Location: New York
Habs Goalie: Auld (W)
Opposition Goalie: Lundqvist (L)
Habs goalscorers: Spacek, Pouliot
Opposition goalscorers: Dubinsky
The play of the game lasted a while tonight, it wasn't just a few seconds. The net result was a goal, but the play was so much more than that, it was everything that led to that. On the ice were Plekanec, Darche, Pouliot, Weber and Spacek and they all did amazing jobs of attacking New York and at keeping the puck in. Each time that I thought the play was dead there was a player there to force a turnover and keep it going. I am sure, hadn't we scored, that this could have gone on for minutes. In the end a great pass from Pleks to Spacek and a nice move by Jaro had the puck going to the net. Both Ben and Mathieu then did great jobs at crashing the net and, so, the play was done!
Benoit Pouliot - Game Puck
Ben was solely responsible for the winner and played a very big role on the tying goal too. When a player shoots top-shelf, from the outside on one of the world's best goalies with the intention of scoring you know that his confidence is high. He does look comfortable out there and a promotion to Plekanec's wing was just what the doctor ordered as it resulted in two goals and a win.
I don't think that Darche is a long-term fix on Plekanec's wing, but when it isn't going well with Eller, Kostitsyn or Cammalleri it is worth a try. Tonight he was the band-aid and the band-aid held. He did a very good job of supporting and contributing to the top line throughout the game; a line that took 16 of our 38 shots.
Pleks played a nice game tonight as he was certainly involved offensively - 1 assist, team-high 6 shots. He also led the team in ice-time and seemed to be in on almost all of our good plays. Maybe he has found new linemates, or maybe he just needed waking up. Either way we're going nowhere without #14 playing like a #1.
If I was Spacek and I had just read that Topham was giving me a 'B' for the first half (lowest mark of the D-men) then I would be fired up. Now, a B is not a horrible mark (at least that is what I told myself throughout school), but being labeled as the worst in our group (or least good) must sting. So, what did Spacek do? He played one of his best games of the season, narrowly missing out on the game-puck. He was, surprisingly, only used for 16+ tonight, but I certainly noticed him when he was on. He made countless great defensive plays, scored a goal and was the only Hab to end at 2.
James was less of a standout than Jaro tonight, but with no one else really impressing me I gave him the nod. The main factors were the numbers and the fact that I never really noticed a screw-up (although not many players had many anyway). In all he led the team in blocked-shots (4), led the D in shots and hits (4 and 3 respectively) and picked up his 7th point in 6 games as a Hab.
Could playing Auld really kill two birds with one stone? I think that it is getting to the point where we not only want Alex in nets in order to rest Carey, but also because he is playing some seriously good hockey. Tonight, in just his 5th start he picked up his 3rd win and bettered his numbers to .941 and 1.74. Price still deserves the majority of starts and his job is certainly secure, but why not exploit this unexpected strength a little more? Tonight he got lucky at times, but did exactly what a goalie has to do to win games on the road. The win (and regulation loss for New York) is very valuable and I anticipate it meaning quite a bit down the road.
No Camms, Markov or Gorges, but still we can be competitive, why? The reason is that no team is that great, no team is that bad. I have said it before, but it is worth saying again. New York is ahead of us in the standings, yet didn't look that great, did they? They looked a bit like us really - strengths, weaknesses, good spurts, bad spurts, just an average team really. Well, that is the point. The league is filled with teams that can win 6 in a row and then go 5 games wondering if they will ever score again. Prust, Sauer, Stepan, Boyle, Weise - these are all names that are comforting; it is comforting to know that other teams carry bad players too (Moen, Pyatt) and that other teams have good players who get injured and good players who can't score sometimes. Tonight was a repeat lesson that we'll always be in the hunt and with the right coaching, desire and execution we'll beat out those teams that are built remarkably similar to ours.
I thought that we played a good game tonight. Our defence was tight (apart from Gill at times) and Auld did what he had to. Our forwards applied pressure which, at the very least, limited New York's time in our end. Neither goal was that pretty, but who really cares, all that matters is the win and our remaining 39 games. We now have 51 points in the bag meaning .500 from here on in would give us 90. A bad finish would give us ~82 and a strong finish would bag us ~98. So, it looks like 5th-12th here we come (with the possibility of finishing 3rd thanks to the league's silly 1st, 2nd, 3rd rules) which means the usual February, March and April of super-stressful hockey is just around the corner.