Habs Goalie: Halak (L)
Opposition Goalie: Leighton (W)
Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Briere, Gagne, Leino
Possibly Halak's save on Asham about midway through the 2nd. A defensive miscue (which has been par for the course this series) allowed Asham to get free with the puck and skate in all alone on Halak. Good fundamentals allowed Halak to completely shut down a dangerous breakaway with a 1-0 score, keeping the home crowd a little quieter and the momentum in the Canadiens' court. However sadly futile it turned out to be.
Spearheaded the best of our offence, including some prolonged rushes in the Flyers zone. Had a great steal and a great chance off that. Played hard every shift, like he was desperate to score, which we are. Played just over 24 minutes, the most of any forward.
Another guy you can tell is doing everything he can every shift to put the puck in there - he led all skaters with 8 shots and really tried to get something going with Gomez and Moen. His dumb penalty should take him out of the running, but because of his lackluster teammates it really doesn't tonight.
Our friendly observers do not come out with agreement on the forwards after this affair, but on balance I choose Andrei as well. He caught our eyes several times with heads-up plays, including a dandy to get a nice solo chance on Leighton. In large part making it because so much of the rest of the team was poor (i.e. he also didn't catch my eyes with too many big mistakes), but also in part because the team needs an injection of what Andrei Kostitsyn can provide. Despite all my respect for Dominic Moore and his effort, finding the lethal shot is now much more important than reinforcing the value of hard work.
PK Subban - Game Puck
Proving he's the real deal by coming back from a bad night with an almost on-par performance; "almost" because Subban has set an unfairly high standard for himself with his performance so far these playoffs. He provided most of the flair on this night, and more energy than most of the team. He played decent defence, and was willing to take some smart risks to create some offence. His worst missed play did anger me significantly (should have gotten a puck and shot on a power play in the third), but at least it was in the offensive end - and arguably would have been too little too late in any case.
Gorges was in until that goal in the third period - while Halak was caught sleeping, there was time to yell at Gorges to hit his man 3 times before Leino, scored. Hamrlik, on the other hand had a fairly solid game at the back end – adequate if not spectacular. It pains me that a player could make the dome for Game #98 simply by show of effort, but that is what gets Roman in. His 5 attempts on net are at the very least a start, an example of how to beat the mysterious Philadelphia defensive system.
He teeters in here with the casual goaltending that deflated any hope of comeback in the third. But hear us out. Briere's goal was a beauty, one for the highlight reels - so top-corner that it bounces in off the crossbar. In addition, Halak made some downright spectacular saves over the next 30 minutes; he even made the first save on the rush leading to the second goal. Halak did everything to keep his team in it until he got caught sleeping on a shot that never should have been taken. It’s borderline for him, but given his early proficiency, the blame can’t entirely be laid at the goaltender’s feet when the team has scored no goals over 120 minutes.
Last night, Tobalev and I were both caught having to go accept an award for some volunteering we did together. Like the organizers of the event, who joked that they hold these things in mid-May to avoid Montreal playoff conflicts, we were caught in a happy/unhappy conflict. The meal was good, the speeches were good, and it's a good thing for Blackberries and iPhones, because half the room was on score duty. Many tables huddled around the tiny phone screens.
Anticipating the worst, we asked my Dad and friend and friend and stern habs critic, Ian, to fill us in with their impressions and select a dome. Having watched many games with both, we can tell from the comments that this was a game in which we'd have shared in the frustration. No initiative, no energy, tame shots, slow defence, incomprehensible tactics - these are all themes (and I'm sure you'd all agree). The result as always colouring the impression, yet how could it not. At some point players have to start doing anything, or at least appear to be willing to do anything to win.
If we stretch, we tease out some positives. Subban recovered. Halak was not world-beating, and let in a bad goal, but a team that could score at all would have a chance with him. The Plekanec line looks like they might be making inroads. Lapierre and Moore, though underused can be relied upon.
So where from here?
Well, we watch for a start. Clearly awards ceremonies are out.
Seriously though. The Canadiens really do have to start taking the initiative. The Flyers are taking a page from Jacques Martin on D. It's high time the Habs watch some Pittsburgh and Washington game tape. Just off the top of my head, I think I can point to shots from outside as key. Pittsburgh had to lose Game #2 before they understood that beating Halak from inside was going to be unlikely at ES. They adjusted and started shooting, and shooting smart from the bluelines. The Habs could learn big from this as Leighton is only human, and like Halak he can't save all that he can't see. Sooner or later a point shot will go in. Maybe two. It's easy to forget how close Pittsburgh came to winning by relying on Gonchar and Letang, but the time to remember that is now.
All is certainly not lost. I said today, that I have a feeling the final won't be Chicago vs. Philly. There's a comeback in these Conference finals. An early goal Monday, from the point, from in close, off a knee, anyhow, anywhere is the perfect way to make sure it's not Jumbo Joke.