Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Neuvirth (W)
Habs goalscorers: Gorges, Pouliot
Opposition goalscorers: Fleischmann, Fehr, Semin (2)
Tonight, at least until the end, the refs were letting a lot of things go (for one team at least), so Max Lapierre took things into his own hands. What he did was risky, but it paid off and I really liked it as it showed how refs can be bought pretty easily. With a stick near his mid-section Lapierre was in no danger of either being hooked nor hurt, but he put himself in danger (at least it appeared that way). He grabbed the opposing player's stick, brought it up towards his helmet and threw his head back. The ref, who's sole purpose is to look for players who throw their heads back, immediately caught this one (although he missed a blatant slash that broke Markov's stick on the Capitals' first goal and a hold so obvious that if holding was the call-of-the-hour it may have been called twice) and sent the Cap to the box. Call it cheating, call it unsportsmanlike, but I call it creative, imperative and a good way to play the refs' own game of 'let's make up what is a penalty'.
Benoit continues to impress with his size, speed and willingness to go to the net. I think that I have stopped playing the comparison game (to Gui) and am now just seeing him as a valuable piece to what has become our best (and only complete) line in Kostitsyn's absence. His goal tonight was his third as a Hab which already, in my mind, makes him a worthwhile player to have on the team. Worthwhile, however, may mean only being better than Laraque which says very little indeed. So, he is more than worthwhile, he is actually quite good.
Plekanec and Pacio-not-retty did not look that great at all tonight so it was up to Mike to carry the torch for his line. He did his best to create some offence, but it is obvious that he can't be an Ovechkin-like, one-man show. His efforts, however, won't go unnoticed here as I was particularly impressed by his 5 shots on goal and 4 other attempts.
Brian Gionta - Game Puck
Brian was our best player tonight in a few different ways. First, I liked his offence as he and his linemates, again, did a great job. Then there was his sound defensive play, at its best on the PK. I also really liked how he got involved in the pushing and punching that goes on after the whistle. Gionta may be a small player, but he plays much bigger and that can really lift a team.
Markov has not been at his best over the past couple of games, but tonight he was at least better than 4 of our D-Men. He was there for goal #1, on what should have been called a slash, so I will let it go and goal #4, which probably shouldn't have gone in and certainly wasn't his fault. So, he wasn't great in our end, but he wasn't at fault for any of the goals either. He added to that neutral play with some decent, not his best however, play in both the neutral and offensive zones. His 9th assist of the year, picked up on the PP, once again showed how great of a QB he is.
I thought that Josh played a pretty sound defensive game. In all he played almost a period worth of mistake/goal-free hockey to help give his team a chance. He also chipped in with his 3rd of the season - a weak wrister from the point. Gorges was right where he should be as I felt the players that should play better than him were the ones who failed to stand out tonight.
I can't put Carey in tonight and feel good about it. I wanted to put the kid in, because after all he stopped 39 of 43 shots, but there were a few things, too many things, that bothered me. First, his puck-handling was lazy, too slow and too cocky tonight as it once again came close to costing us a very unnecessary goal. Then there was the arms-up, Brisebois-style, way-to-go for screening me reaction that just boiled my blood after Semin's first. Finally there was that uncanny ability to let in a crucial goal at the exact wrong time. The bottom line is Halak is finding ways to win games and I wouldn't go as far as to say that Carey is finding a way to lose them, but he is certainly not winning enough of them. I would have gone with our goalie who has played the best over the past month and that happens to be Jaro.
It may sound crazy, but the Habs looked very incomplete as a team tonight and I think it is now more obvious than ever just how valuable the Kostitsyns have become. We all know that Andrei was just about our best player in December and that Sergei was certainly a major contributor too, but what has now become fact is that the Habs are not deep enough to fill spots in when good players go down. We saw it first when Markov and Gionta were out and are now seeing it again. Winning a game with one competitive line is possible, but unless a goalie robs that game for you it is unlikely. Consider that Andrei's replacement is Pacioretty - from press-box to 1st line - and that Sergei's is 'I think most of us our better than' Georges Laraque and you see how the problem is compounded; adding those 2 players on top of depriving us of the brothers makes us quite the weaker outfit. So, with one line and a cold goalie we tried, but never came that close to taking this one. It was the first time in a long time that I felt the Habs looked smaller than their opponents as we not only were losing battles, but we were often hesitant to even chase loose pucks for fear of being over-powered. I don't know how many times I saw a Hab back down tonight from a Capital. Even our speed was outclassed tonight as we not only were beaten to most pucks, but we also never really seemed to give it our all.
A loss on the road without two really good players, against one of the best teams in the East, however, isn't the end of the world as it was somewhat predictable anyway. What we need to do now is get healthy, play hockey in 2010 like we did towards the end of 2009 and carry on with our goal of 17 points in January.