Saturday, March 27, 2010

Game # 76

Habs Get An Early Taste Of Playoff Hockey

Details



Date: 27/03/10
Opponent: Devils
Location: Montreal

Loss: 2-4

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

Habs goalscorers: A. Kostitsyn, Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Elias, Langenbrunner, Zubrus, Rolston



Play of the game

The Devils were pretty tight tonight (when Skoula wasn't on) and it took creativity and sharpness to undo their defence. The cliche goes that a team must keep up a consistent level of forecheck and effort in order to wear an opponent down, only then breaking through. It's not exactly true. A team can also put together momentary flashes of brilliance for their breakthroughs. 4 of those ending in goals beats many games of 65% possession. My favourite play of the night came to nothing in the end, but was quick, sharp and very clever – it was more elite than a lot of what we've seen. Cammalleri, Plekanec and Kostitsyn were breaking in together and unlike their 3-on-2 that ended after a skirmish in a messy and somewhat questionable goal, their break in was smoothe. From there, they fanned out, AK the trailer. Andrei passed very firmly to Tomas who without a second's thought sent it back again. The defence on ther heels, Andrei unleashed a hard shot immediately. It was blocked, but I tell you, try that play again and it will be better than 25 Benoit Brunet dump ins.



Dome hockey team

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

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec
His line played most against Elias, Langenbrunner and Parise – the original Devils style line. Given good efforts from all those players, I thought Tomas and his linemates did very well. Pleks himself had a hand in a few nice plays, and his goal was a masterful and stealthy redirection. I don't know if he's 1/2 injured, 3/4 healthy or what. The way he seems to be enjoying Cammalleri's return, I find no reason to harp on his minor knocks.

Andrei Kostitsyn – Game Puck
Andrei will never please those who adhere to the tenet that everything in hockey comes through hard work. I have seen hard workers come and go in the hundreds, and I'd rather have Andrei's shot with the combination of positioning and luck that he had in this game. The first goal was a goalscorer's effort. The second goal was his miss, kept alive by his presence of mind and ending with his forceful pass to Pleks' skate. The scoresheet only records 2 shots, but he was the engine behind many good chances.

Mike Cammalleri
The time has come to recognise Cammalleri following his return. First of all, someone needs to be congratulated about bringing players back who are ready to go and contribute from the first shift. Past years players must have been rushed back, as we've never seen anything like these healthy bodies being reinserted. Mike himself must also be commended for approaching each game back as if nothing had happened at all. This game I mistook Mike for Gomez on a few occasions as he flew across my screen – his new knee looking the least of his concerns. There were also two assists on the two goals, and the fact that he was part of all these dangerous moves that I've been discussing.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
Fresh off a proud dome appearance, Roman repaid the recognition with another good game. Playing big minutes again, Hammer was often facing down either Kovalchuk's combo or Parise's. He made his mistakes (as highlighted on the 4-on-4 "tripping" play by RDS, but he also won a lot of the puck for his team. It was mostly sound and lacked the wild "Hail Mary" style that Markov was bent on trying out, a reliable game.

Jaroslav Spacek
Spacek played the most minutes of any defender in this game, and he played the hard minutes too. I thought he made his mistakes like Hammer, but they were fewer than say Gorges. I wouldn't go so far as saying the Devils looked like they disliked playing this pairing. With Spacek there, though, it seems the nights of being penned in for periods at a time by this team from NJ may be on the way out.

Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak
While he made some very good saves, a couple even with the game on the verge of getting out of reach, he still lost. In typical fashion (at least for this season) he dd keep the contest alive. In fact, some of his best saves were made once the Devils opened their account, but before the Habs scored, and also when the Devils were up 3-2. This wasn't a loss to be blamed on Halak, nor would I have given the goalie the game puck had a late one popped in to be followed by a shootout win. Average to below average by his new standards.


Comments

The first thing you notice when you end a period against the Devils is that they're a cut above the Panthers. As a team, they do things right. They anticipate better, the find better position, they don't waste many passes. Facing a team like this takes a big adjustment after some of the games the Habs have just come through. Waiting for the puck on the boards (Gionta) won't do, passes an inch off or too feathery (Pouliot) will be picked off. The Canadiens knew this was coming of course, but any team coming off a Panthers game could be forgiven for being caught by the new pace.

The team came out very well and dominated early. Two things happened to turn the tide, though – Brodeur saved everything and Metropolit got injured. The Brodeur saves meant the Canadiens had expended a lot for a nice display and some marks in the shots column, their resulting fatige was to be seen in the third. Losing Metro meat Martin cut his bench to three lines, pretty much, only compounding that fatigue issue in the end.

Overall, the game was not a complete loss. As I said in the play of the game, there were occasions to sit up and take notice of an offensive move – something previous editions would have been proud to say once a season vs. the Devils. The defensive play was mostly tidy, and apart from two early (and costly) pens, discipline was dead on. If the Devils gave a rendition of some playoff hockey this night, then the Habs didn't make fools of themselves. If the Devils are indeed to be the first opponent, I don't see reason to throw up the white flag, even with the loss.

Anyway, 6 more games. 6-7 points must be found. Twice Carolina, Islanders, Philly, Buffalo and the league's annual close-out game between habs and Leafs. It should be an interesting and nerve-racking two weeks. Hope you enjoy.

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