Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Vokoun (L)
Habs goalscorers: Pouliot, Gionta
Opposition goalscorers: None
Pouliot's goal was nice and so were some of Halak's saves, but my waiting paid off as I saw 2 potential candidates for play of the game in the last minute. The goal, which gave us breathing room, was obviously clutch, but unfortunately is runner-up tonight to a play that Spacek made. With 6 Panthers trying their hardest to score it was madness in the Habs end in the dying seconds. Bodies, sticks and pucks were going every which way and it was hard for us spectators, and apparently the players themselves, to keep track. One shot came in that confused Jaro and he couldn't find the puck. With 3 players about to crash the net it was the other Jaro, Spacek, that spotted the disk. It was, for the first time in my watching days, sitting on the edge of Halak's pad, still in play. With a quick lunge at the goalie Spacek was able to sweep away the loose puck with his hand before anyone in white could find it. It probably got us two points and certainly cost the Panthers at least one.
It is obvious that the debate still rages on and that the likely consensus is that Gomez is not worth 7+. What, however, is becoming more and more obvious is that he is one heck of a hockey player and he showed that tonight. I personally don't care how much each player makes as all I care about is the Habs icing a competitive team. It seems that most GMs, Gainey included, are capable of being creative when dealing with financial burdens such as Scott's price tag. He does that by having two cheap goalies, paying Pleks much less than he is worth etc. Now, one will argue that Scott's contract will hurt the signing of those players, which it of course will, but I will counter that with the knowledge that Bob will likely do something similar, likely with different players, to make the situation work next year and beyond. So, for now Scott fits into what is a pretty decent team and tonight he was, quite simply, with 2 more assists, our best forward.
Sometimes empty-netters don't really mean anything and end up just padding a player's stats, but tonight I really felt that Gionta's 10th was crucial and necessary. No, it didn't take much individual skill, but it did take team talent and will to get by 5 opponents with the puck on your stick. Aside from the goal he was his usual, solid, self as his line, once again, was our best.
Ben scored his first home goal as a Hab tonight and now has 4 with his new team. Impressive is the fact that he has done that in 8 games and even more impressive, for his line, is that all 4 have been in the 6 games since Gionta's return. That line has 3 contributors who are going right now and that simple fact has taught me one thing - you can't have a line with only 2 contributors. Maybe Gretzy, Kurri and Insertname could do it, but on the Habs our Insertnames (you know who you are) simply make a line worse. Right now we have 6 top forwards and to have 2 good lines we need them all to be healthy and all to be playing together.
Statistically this wasn't that big of a game for the league's second tallest player, but when I watched him closely I really liked what I saw. First off he was the only Hab to get a penalty and only one of three players overall to get sent to the sin-bin. Now, I can guarantee you that the reffing tonight was about the worst I have seen all season (which says an awful lot), but at least, as luck would have it, it went both ways. So, I must add Hal's call to the list of missed calls as he played that particular situation perfectly and within the rules as there was no hook or hold to be seen. Beyond that perfectly played defensive effort there was, quite simply, more of the same, the whole game through. I am very happy with him being our least used defender (16 minutes) and am very pleased with what he is doing during his 1/4 of the game.
Jaro almost stole the game-puck away from his former countryman as he probably played his best game in weeks. You can look at the stats all you want to and they won't show you anything to back my argument up, but I do stand by this choice. That is because every time he was on the ice I noticed him blocking a shot, bailing a teammate out or breaking up potential Florida chances. This is the type of effort that wins you hockey games and tonight I was very impressed.
Jaroslav Halak - Game Puck
Halak did what he does best as he found a way to win. Sure he looked behind himself 3 times and gave up 2 bad rebounds, he even let one hit the post behind him, but at the end of the day he let in less goals than the other goalie. Tonight, with our offence being stoned too, it meant that he needed to post a shutout. Many goalies out there would not have been able to win this game 1-0 (let's not count the empty-netter for now) and I am pleased to say that I am not surprised to see Jaro pull off what many couldn't. I have no doubt that he'll start on Saturday, but would only hope that our clear #1 (as he outranks Price in all categories but losses) would get a chance after a loss. This season we have always gone back to Carey after a Halak loss which, I believe, is unfair and potentially detrimental to the goalie that we should really be focusing our efforts on. Now, I expect the usual Price fans to back their boy up, but that argument, for the kid that wins 30% less of the time (67% vs. 36%) is getting quite old.
A week ago we witnessed an 11-goal game between these two teams, but tonight it was back to normal. When I think of Florida games in recent years vs. the Habs I always think of 1-0 games. Maybe it hasn't happened that much, but that is the result that always seems to come to mind. So, tonight after 19:46 of scoreless hockey I was thinking that we were in for another one of those games. Thanks to Halak, however, who made a couple of great saves right before that time, the Habs were able to head into the dressing room up, and not down by 1. Pouliot's goal came of nothing and Vokoun probably should have stopped it, but that is hockey; a lucky goal and then nothing more. The next 2 periods were actually quite good periods as the tempo and excitement levels both rose. All that time, however, I somehow knew that this game wouldn't blow up and that 1-0 may just do it. Both teams had great chances and both teams also had great defensive and goaltending efforts, but still, 1-0. As the time ticked down and things seemed to be building up, was something going to change?. At first it looked like a 2-0 lead was in our midst, but with 5 minutes left the tempo changed and OT seemed a certainty. 1-0, however, remained the scoreline until Gionta, thanks to the hard work of Halak, Hamrlik, Spacek and his linemates put an easy one into an open cage. The win is our first of this decade and our first at home in 31 days, so it certainly feels good. Next up are the pesky Devils and the greatest goalie of all time, but who knows, if we get another 38-save performance and a little luck we may just pull one out against our black sheep.