiens in those playoffs only actually won 6 regulation games in those playoffs, with 3 regulation losses, in 20 games. Anyone with half a brain will know that means paltry 0.575 hockey.

The actual playoff winners, the LA Kings played to a stunning 11 regulation wins, with 7 losses, in 24 games, which of course is 0.583 hockey.

Strangely, he also includes a Leafs Cup – the Leafs put up more points than the Canadiens 23 points with 24 of their own – as part of the thesis (something about a high stick that happened before their goalie let in a goal and then lost another game). But as there is nothing but purity of a statistical heart behind the findings, we'll take his word for it.


Final sage words

In closing, Behind the Flames commented on the solid work of Leaf Ericson with reference his smashing success at proving the hypothesis he so wanted to prove.

"One thing is clear", he states, "the Maple Leafs are and always have been better than the Canadiens. No fluke results, or overtime scoring should ever distort that fact."

Amazing what you can prove with some determination.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Game #38

Montreal's Stars Complete Unlikely Comeback

Details


Date: 21/12/09
Opponent: Thrashers
Location: Atlanta


Win: 4-3

Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Hedberg (L)

Habs goalscorers: Plekanec, A. Kostitsyn, Bergeron (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Kovalchuk, Antropov (2)



Play of the game


Halak made some game-savers in the third and OT and our OT goal was quite something, but, for me, the play of the game was the tying goal. I could sense that the Habs were going to score midway through the third and I thought that all they had to do was avoid letting Atlanta go up by two. Andrei Kostitsyn, therefore, cut it very close by taking a slashing penalty with 4:32 to play. Luckily our penalty-killers got the job done, again, and we now had a 2-minute window. Furious at himself (I hope), it was Andrei who, fresh out of the box, drew a PP of our own. We then went to work, our 5 best players, and it didn't take long. The goal itself was a bomb from the point (Bergeron's 8th) which was the end result of some very slick passing from Plekanec and Markov.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Forwards

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
4 more points for our top player and all of a sudden he has outscored his last year's self. Last season he put up 39 points and wasn't half the player that he is now. Was it because Koivu left? Kovalev? Did he need a player like Cammalleri? I have heard them all, but I don't think those are why. I believe the reasons are that he is finally using his speed, his coach is finally using him in more key situations and he is super confident in himself. It would be nice to see him get 80+ and even better to see Gainey sign him soon.

Mike Cammaelleri
Mike picked up 2 assists tonight, both of which were world-class passes. He seems to know exactly how to find his linemates on the ice as all three seem very comfortable with each other. He only had 2 shots himself and didn't quite look like he was going to score, but you can rest assured that he was a big part of all 4 of our goals as he is lending quite the hand to Plekanec as they guide our offence.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Kostitsyn ended the game with a single point, a goal, but was right there for goals 1 and 3. On our first goal he made a very nice play to let a pass go right by him towards Pleks. Many players may have stabbed at that loose puck, but Andrei didn't and the result was a confused goalie and a tie game. He was later in front of the net, causing problems, creating a screen and waiting for a potential rebound when the third goal went in. So, you can see how points don't always tell the whole story; they often miss the subtleties that help to create the goals.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Markov was on the ice for 3 of our goals and 1 of theirs, but, whenever he is on, I feel more confident than I have all season. Tonight he really did it all as he hit, led the team in takeaways, led the team in ice-time, picked up his first assist of the year and was, quite simply, our best all-around defender. It is quite something to have him back as this year really felt like the new Habs and that, for the most part, hadn't included him.

Marc-Andre Bergeron
He may have seen some time as a forward tonight, but it was as a defenceman that he shone. He very nearly took game-puck status as he managed to score both the tying and winning goals - both in dramatic fashion. His shot from the point continues to be a major threat and has to be placed amongst the best in the league. It may not have the power of a Souray shot (although I would bet he could go 98.0+ mph), but boy does it get through. Accuracy and timeliness are his main strengths and, unlike some players, he doesn't always try the shot. His OT goal showed that he is more than a shot, that while playing offence he has the skating and hands to get it done.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
There were 3 goals against and 3 posts, but let's not forget that there were 50 shots. That means that in 2 games he has saved almost 97% of his close to 100 shots; not too shabby. I am not, however, basing this on last game, just this one. He was good enough for the dome, though, and could have been a game-puck recipient had it not been for Plekanec's heroics. He made a plethora of great saves and managed to keep us in the game when we needed it the most. I would like to see him get 1 or 2 more starts (at least) before 2010 as I feel he seems to be finding a way to win despite how poorly the team in front of him may play.


Comments


Tonight Atlanta, as a team, were stronger than us, but our secret weapon happened to be a certain 6 players. They were more balanced than us, had better core defence, but we were able to get the most out of our best players and they weren't. It is great to see your top line click like that and great to see your PP work, thanks in large part to the solid work of your two point-men and it is great to see your 'back-up' play so well. So, the one question has to be - where were the other 13 guys? Certain players like Gorges, Spacek, Gomez, Lapierre, Metropolit, Sergei etc. had moments, but honestly guys, come on. You can't always expect one line to do everything and you shouldn't just accept losses when they aren't having a good game. Players like Gomez and Lapierre and Metropolit have to step up and they have to be consistent. I don't need to see goals from those players every game, but I need to know that they can be trusted. Right now we are getting a lot out of our best players and I feel that there is only one way for their production to go. It is great to think of Plekanec as an 80-point man and Camms as a 40-goal sniper, it would be amazing if Bergeron and Markov were better than point per game, but we cannot expect it, nor should we be surprised if none of that happens. Tonight showed that winning in this way does take it's toll as certain players are getting over used, are getting fatigued and eventually they will get hurt or play worse.

So, I am thrilled that we won and pumped that Plekanec and Bergeron and Halak could play such big roles, but we have to start getting more out of the rest of the team because even if one line can get you points and wins and maybe a playoff spot, they probably can't get you a cup.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Game #37

A Win, A Shutout, A Captain; Better Than A DVD Boxset

Details


Date: 19/12/09
Opponent: Islanders
Location: New York


Win: 3-0

Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Biron (L)

Habs goalscorers: Markov (2), Metropolit
Opposition goalscorers: None



Play of the game


Despite the Islanders territorial domination, the Habs really did give a lot to choose from tonight. Perhaps it was because things happened in a more smash and grab way for the Canadiens, rather than the settle in, stay-a-while approach from the Isles. The play of the game for me, after several reviews of the goals and plays was Jaroslav Halak's save on Matt Moulson. Which one you say? Well, indeed. The one which was built by the first passer, then Tavares, the Moulson as the tic-tac-toe candidate for goal of the month - that one. As the pass came behind the net, Halak had every reason to surge to his left to cover the post where Tavares was going. He did, and fast. But unlike some goalies who would commit all to that save, he calculated the slide to stop him at the post, taking away Tavares wrap-around dream without abandoning the shooter in front. As Tavares' sublime pass came one touch form behind, Halak moved in synchrony with it, keeping his balance so as to play the shooter with all his body. Moulson, then, was met with surprise as he did everything right in lifting the puck over the sliding pad. He was left to shake his head as Halak's blocker calmly guided the puck skyward.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Forwards

Glen Metropolit
Some players take a demotion as a reason to sulk. Some actually take it as a call to wake up. Glen falls into the latter group. Following his games of costly penalties and underwhelming play, he has awoken. In the first period he was player of the game with his energy and tempo. He was stealing pucks, winning pucks in the offensive zone and creating chances (if not goals). In the end the scoresheet did this selection justice, too, as he scored a simple, yet timely goal.

Scott Gomez
If this guy was only paid $2 million a year, you can mark my words, there'd be raving reviews. His play off the puck at times is exemplary, and I'm glad Sergei Kostitsyn gets such a close up view of this. In a game where the Canadiens played mostly without control, it seems only fitting to include one of the best harrowers. His work on the PK was once again a sight to see, and if you want to understand that recent streak of stinginess look beyond just Gill and see the Gomez injury timeline. In the end, the scoresheet also rewarded Scott, as he created the insurance goal through his other main skill.

Sergei Kostitsyn
This last position was more difficult to settle on. Plekanec likely would have had the biggest shout, but for his run in with unfortunate refereeing. In the end, it goes to a penalty killer. There was little to tease apart between the excellent work of Lapierre, Moen and Sergei here. But think a minute about that phrase: Sergei Kostitsyn? PK? Excellent? I think it's high time we recognise what a turnaround, what an achievement Sergei has here. Not only did he stow his sulk in a bus undercarriage, he has come to the Canadiens and is turning in games as the top penalty killer. He played 5:32 overall, a full 2 minutes more than Max, 3 more than Moen. Brunet may get on him for a rushed clearance, but this man of confidence causes no such complaint from Jacques Martin, I think.


Defencemen

Andrei Markov
How good it feels to write this. Yet this is no sympathy vote, Markov was the best offensive player tonight, and a solid defender as well. For those who had forgotten, or stats toters who never watch players before computing their value, Markov showed why the Montreal PP though good in his absence, was once great. On defence, he played not to cut shots, but a shutout in this game is reflective at least in part to the doggedness of Andrei to hone in on loose pucks. Oh, and you'll have noticed the headline. I am convinced that our captain returned this game. There's a reason why all three letters are still 'A's for the Habs in December, and it must be linked to the fact their captain would rather take the role in all but name. His play, his celebrations, his discourse on the sidelines, I saw a captain for the first time in a while.

Jaroslav Spacek
Playing with Markov must surely help, but I think Andrei could tank his partner similarly. Apart from his early fall, I thought Spacek had a good game. What set him apart from the others for me was his exceptional puck control on the PP - it didn't directly result in goals this time, but he was on the ice for that last pretty goal. Going forward, I think it will be important to have a player who complements Markov well to really turn this system around. As you know, I feel Jaro is that player. I think our first shutout in an eon gives a lot of credence to that.


Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak - Game Puck
They do make us wait, don't they? The Canadiens last shutout was last February 24th vs the Vancouver Canucks - it was Jaro then, too. In the meantime we've seen goalies play in shutout form a lot - mostly against us. What a pleasure then to watch a goalie come in and keep his concentration for a whole game. There was shutout written on more saves tonight than in most games we've seen since this tandem came along for us. Jaro almost seemed to will this one. That's not to say he was lucky. not at all. All he did was take the positional instruction and execute it without flaw. Apart from the play of the game, his saves on shorthanded breakaways stood out, his quick legs on cross-crease work made impression.


Comments


How many times to repeat the cliche? Christmas has come early.

The analogy is a good one though, because like children tossing restlessly in expectant sleep, we have been anticipating the moment of Markov's return ever since he wobbled off the ice in October. And though his return would have been enough on his own to warrant such a header, he did so much better. As he skated for us, we were a better team for having a top pairing of dynamism, and better second and third pairings. As mentioned, he also brings the general back to the defence and the team - a captain in all but name.

Before we get carried away, perhaps to address the slant of the ice in this contest. The Islanders did really have the initiative, the shots and the possession. I will support Jacques Martin's men in this one though. Perhaps not a pleasure to watch, they did certain things very well here. In giving away possession for instance, I found they often forced low quality shots while being very proactive on rebounds. No they wouldn't have gotten away with sitting on a lead as they did against the Sharks, Red Wings or Hawks; but this was the Islanders and the strategy of sit and counter-attack didn't seem so crazy as I watched. Because they scored when they did, they didn't need to press extra men up, and they seemed to be acting on instruction that they shouldn't. What's more, apart from the refs who saw penalties in run-of-the-mill plays and falls on their own whims, the Canadiens were disciplined on the whole, I thought.

Together with the previous positives from losses, the team does have a direction of travel now, and with Markov (and perhaps Hamrlik soon), it looks more and more like up.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Markov's Return

How The Habs Must Shuffle

As I excitedly tweeted yesterday, Markov will be back. RDS and just about everyone else is saying it will be tonight vs. Streit and the might Islanders.


It could not come at a better time. With the Canadiens on the road, their struggle to return to winning will be met with less all around angst and ire than it might have in the confines of Centre Bell. Markov can adjust and find his legs in time to be the returning hero the baying mass expects by the New Year's return home.


In the face of this return, it is natural to get excited. Still, many issue caution, patience. Yet, the reluctance to pin too much hop on Markov's return, is in my opinion, taking things too far the other way.

Now I am not saying that Andrei will come in and eclipse the performance of every player from either team as he sometimes would in full health. However, let's remember what this means in practical terms: a healthy Markov returns to join the 5 other healthy D, bumping one of Bergeron, Gill or Mara to the kerb. Achilles tendon r not, that's an upgrade for this team. Achilles tendon or not, Markov's passes are still several orders of magnitude more accurate than any, which means standing still he's a massive improvement at 6th Dman.

As it's been so long, let's just remember who Markov is (as per the season preview):

Andrei Markov





























































NHL SeasonGPGAPts+/-Hits/60BkS/60GvA/60TkA/60Gv:TkPIM
08-09 (MTL)78125264-21.913.473.211.87-1.3436
07-08 (MTL)82164258+11.733.722.701.76-0.9463
06-07 (MTL)7764349+21.213.792.772.39-0.3856















Even-strength profile



  • Average offensive production at even strength

  • Above average chance creation at even strength

  • Average to below average defence even strength

  • Negative CORSI: -3.9





Some things to note from Andrei's stats:

1) Offensive explosion
The last 3 years show the continued progression of Andrei Markov into the ranks of elite offensive defencemen. In fact, his 171 points over that span are second best in the NHL – lagging behind only Nicklas Lidstrom.

(Only Bergeron has come close in this department for the Habs, and off the PP, he's been less helpful. Barring passing amnesia, Markov's impact should be tangible)


2) Defensive steadiness
Not quite so elite in preventing goals, and perhaps the reason he never gets a Norris nod. Andrei's plus/minus is virtually neutral. As mentioned, most of his points do tend to come when he has been running the best PP in the league, so those ones don't appear in the black ledger. Even so, it might be nice to see Andrei escape the mediocrity of all those GA at ES and put up a big juicy +/- like that guy ahead of him in the points race.

(As I said, better than the guy who sits, so a positive contribution in the less minuses end of things too)


3) Takeaways, not hits
Those takeaway numbers may not mean anything to you, but you should know that they are very high. Last season, Markov was third in the league for Dmen in takeaways, as he was the year before. Three seasons ago, he was the best defender in that regard. This is because Markov prefers the poke check to the body check – and when you consider his partner, he makes a good case for the more subtle form of defence.

(My goodness how we've missed this. Maybe not tonight, but some time in the next couple of weeks you'll all be reminded of how a team really prevents itself getting pinned down for minutes at a time)


Who should Markov play with?

Those of you who can remember the preseason through all the tears that have transpired, will recall that I tried to rationally look at lines and pairings in an ideal, injury-free lineup. The way I did this was to trawl some data that many individuals collect and put on the internet and do some sums.

Basically, on last year's data I was able to broadly see whether a player made his partner better or worse offensively and defensively. I was also able to see what kind of partner (style) each player seamed to thrive with, or seemed to struggle with.




















Pairing #1Effect O/D



D – Andrei Markov
  • Made most teammates better offensively
  • Had varied effects on defensive games (Komisarek was worse)
  • Seemed to prefer a small quick partner to a big partner
  • Played best overall with Josh Gorges last season
D – Jaroslav Spacek
  • Made most teammates better defensively
  • Made all his common linemates better offensively
  • Played best overall with Toni Lydman last season



At that time, I selected Spacek for a number of reasons. Firstly, Markov played better with players who skated than with big lumbering men (including his usual partner). What seemed to let him be at his best is actually playing with a player more like himself, who can dart around and make a good quick pass – covering more ice with movement as opposed to mass. That for me ruled out O'Byrne and Gill right away, and based on the stats from when they played together, Hamrlik too.

I can see from the message boards that Martin might be considering Ryan O'Byrne to start with Markov this evening. I think this would be a mistake based on the above.

I wouldn't be so haughty if Jacques himself had not come to the Spacek conclusion himself. But that was his evaluation in October, as they started the season together and played most of the preseason together too.

The worry I suppose from some is that Markov and Spacek together means breaking up the current number one pairing of Hamrlik and Spacek. However, these two, while consistent aren't blowing anyone away, as they clock about 2.4 GA/60 - which also happens to be the team average on what I think we'd all agree has been an underwhelming defensive outfit so far. Breaking this combo up, therefore, should not be something to lament. it would be progress for the team, and progress hopefully for Spacek.

Incidentally, Hamrlik is not like Markov. He likes playing with a big guy. What's more, he's been excellent all along with O'Byrne - this season and last (ES and PK). If O'Byrne is to be deployed with a top pairing, it surely must be with Hamrlik.


Luxury goods

Markov's comeback has more implications for the team than simply first pairing conundrums. It also brings about a potential log-jam of 8 defencemen on the team. One question is who might sit out. Another, considering it possible that 7 or even 8 Dmen could be dressed per game, is how many luxury items can the Canadiens afford to carry?

We already carry a fighter we don't use (or need), forwards who are doing apprenticeships in lifting the puck, and two young goalies still learning the ropes. When it comes to winning games, we are starting to run out of place for functional parts to fill the roles. Can we thus afford to play a defender whose only use is on the penalty kill and another whose only use is on the PP?

Or, should we be looking to better exploit the all-round ability of 4 or 5 of the other options?


We've all been complaining about this injury so long, it's time for the team to give us the proper ammo we need to back up those arguments on single player value. Let's hope it's a good one tonight.

Allez, Allez. Go Habs Go.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Game #36

Minnesota Is The Latest To Take Two Points Away

Details


Date: 17/12/09
Opponent: Wild
Location: Montreal

Loss: 1-3

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Backstrom (W)

Habs goalscorers: A. Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Earl, Koivu, Clutterbuck



Play of the game


No beating around the bush tonight, let's call a spade a spade, shall we? We had one good play all game which works well for this section of the report at least; that play of course is Andrei's goal. The goal itself started with a swift pass from Gomez near the offensive blue-line. Kostitsyn then went up the right-side, on his backhand and was only thinking 'shot'. The sniper now has confidence which means that he will try backhands from beside the net, and tonight that is what worked for us. It was a quick reply to Minny's opener, but we couldn't keep the game tied for long.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Forwards

Scott Gomez
An assist and some pretty decent play earns Scott our top-centre award. It is nice to see him playing well, but I do fear that the Habs don't seem to be playing as well since his return - coincidence? I hope. He chipped in with a team-high 5 shots which, although some were NOT scoring chances, shows that he is at least trying to get things going.

Glen Metropolit
I was happy to see that Martin went back to Glen tonight and I actually thought that he did an alright job. He wasn't our best centre, but he did bring some diversity to our attack with bouts of inspiring play. The two things that I really liked were his ability to bounce back from a couple of rough games and his face-off abilities; he went 9-3.

Andrei Kostitsyn - Game Puck
Someone said that they would like to see Andrei do well in wins and not just losses and I tend to agree. He is, however, on quite a roll and I believe that he just happened to get hot while the team was slumping. For now I will refuse to admit the two are related, but I really hope that we can see both happen at once in the near future. Tonight he scored his 9th and had a very impressive 4 take-aways.

Defencemen

Jaroslav Spacek
Our reluctant #1 did a pretty good job tonight. I doubt when he signed with us he thought that #3 would become #1 so fast, but, I suppose, you gotta do what you gotta do. The Habs only let up 21 shots and you have to thank Jaro for some of that. Sound play in his own end and no-risk hockey meant that he was giving our goalie a chance to be good to great for an easy win. Of course the result was different, but at least he tried. Jaro ended at +1, he was on the ice for nearly 26 minutes.

Paul Mara
I wasn't ecstatic to see Mara back, but I did realize tonight that he is a decent piece to the puzzle. In an all healthy environment one has to think that he has his place while Bergeron and O'Byrne move over to the 4th line and press-box respectively. He was our other D-man to end at +1 and played 22+ minutes of calamity-free hockey.

Goaltender

Carey Price
I can't blame Carey for the team's shortcomings, but he really wasn't that great tonight. That said the offence is welcome to win us a game from time to time. How about a 7-4 win? 6-5 perhaps? How come Edmonton and Phoenix and all these other 'weak' teams can do this and we can't. Our D did the job tonight by letting up less than 25 shots, Price gave us a decent chance at OT with 3 goals against, but when you never score a big amount those efforts seem to get forgotten.


Comments


We live through these streaks every year, sometimes more than once and, you know what, we aren't the only team to do it. Playoff teams do it, Cup champions do it and so we can do it and we'll be aright. It isn't fun to lose, it isn't fun to not score, but that is sports, the important part is the learning to be better than you've been. Tonight could have been period 4-6 of the Devils game as far as I was concerned, it was a defensive battle in which neither team really attacked the net. There were chances here and there, but this was far different from a Caps or Pens type game. There are 3 things that I picked out tonight that I would like to share. Latendresse - he was better than he was this year with us, but not better than he once was. He is still slow and lacks creativity, I believe he had no place on our team and, although he may be slightly better than some of our current players, I stand by that as we aren't at full capacity right now. The Habs are too clean of a team to win - we got two calls all night and one against. I am not suggesting that we take more penalties, and am glad that we didn't, but we really have to get a little grittier to draw some. We have to force the opposition to take their own dumb penalties instead of allowing them to play us clean. Martin - it was a great call to have Price out with 2:30 to go in the third. You don't see that much in the NHL so I applaud him for giving it a shot. Plus, all of the Wild's wayward attempts on goal should show that an empty net doesn't necessarily equate to a goal. I believe it gives you a much bigger advantage than it is thought to and that it really doesn't make the situation as bad as some would have you believe.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Game #35

New Jersey Shut Canadiens Down; Find A Way To Win

Details


Date: 16/12/09
Opponent: Devils
Location: New Jersey

Loss: 1-2

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Brodeur (W)

Habs goalscorers: Moen
Opposition goalscorers: Pikkarainen, Elias



Play of the game


If we can't learn that taking penalties is bad and that you shouldn't take them, then I am least glad that we were able to score while man-down; tonight it was Moen who managed to get one by Brodeur. He did well to get ahead, and stay ahead, of the Devil at the point (Langenbrunner I believe). In he went then on a 2-on-1, but he decided to go to the outside and to his backhand. At that point a pass, considering the coverage, was unlikely so he shot. Marty probably would have liked that one back, as it was a bit weak, but what it did was give the Habs a 1-0 lead on the road.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Forwards

Mike Cammalleri
Mike was our most threatening player tonight, but couldn't really get it going. His 3 shots amounted to 1/6 of our total - at least 2 of them were decent attempts. He can't score every night, but it seems that it is possible for the team to expect him to in each game.

Travis Moen - Game Puck
Travis scored our lone goal, which, on this night, means a whole lot. I noticed he actually did do quite a good job on the PK overall too. He was actually on the ice a lot more tonight including in the dying seconds. Not sure I would give him the 6th most minutes of our forwards, but I guess Martin is really running out of options in our secondary offence department.

Andrei Kostitsyn
To win your best players have to be your best, but you know what, even in a loss the same tends to hold true. Andrei didn't have too great a game, but I can list 9 forwards that he was better than, so there you have it. He actually had a few good fore-checking shifts and picked up a team-leading 4 hits.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
Hammer went down in the 2nd and didn't return with what appeared to be a knee or lower leg injury. I don't think that I have to say how I feel about the potential of losing him for a long time, so let's just hope I won't have to. Not that dominant tonight, but +1 and 3 hits (and no mistakes) earns him a bit of dome.

Josh Gorges
Bergeron wasn't great, O'Byrne generally looked bad, Spacek should be better and Gill didn't dominate on the PK like he should, so that leaves Josh. He was good, not his best, but good enough. Hopefully, with Markov's return, being better than the rest won't mean a dome anymore. I assume that Andrei will be a regular fixture which means the other dome spot won't be all about which 2 of the main 3 (Hammer, Spacek, Gorges) didn't have an off-night.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
Harsh? Perhaps. I actually thought a long time about this one, but I couldn't go with Carey tonight. He only let in two goals which I will say put his team in a position to win, but then I looked closer. New Jersey didn't really attack us and we also all know that 3 goals in Jersey isn't as east as 3 goals at home against a weaker team. Now, add to that the fact that both goals were particularly weak and that he messed up on his puck-handling, by taking a 'touching-the-puck' penalty and all of a sudden you have 3 blunders. Jaro may not have won us this game, but we are now used to seeing both of our goalies make 2 or less mistakes on a given night, so our standards, dear readers, have thankfully been raised.


Comments


Typical New Jersey hockey and, for a third straight game, we go home with a loss from a game that we all believed could have been won. It may be that our team is simply running out of luck which is why I think it is about time that Markov came back - we need something to change what is happening out there. We need to take less penalties, we need to have a more varied attack and we need to be a little more focused in our own end. Markov can certainly help with all that and I actually think it could be to the tune of a 1 goal (or more) per game difference. I never want to take anything away from Canada's #1 and the best of all-time, but you can see a few things by watching tonight. You can see how great coaching and managing can allow a goalie to play 70+ games/year and you can see how it may be easier to get 40+ wins a year when your team allows 0 really good scoring chances. Brodeur is the best at what he does and I think so are the Devils. This is a team that, for 15 years, has been playing a 'boring' style of hockey, but have been getting results. The Habs change their mind every few seasons of how to approach the sport, the Devils, however, already found a way to make it work.

Can A 6th Defenceman Make A Difference?

Just a reminder that there is something more important than a goalie wanting to play more than 3 times in a month, more important perhaps even than the return of a 5-goal hero...

Today is the the day the leaders of the world are making their way to Copenhagen. Among them will be Stephen Harper and the ubiquitous Barack Obama. It's a critical few days for the world and for Canada, as it could affect several aspects of our daily lives and indeed the way our economy is focused.

The NHL and the NHLPA, despite their heroic ability to negotiate something as important as hockey pay, won't be at the table. But that is not to say they are not interested. Between the league and the players union Green issues are something (they have been advised to portray as) close to the heart. What better time to have a look than today as we await the news of another mass African walk-out?


The NHL


Two years ago, the NHL went as Green as they were ever going to go, when they aligned with GreenLife to: "assess current operations, identify and implement best practices, and recommend specific steps to reduce the League's carbon footprint and improve its overall environmental impact."

That was two years ago. Now I don't know much more than that, and I haven't done the most thorough piece of investigative journalism, but it strikes me that since the NHL liked the PR at the time, they would be keeping up the PR if they were still going with the partnership.

Perhaps they are. After all, it is probably just some consultants providing suggestions at the end of the day. But I also wonder what the NHL has achieved in the two years. After all, what are their options? Teams need to fly, because great distances need to be covered. Teams need to drive, since arenas aren't usually at airports. Rinks must be refrigerated and buildings heated and lit. There's really little the league could do – barring one thing: design a better schedule.

Now you don't need to look far to see they haven't really took green issues to heart in that regard. Perhaps it's too complicated in an Olympic year, but this week alone Montreal plays 2 games in New York City. They will have flown there for today's game only to take a flight right back home tonight and then return to the Big Apple for Saturday's contest. now I'm not a climate change consultant, but...

You'd have to give the league a break if they were getting it mostly right. But they aren't. This post shows how total travel is actually up this year (despite their PR alliance). An area that would seem to be the first to look at back-to-back games is a shambles. The Habs have had 5 sets so far, and can look forward to 10 more. Should be climate friendly time right? Stay at home, take travel out of the equation. Wrong. The 5 sets so far have all been one home game, one road game. Of the 10 to come, only one is 2 home games, 6 are home and away.


The NHLPA

The situation is different in the NHLPA.

The issue here, as I'm sure it will probably be in Copenhagen, is one of leadership. NHL the Brown stands still, because after all, which owner is going to call for less games, call for less variety in opponents. There is no natural lead. NHLPA the Greener is moving forward thanks to the work of Andrew Ference in particular

Andrew Ference
Though it's not easy for me to write kind words about a Bruins player, I must make an exception for Mr. Ference. I greatly admire him for finding a passion for something, talking about it, and most importantly doing something about it.



What Ference has done so far has been to rustle up all the other players and get them to sign up to a carbon off-set scheme. Now carbon off-set schemes have their problems and their detractors, and they probably don't represent the ideal solution to all the world's problems. but consider where Ference was coming from – a world where you fly thousands of miles to play 60 minutes of hockey and then fly thousands of miles out again the same night. With the precedent being doing nothing about it (which frustratingly is what most critics of schemes like carbon offset do) he decided to at least make a start.

Now, where he goes from here is to be seen. One concerned for the enviroment might hope he lobby the league to re-align the conferences more sensibly, cut the number of games or just press for greener scheduling even if it does mean double doses of the same team. but to this point, what the 6th defenceman has done is worthy of praise. And high praise, he has received too, from no less than an original eco-warrior: David Suzuki.



Amazing what the 6th defencemen on some teams can do. Speaking of 6th defencemen, the Canadiens...



Canadiens signed up



I wish one of our players was providing the league-leading example here, but instead it's a (ugh) Bruin. The Canadiens players are involved though. Initially 523 players signed up to Ference's plan, which was a massive proportion of the NHLPA membership. The list of Habs from that initial 2008 tally was 17 (Begin, Bouillon, Brisebois, Dandenault, Hamrlik, Koivu, Komisarek, Kostitsyn, Kostopoulos, Kovalev, Lapierre, Latendresse, Markov, Plekanec, Ryder, Smolinski, Streit). The 17 is just about on average for an NHL outfit and though it falls short of the total participation from Florida, it still puts 6-signee Carolina and Columbus in their place.

Notably absent were Huet, Price and Halak (goaltenders like the mushy ice), Higgins, Gorges and O'Byrne. Maybe they've signed up by now.

Funnily, all the additions from this summer were also already on the list.