Friday, April 30, 2010

Habs vs Penguins: A look back at the regular season


The Pittsburgh Penguins won the regular season matchup by a 3-1 margin. One of the problems looking at that statistic is that not one of those games came with a solid lineup that Montreal managed to field (save Jaro Spacek) in round one of the playoffs.

Three games game prior to Christmas, when the Canadiens were at the peak of their injury problems. Back then there were names like D’Agostini, Chipchura, Leach and White on the roster.

The Canadiens did manage their single win without the likes of Mike Cammalleri, but it was also the fist game that they faced the Penguins with a near-completely healthy defensive corps.

Here’s a look back a the four games, with a brief video recap included for each. You can hit the Boxscores/Stats links for more info via, including more detailed video links.

October 28 at Pittsburgh: The Penguins put out a Stanley Cup peformance with a 6-1 win.

Jaroslav Halak, who had a four-game winning streak entering the ame,  was chased after allowing four goals on 23 shots in two period. Many felt the team fell flat in front of their goaltender.

Notable injuries: Ryan O’Byrne and Andrei Markov

Game Boxscore and Stats from

November 25 at Pittsburgh: The Canadiens only managed 17 shots and fell 3-1 to the Penguins. Carey Price made 27 saves.

Notable Habs injuries: Andre markov, Hal Gill, Scott Gomez, Jaroslav Spacek, Benoit Pouliot, Brian Gionta. Andrei Kostitsyn did not play, but may have been a healthy scratch.

Boxscore and Stats


December 10 at Montreal: Pittsburgh wins 3-2 on a goal from Pascal Dupuis at 13:21 of the third period. The Penguins fired 41 shots at Carey Price.

Notable Habs injuries: Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta.

Boxscore and Stats


February 5 at Montreal: Montreal wins 5-3 thanks to a pair of goals from Brian Gionta. The Canadiens chased Marc-Andre Fleury from the Penguins goal early in the third period, after their fourth goal.

Jaroslav Halak got the win, making 18 saves on 21 shots faced. Not one Penguins shot came off the stick of Sidney Corsby.

Notable Habs injuries included Mike Cammalleri, Andrei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot.

Boxscore and Stats


The Crosby Factor

A look at Sidney Crosby’s stats in the four games against the Canadiens.

  Goals Assists Points +/- Shots TOI
Oct 28 3 0 3 3 9 19:55
Nov 25 1 1 2 2 2 18:48
Dec 10 0 0 0 1 2 24:07
Feb 5 0 1 1 -2 0 20:51


Habs/Pens Playoff Schedule


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Aftermath and afterthoughts from the Habs Capitals series


Well there was lots of reaction to the Canadiens big win Wednesday night. Here’s a mash from all over the web. This is all over the place so apologies for lack of continuity.

Even the NHL has caught on: This is not a “made up” version of the “History will be made” video series.

That’s a lot of pucks!: First off some amazing numbers that I caught via a tweet from TSN’s Darren Dreger.

The Montreal Canadiens allowed 292 shots on goal, blocked 182 and had 102 that missed the net/hit the post. That’s a staggering 576 opportunities over seven games, or 82.3 per game.

Will the Penguins get that many chances? Probably not as they are less of a shooting team.

Big Numbers: From a ratings standpoint the Canadiens/Capitals series was a huge success. An estimated 4.7 million people watched the game on either TSN or RDS.

At it’s peak at the end of the third period, TSN reported numbers as high as 8.2 million viewers watched on either network. That’s almost one in four people in Canada. The series averaged out to 1.8 million per game on TSN and 1.34 on RDS.

I’m still looking for numbers from the US networks.

Talk and tweets from Cammy:  Mike Cammalleri talked to the Fan590 Thursday morning.

Below is a pic Cammalleri submitted on his Twitter account. I’ve never seen a photo of four guys happier to be going to Pittsburgh.


Honest Abe: Abe Hefter and the crew from CJAD pulled off a mini-marathon post-game show last night, taking it until midnight. He offers his thoughts on the series in his blog.

Four Habs Fans look at the chemistry and numbers in the Habs’ upset.

Getting some OT from the CBC: Arpon Basu on the road to Pittsburgh. I think he forgot to pack enough underwear in the event the habs won Game Seven

From the Capitals owner: I gotta give some props to Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who offers congratulations to the Canadiens and his view on the series. Mr. Leonsis also remains optimistic about the team’s future. Have to admire an owner willing to share his thoughts on his team in a  public forum.

Fedorov weighs in: An excellent interview from Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov, who talked for former Washington center Sergei Fedorov on the Capitals’ elimination and next move.

I exchanged tweets with Dmitri, and asked if he felt Ovechkin would play for Russia in the World Championships. Though nothing official has come from the players, with the exception of Semyon Varlamov who has confirmed, he feels all three Russian-born Capitals will play.

Looking at the series from a collector’s standpoint: Nice piece by Chris Carlin from the Upper Deck blog.

Reaction from followers of the Habs next opponents: I happened to check in on ThePensBlog, s who had submitted a eulogy for the Capitals to Puck Daddy, this morning to see what Penguins supporters are up to.


I noted something of interest on ThePensBlog and lucked in later that the ad was still there. Take a look below and see if you can figure out what it is. It’s easy if you know your Habs. A hint: think of a goalie.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Habs/Capitals - Game Seven: An upset for the ages


They said it couldn’t be done, but the Montreal Canadiens battled the odds and defeated the Washington Capitals in the seventh game of their Eastern Conference Quarter Finals.

It wouldn’t be easy on Wednesday night, as they would need to block 41 shots and rely on Jaroslav Halak to make 41 saves to preserve a 2-1 win.

The first period opened up with the Canadiens not showing the energy that hey had to start Game Six. The Capitals on the other hand had their chances with 11 shots on Jaroslav Halak, and one that went off the post.

On top of the near dozen shots, Washington added another 12 that were blocked by the Canadiens and out hit the underdogs 15-3.

Physically overmatched and outgunned, the Canadiens knew they’d need to take any opportunity they had and make it count. They did just that to close out the period.

Already playing four-on-four, the Capitals Mike Green wound up in the penalty box on a foolish cross-checking call. Montreal took advantage when Scott Gomez fed Marc-Andre Bergeron, who laced it past Semyon Varlamov at 19:31, to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.


Washington’s power play, just one for 30 in the series, had a pair of opportunities in the second period. Unfortunately for the Capitals, the Canadiens’ shot blocking and some key stops by Halak  added to their futility mark.

“I needed to do my best and the guys did the rest. They were scoring the goals and blocking the shots,” Halak said. “Before the game we said everyone needs to block shots.Tonight the guys were there.”

“It had to be done,” said Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges. “These guys shoot it from everywhere. We knew we’d have to pay the price to win this series.”

Montreal managed just three shots to the Capitals 13, yet still skated away with the lead after forty minutes.

The Capitals thought they had it tied up early in the third, but the goal was waved off as Mike Knuble’s skate had tied up Halak in the blue paint. Montreal had one of their own called off, near the midway point of the period, as Maxim Lapierre crashed into Varlamov.

The offense began to put on an attack for the Canadiens, getting several chances in the Capital’s end, even ringing one off the goal post.

They would hit there mark, thanks to a brilliant effort when Hal Gill chipped out a puck. Lapierre drew the hit while chasing the puck, allowing Dominic Moore to move in and give Montreal a two-goal cushion with 3:36 to play.


The Capitals finally solved Halak, when Brooks Laich found a rebound at 17:44.

With a final 1:44 of power play time, and Varlamov pulled from the goal, the Capitals had one final chance to tie it up. The Canadiens held strong to take the win and pull off the upset.

“He (Halak) played great,” said a dejected Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. “I don’t have words to say right now. I think everybody is disappointed.”

Montreal becomes the first eighth seeded team to win a series after being down three games to one.

“We’re extremely proud of how we played and how we competed,” said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin. “But you’ve got to give credit to the Capitals. I thought it was tremendous hockey and a tremendous series. Our goaltender was the difference.”



All three division winners in the Eastern Conference (Washington, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils) have now been eliminated in the first round.

The Canadiens will fly directly to Pittsburgh in preparation for round two of the playoffs against the Penguins. That series will begin on Saturday.

“We’ll enjoy the moment tonight and tomorrow we’ll get ready for Pittsburgh,” Martin said.

Game’s Three Stars: 1. Jaroslav Halak 2. Marc-Andre Bergeron 3. Hal Gill

Related Links:

Habs Eyes On the Prize


image Montreal fans celebrate the Canadiens Game Seven win Wednesday night – Photo:

Game Photos: Bruce Bennett – Getty Images

Live Game 7 Habs Caps Chat and some last minute notes

It’s here, judgment day for the Montreal Canadiens. Can they take out the number one seeded Washington Capitals and complete the major upset? Of course they can!

The Hockey News, who predicted a Capitals sweep, and ESPN throw in their opinions, but neither is willing to call it. Reading between the lines, THN seems to be favouring the Caps

It appears the the Canadiens will use the same lineup as in Game Six, which means Jaroslav Spacek will likely sit out again tonight, barring a last-minute game time decision my Jacques Martin.

It looks like Bruce Boudreau will toughen up his roster, by playing Scott Walker. Walker came off the ice in the morning skate ahead of the scratches.

Karl Alzner will fill in for the injured Tom Poti on the Washington blueline. He will be paired up with rookie John Carlson, whom he was played with in Hershey (AHL).

Look who’s not talking: Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin did not skate or talk to the media Wednesday morning. What’s the matter Alex, Halak got your tongue?

But look who is: I’ll be sitting in, along with other Caps and Habs bloggers and tweeters, on a live chat hosted by Steven Hindle, Washington Capitals blogger for

You can follow it in the panel below, or join it via Steven’s page.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Does Halak have one more left for Game Seven?


Can Jaroslav Halak do it one more time for the Montreal Canadiens in Game Seven on Wednesday? Photo: Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images

It’s been almost 24 hours since Jaroslav Halak gave the hockey world a playoff goaltending show for the ages. Everybody is still talking about the 53-save performance by the Montreal Canadiens netminder against the top offense in the NHL.

It’s not just Habs fans either. Leafs fans, Sens fans, Bruins fans, everybody is in awe of what happened Monday night.

Halak’s performance is already being ranked among some of the greatest in the Canadiens playoff history. Many will say that it is not the greatest as it was not during a Stanley Cup Final, but taking it as a single game, and depending on how old you are, it has to be in the top three.

Washington tried everything from tapping Halak’s mask to crashing his crease to phase him. It worked in Games Two and Three, but it’s not working anymore and now it’s the Capitals who are “shaking”.

An astounding stat for Halak is his 9-0-1 career record when his opponents score 40 or more shots. With the firepower of the Washington Capitals, can he have “Another day at the office” and take it to 10-0-1 on Wednesday night or can he just get the win with an easier night?

Well to do it, he’ll need help up front. The Canadiens forwards will need to score when possible and get shots on net as often as possible.

They’ve proven that Semyon Varlamov is not invincible, giving him his first career loss at the Bell Centre, but a less than 20 shot night may not be enough for the Canadiens in the deciding game.

Additional help from the supplemental cast in the third and fourth lines will again be needed as well. Maxim Lapierre led the support charge in Game Six. Can he repeat that, or does someone else step forward this time.

Fans can only hope that Jaroslav Spacek’s virus is finally gone for Wednesday night. If the only Canadiens blueliner that seems to have Alex Ovechkin’s number game-in and game out is there, it is a huge burden off the shoulders of the other five rearguards. In other words the shot count and quality of said shots should be easily reduced. Add in the sparkplug play of P.K. Subban and things will be difficult for the Capitals.

From there it falls to special teams. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau could pull a desperation move and use Scott Walker, who has yet to play this series, in an effort to stir things up and rattle the Canadiens cage. The Pittsburgh Penguins did that successfully with Georges Laraque two seasons ago.

If Montreal can stay disciplined though, and avoid unnecessary penalty calls or a trio of diving calls, then we should see them in a Game One against Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Go Habs Go!

An unlikely comparison: It was funny to hear Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri on Tuesday, as he compared Jaroslav Halak’s play, and ability to perform under fire, to a goaltender he watched growing up, Allan Bester. What?

Well actually he has a point, win-loss results withstanding.

Growing up north of Toronto as I did, the Habs sniper saw Bester in his busiest two seasons (1988-90) with the Maple Leafs. The diminutive goalie was sometimes all the blue and white had as he saw an average of 30 shots against per game. I seem to recall a four or more game run where the Leafs netminder faced a minimum of 40 shots per game and still gave his team a chance. I’d need a Leafs historian to verify it though.

Best Facebook Status: Tyler McKinna from NHLDigest, “Chuck Norris carries a Jaroslav Halak lunchbox.”

Game 6 Goal Analysis: Chris and Robert at "Habs Eyes on the Prize" have worked their tails off breaking down the goals in all six games thus far. Well done guys, but you need a break. How about a 1-0 Habs win to rest up for Round Two?

A Fan’s Game Prep: A reader of Dennis Kane’s blog offers his preparation for a big game.

From the Notebook: J.T. from “The H does hot stand for Habs” offers some Game Seven eve thoughts and notes.

Five Keys to Game Seven: From

The Right Stuff: Yves on Habs shows the Canadiens have what it takes to win the series.

Suffering withdrawals: For the first time since Sept 29, I didn’t have to load my goalie gear into the car on a Tuesday night. I gotta find a spring/summer league in the GTA!

Expect NHL to fine Habs Lapierre for his two dives

A quick observation from a caller to CJAD’s post-game show brought this section of the NHL rulebook to light.

Rule 64 - Diving / Embellishment

64.1 Diving / Embellishment – Any player or goalkeeper who blatantly dives, embellishes a fall or a reaction, or who feigns an injury shall be penalized with a minor penalty under this rule.

A goalkeeper who deliberately initiates contact with an attacking player other than to establish position in the crease, or who otherwise acts to create the appearance of other than incidental contact with an attacking player, is subject to the assessment of a minor penalty for diving / embellishment.

64.2 Minor Penalty - A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who attempts to draw a penalty by his actions (“diving / embellishment”).

64.3 Fines and Suspensions - Regardless if a minor penalty for diving / embellishment is called, Hockey Operations will review game videos and assess fines to players or goalkeepers who dive or embellish a fall or a reaction, or who feign injury. See also Rule 29 – Supplementary Discipline. The call on the ice by the Referee is totally independent of supplementary discipline.

The first such incident during the season will result in a warning letter being sent to the player or goalkeeper. The second such incident will result in a one thousand dollar ($1,000) fine. For a third such incident in the season, the player shall be suspended for one game, pending a telephone conversation with the Director of Hockey Operations. For subsequent violations in the same season, the player’s suspension shall double (i.e. first suspension – one game, second suspension – two games, third suspension – four games, etc.) See also Rule 29 – Supplementary Discipline.

With two diving calls assessed in Monday’s game, Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre will receive a $1,000 fine. Lapierre has no priors this season. Yes I actually checked all his penalties!

Brian Gionta, also called for diving in Game Six is likely a first-time offender this season, and will get a letter from the Principal’s office.

Then again if you ask Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, the Habs dive all the time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Canadiens/Capitals Game Six: Halak carries Habs to seventh game


Facing elimination, and having not won a home playoff game in nearly two years, the Montreal Canadiens had their backs against the wall in Game Six of their first round series against the Washington Capitals.

Perhaps the young player sporting a Ken Dryden mask in the pre-game ceremony was a positive omen as they answered the call, thanks to the brilliant 53-save goaltending performance from Jaroslav Halak.

After an early exchange of end-to-end rushes and opportunities by both teams, the Canadiens struck on the power play at 7:30 when Mike Cammalleri blew a shot past Semyon Varlamov.

Ninety-nine seconds later, Cammalleri struck again on a set play from the draw, taking a quick pass from P.K. Subban for his fifth goal of the playoffs.

“Everyone was concerned about getting the job done and movign on to game seven,” said Subban, who had been called up Sunday evening from the Hamilton Bulldogs. “I was a little bit tired. It was a bit of a battle for me, but I’m happy I kept the puck out of my end.”

The Canadiens appeared on track but got into penalty problems later in the period, finding themselves on the opposite side of a 5-on-3 Capitals power play.

Hal Gill and Josh Gorges were crucial in killing the Washington two-man advantage that lasted 49 seconds. Whatever they couldn’t stop, Halak was there to turn away. Another 1:46 of unsuccessful 5 on 4 time for the Capitals had the Bell Centre crowd on it’s feet.

“Our biggest penalty killer was Jaroslav,” said Canadiens coach Jaques Martin. “The five-on-three was crucial and I thought they (Gill and Gorges) played it extremely well.”

The Capitals had 18 shots on Halak, to just 10 for the Canadiens, but the home team skated out after the first 20 with a 2-0 lead. They also held the physical edge early with an 11-5 hit advantage.

Montreal was forced to kill off two Capitals power plays early in the second period, but Halak answered the call yet again. The Slovak netminder came up with big saves, including one on the snake-bitten Alexander Semin and stopping Alex Ovechkin in close.

Washington had an 11-0 shot advantage through the first nine minutes, with the Canadiens not getting one on Varlamov until the 10:13 mark and managed just three all period.

Playing his best game of the series, in light of a pair of diving infractions, Maxim Lapierre raced up the right wing blasted in a shot past Varlamov to give the Canadiens a three-goal lead at 4:17 of the third. It was Lapierre’s first career playoff goal.

“Everybody played great tonight,” said Lapierre noting a full 60-minute effort from everyone on the ice. “I just followed the group.”

On the downside, if Lapierre has a previous diving call this season, he could be subject to suspension.

“Lapierre’s been called his whole life on diving,” said a bitter Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who has seen his team squander a 3-1 series lead. “They dive a lot. I’m grateful that they started calling them.”

Not giving up, Washington continued to minimize the Canadiens attack, limiting them to just 22 shots on the night, and keep the pressure on. Halak answered every attempt, even flashing the leather a-la Patrick Roy on occasion at the frustrated Capitals.

Eric Fehr finally solved Halak on the Capital’s 52nd shot, tipping a point shot past the Canadiens netminder with just under five minutes to play.

Halak’s 53 saves set a franchise record in a regulation playoff game. The previous holder was the man emulated in the pre-game ceremony.

“You can’t stop all of them,” Halak said on Fehr’s shutout buster. “It’s a great feeling, especially in the playoffs, winning a game like that.”

The Canadiens goalie was asked if he had another performance like that left in him for Game Seven, “We’ll see what happens. Every game is a different game.”

Tomas Plekanec potted an empty net goal with 57 seconds remaining to seal the win and snap the Canadiens six-game home losing streak in the playoffs.

“We’ve liked our group all year long,” said Cammalleri on a rebuilt Canadiens team that was given little chance to even make the playoffs, let alone take the top seed to a seventh game. “You’re not going to shut these guys down. We know we have to do our best to make it difficult for them. They’re the team that’s supposed to win and we’re the underdog.”

The series concludes Wednesday night in Washington.

Three Stars: 1. Halak 2. Cammalleri 3. Maxim Lapierre

Game Photos: Montreal Gazette

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Secondary scoring will be a must, if the Habs want Game 7

You can almost count on one hand the number of goal scorers from the Montreal Canadiens through the first five games of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals.

In total, just seven separate players have found the back of the net, and all but one has come from a third or fourth line player (Dominic Moore). The Washington Capitals have seen tallies from ten different players, and all but three skaters on their roster have registered at least a point in this series.

The Canadiens top scoring lines have been fortunate that the Capitals Mike Green has been in a playoff coma. If he were playing at his Norris-nominee level, this series may have been over by now. Here's hoping the extra day off doesn't wake him up.

If he does, the Washington strategy should be simple enough, adapt to the speed advantage of Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn, and find negate Travis Moen from the undersized second line.

This is where the third and fourth line players on the Montreal bench must step up Monday night. The likes of Benoit Pouliot, Sergei Kostitsyn, Glen Metropolit (injured or not) and co. need to bring it up to another level, much like their 1993 counterparts did.

I saw Gary Leeman at the Hockey Expo in Toronto on Sunday, and it reminded me of the little guys who were hidden in the shadows of Patrick Roy in that Stanley Cup run. Leeman had been picked up by the Canadiens from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Brian Skrudland. He played in 11 playoff games and contributed three points on a squad that saw key contributions from a group of non-household names (Kevin Haller, Paul DiPietro, Ed Ronan and Benoit Brunet).

It's a group of guys that today's Canadiens squad could take a page from. Even though Jacques Martin did shorten his bench in Game Five, and probably will again as Game Six progresses, the supplemental lines must take any advantage of their limited ice time and pot a goal or two. Without them, or barring another standout game from Jaroslav Halak, it will be over.

Beyond the forwards, it's been argued that the Canadiens defense has yet to contribute to the offense. Yes it has struggled, but they had some life in Game Five when Andrei Markov had a couple solid chances.

One has to realize though that they have been more preoccupied, most of them anyways, with their primary task, to defend. With the likes of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and a well-overdue and hungry Alexander Semin, that's just what they'll be forced to do again Monday night.

The Capitals will certainly not want to return home to the Verizon Center on Wednesday night, so expect their offense to put on the pressure.

Markov (27:39 in Game Five) , Hall Gill (25:01) , Ryan O'Byrne (16:53) and Josh Gorges (27:45 ) have been going beyond the call on many occasions to keep their team in this series.

They will need to yet again with Jaroslav Spacek still a likely game-time decision while he battles a virus. Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Bergeron has been a total dud in the series, most notably on the power play, and Roman Hamrlik's ice-time continued on the downslide to a season low 12:10.

Hamrlik, who saw a lot of ice time early in the season, when the Habs were plagued with rearguard injuries, may be just exhausted, or even injured, who knows. Regardless his play has been a questionable liability since Game Two.

So with only four defencemen that appear able or willing to give a 100 per-cent effort, there's even more urgency for a overacheiving performance from the bottom-six forwards on Monday night.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Emotional maturity still a problem for Habs Price


Carey Price got a second misconduct penalty for this immature tap from the bench to Nicklas backstrom Wednesday night. – photo: Reuters

For the last couple seasons, we’ve heard from fans and bloggers alike that Carey Price needs to mature a few more years before he begins to the excel in the Montreal Canadiens goal.

The end of the third period on Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to the Washington Capitals showed evidence of that process is clearly needed at the emotional level.

On two separate occasions, the Habs netminder took unnecessary unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Both incidents are shown in the video below. It is followed with some post-game comments by Price.

The essential response from Price on the first infraction comes out this way, “It’s frustration. It’s not a good move. Let them know I’m there.”

To the next question, Price responds, “ I didn’t actually mean to hit them.”

So he admits that it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I’m stumped when he said, “Let them know I’m there” ? Sounds like there was intent to at least get the puck in the Capitals vicinity.

I never made it to the pros,or anything close for that matter, as people who play with me can attest to, but one thing I’ve never done in a game playing goal is shoot a puck at an opposing player or official. That’s just plain stupid.

Slam your stick on the post, yes. Shove or poke an opposing player in your crease short of going full Hextall, hell yes. Give your team mates crap, fine. But shoot a puck like that?

Just under eight minutes later, the boy wonder gives Nicklas Backstrom a tap on the leg from the bench.

Strike two on this one as it was clearly deliberate when seen in the below video and more stated in the top photo. You can see Price’s glove hand move the stick at Backstrom around the 52 second mark.

Coaches and teammates were quick to defend Price, who will not be disciplined for either infraction by the NHL.

"He's an emotional person but he's still learning," said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin post-game. "You don't want to take away that passion, you just want to direct it the right way."

Martin continued to back his netminder following Thursday’s team meeting, “You need to have emotion, it’s really important to play with it in a game at a high level. But at the same time, you have to have controlled emotion.”

“I’ve said it all year, I love Carey’s passion,” said team mate Mike Cammalleri. “There’s nothing better than when he shows it.”

Controlled emotion or common sense? I can think of two or three NHL coaches that would not have been to generous in their assumptions.

I can also remember another incident or two, where Price’s “passion” was questioned last season.

Immaturity aside, expect to see #31 between the pipes Friday night. Price clearly wasn’t to blame for the overall end result.

The Ovechkin snow job: I never saw it at the start of the game, but the tweets I read post-game made it sound like he sprayed him with a water bottle.

Get over it, folks. He does that every game and maybe he’ll be a little more careful next time. The kid shouldn’t of been waiving the flag in front of the Capitals door anyways. Besides, he was likely the most popular kid in school today.

Habs Playoff Fact: The Canadiens have only come back from a 3-1 series deficit once in the franchise’s history.

Spacek out for Game Five: Jaroslav Spacek didn’t make the trip to Washington as he continues to battle a virus. That means the Canadiens will field the same six defenceman used in Game Four.

Hamrlik ice-time on the decline: La Presse’s Marc-Antione Godin made this notable tweet this afternoon, “Roman Hamrlik has been used less and less in the Mtl-Was series. His ice time has dropped from 23:19 to 15:27 in a four-game span.”

Interesting, given the loss of Spacek for Wednesday’s game. Then again he’s been the goat on both of the Capitals short-handed goals in the series. Personally I don’t understand using the aging rearguard on the power play to begin with.

Looking for work:  It’s a real shame that Moscow Dynamo will cease to be. The loss of the 64-year-old Russian hockey franchise would be the equivalent to an Original Six NHL team (yes even the Leafs) either folding or merging with say, Florida.

Dynamo is the second most famous club team in Russia, behind Central Red Army.

An excellent piece on the teams decline from TSN features insight from Yahoo! Sports’ Dimitri Chesnokov, who broke the story last week.

The club will release all players, coaches and staff on April 30.

One of the soon-to-be unemployed is former Habs prospect Pavel Valentenko, who bolted the Hamilton Bulldogs for the KHL. He is now NHL property of the New York Rangers following the Scott Gomez trade.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spelling out the Habs Playoff strategy

The Habs aren’t done yet, heading into Game 4, but not following the suggestions listed below may find them in the playoff morgue.

Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarter Final between the Montreal Canadiens and the Washington Capitals goes tonight. A Washington win and I suspect we’ll see the last of the Canadiens in the Bell Centre this season, with the exception of their locker cleanout/post-mortem.

That in mind, here’s some recommendations to making it a respectable game. Just keep in mind I am not an NHL coach, nor am I an expert.

 Continue with game plan for the entire game, not just a period.

Avoid unnecessary penalties. Stay focused and out of the box.

Negate the Capitals side advantage with speed.

Anticipate any set-up plays, such as the SH one used in the Game 3.

Defend the goalies and the crease area from crashers.

Irritate within reason ie:pre-game smack talk. Get them to retaliate.

Evaluate the situation. Know which Caps are on the ice, and when.

Never give up the fight. Don’t panic, just get back on track.

Simplicity. Don’t rely on the fancy play. Just shoot the puck on goal.

I don’t think I could spell it out any easier. Puck drops at 7pm.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Afterthoughts on Game Three

I don’t know but last night may have been the most disgusted I ever felt as a fan of the Montreal Canadiens. Maybe it’s just the heat of the playoffs, as I’m sure there have been more disheartening moments over the years. Don’t worry, I’m not giving up on by beloved Habs, not at all. Just a little pissed off.

Instead of going on a rant that will likely contradict myself three times over, and the fact I’m short on time today, I thought I’d skim the good old WWW to see how others have been feeling.

First up, Dennis Kane gives his brief yet defining look back at Monday’s disaster.

Next my buddy Abe Hefter from CJAD gives his evaluation. Abe notes what was mentioned during the second intermission on TSN, that it didn’t matter who was in goal in the second period. The team simply pulled a disappearing act. Abe also sees Carey Price in for Game Four.

On that note, Robert Lefebvre asks you who you feel should be in goal, Price or Halak?

Before you vote, here’s what the two goalies said after Tuesday practice:

Halak: “We had a good first period. We had some chances and we didn’t score. It wasn’t the start we wanted in the second period. It still could be a long series. We’ve gotta put it behind us and start fresh tomorrow.”

Carey Price on the Capitals attack: “That’s their bread and butter, shooting pucks, getting pucks at the net and crashing the net. That’s why they scored 100 goals more than we did.”

…and on handling the crease crashing: “I’m a pretty big boy, I can handle myself. That could be advantage us. If they’re still coming to the net and we don’t retaliate, we could be drawing penalties.”

The entrenched blogger Arpon Basu, of the Daily Hab-it , says it’s not time to jump off the ledge, yet. You can also find a link to his CBC blog, in which he gets no credit for by name on the site – just sayin’, and his CP article there as well.

Oh Canadiens has a playoff beard contest going. Here’s the latest entry. I always saw MetricJulie more as a goatee gal myself.

Canadiens coach Jacques Martin has been under the gun from Robert, myself and other fans and bloggers alike in the past several days.

Scott Burnside, whos is covering the Capitals/Canadiens series for ESPN, seems to back some of our feeling that Martin lacks in emotion in his Tuesday writeup.

On the good side, there are reports that Martin has contacted the playoff series supervisor regarding the bumping of his goalies, and was more in conversation with referees during the game. I didn’t realize JM was a subscriber to my feed.

Nonetheless, Kyle Roussel has given us 22 reasons to fire the Habs bench boss. Four Habs Fans already have a replacement in mind. Could he be any worse?

Martin was observing the Capitals practice, on Tuesday morning, that focused primarily on a Washington power play that is 0 for the playoffs. Did Martin learn anything to counter it, or will Ovechkin and company light it up with the man advantage? Why do I sense the latter? has five keys to Game Four. This is rather interesting as it relates to the  post that I will have up Wednesday morning.

That’s it for today. I’m off to my last pick-up game of the season before they tear out the ice at the local rink.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Capitals/Canadiens Game Three: It was a game, for 20 minutes


The Washington Capitals took a 2-1 series lead with a 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night – Washington Post photo

Playoff hockey in Montreal is a sight to behold. The fans walking the streets have more life in their step and the Bell Centre crowd is always loud an excited. Unfortunately when the Montreal Canadiens don’t echo that feeling, or only show it for the first 20 minutes, home ice advantage quickly becomes non-existent.

Such was was the case in Monday’s Game Three playoff matchup against the Washington Capitals. The top seed in the Eastern Conference had four unanswered goals in the second period en route to a 5-1 win and a 2-1 series lead.

The pre-game opening featured a young lad, in a Canadiens “rocket” Richard jersey, carrying out the fabled torch to ignite a eye-popping lighting display.

With Habs legend Jean Beliveau appearing at the Bell Centre for the first time since his January stroke, all the positive energy appeared to be in place.

The Canadiens came out the gate, much like the Capitals had in the first two games, mounting the offensive pressure and limiting their opponents scoring chances.

Despite being out hit 15-7, the home team was ahead in shots in the first period for the first time in the series (10-7). Capitals Captain Alexander Ovechkin was held without a shot in the opening 20 minutes.

The Canadiens shut down two Capitals power plays, and even had more scoring opportunities than their opponents in the first one.

Since their power play units couldn’t connect, the Capitals gave it a shot with the PK unit in the second period. It worked when Tom Poti’s clearing shot eluded the Montreal power play, allowing Boyd Gordon to move in and cash his own rebound, between the legs of Jaroslav Halak, at 1:06.

Gordon, a healthy scratch in Game Two and not known for his scoring, emphasized the depth of the Capitals offence. “We’ve got a lot of quality guys on this team that can step in and play,” he said. “We have to take advantage of our opportunities when we get them.”

If the Capitals shorthanded goal didn’t silence the Bell Centre crowd, Brooks Laich’s screened point shot at 4:42 certainly did.

Three and a half minutes later, Washington increased their lead to three when Eric Fehr swept in to find a rebound right in front of Halak.

“It feels good coming into a hostile environment like this and play the game we play,” Fehr said. “It’s a tough building to play in for both teams. We were able to quiet the crowd down in the second period.”

Allowing three goals on the last six shots faced, and 8 in his last 28, Canadiens coach Jacques Martin pulled his starting goaltender in favour of Carey Price.

“You’re trying to change the momentum at that point,” Martin said. “We had a tremendous first period and lost our momentum and they capitalized.”

Things didn’t get any better as Ovechkin dumped the puck into the corner. Nicklas Backstrom got to the puck back out to his captain. Left wide open , and with a perfect shooting lane, Ovechkin made good on his only shot of the game to make it 4-0.

“It’s an unbelievable crowd. It’s a good atmosphere and our team loves to play here,” Ovechkin said on playing in front of Montreal fans that booed him every time he touched the puck. “I don’t hear it. I just concentrate on where the puck is and where my guys are and play hockey.”

Down by four goals, it fell apart at a disciplinary level for the Canadiens. Two minutes after the Ovechkin goal, Brian Gionta took a cross-checking penalty. Linemate Scott Gomez argued the call and wound up with a 10 minute misconduct.

“I probably said something I shouldn’t have said,” Gomez said. “I’m not going to comment on the refs because they’ve got a job to do. I just wont say that again. I gotta choose my words different.”

Almost three minutes after that Tomas Plekanec argued an interference call and was assessed a two-minute misconduct to close a humiliating twenty minutes.

After killing the Capitals power play, the Canadiens found themselves with the man advantage, where Plekanec managed to solve Simeon Varlamov at 2:25 of the third period.

Price did everything he had to do to keep his team in it, making 21 saves on the night, many spectacular.

“You gotta gather your chickens when your sitting on the bench,” Price said on getting called off the bench. “I didn’t think we gave up that many chances. A lot of the shots were from the outside.”

Unfortunately for Price, his team was unable to meet the task on the offensive end. Canadiens couldn’t capitalize on a later power play, then had one taken away when Andrei Kostitsyn was called on a questionable hooking call.

Maxim Lapierre’s ridiculous roughing call at 16:44 put the exclamation point of a lack luster 40 minutes of play from the Canadiens.

On the flip side, the Capitals played a disciplined game and refused to engage the attempted Montreal roughhousing attempts.

“They talked about it themselves on the bench saying ‘Don’t get involved, we don’t need it’,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, praising his clubs self-control. “Even though we didn’t score (on Plekanec’s double minor), I think it sapped a lot of the emotion out of the crowd and them.”

“We made a couple mistakes and we just didn’t respond,” said Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges. “We got frustrated and started making plays that weren’t working. When you get that far behind, it’s too hard to recover.”

As fans made their way out the Bell Centre, Matt Bradley had three chances on a helpless Price before finally connecting with 45 seconds remaining.

Varlamov had 27 saves for the win in the Washington goal.

“He loves these kinds of situations,” Fehr said on his goalie. “He’s a big-name player and he did a great job.”

On the stat sheet, the Canadiens remain weak in the faceoff circle but if anything positive came out of the loss, the Canadiens continue to shut down the Capitals power play, which sits at 0-for-13.

“We suck right now,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said on his team’s struggle with the man advantage. “It’s the worst stretch that we’ve gone through. We’ve had some good looks and chances, but none went in.”

The Canadiens also kept a better pace in hits, laying out 19 to Washington’s 22.

Game Four goes Wednesday night at 7pm. The Canadiens will have a 4pm practice at the Bell Centre on Tuesday.

“We gotta respond and regroup tomorrow,” Gomez added, “We had our chances, we could have made the game a little different.

Though it won’t be official until Wednesday afternoon, one has to think that Price will get the start in goal.

The Canadiens netminder was able to defend his fellow backstop, who arguably cant have all the blame for all three goals pinned on him, “The best thing about Jaro is that he’s head strong. He’s a confident guy and I don’t think he’ll let that bother him at all.”

Game’s Three Stars: 1. Simeon Varlamov 2. Brooks Laich 3. Tom Poti

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weighing in on the Game Two officiating and Habs coaching


Many feel Canadiens coach Jacques Martin’s lack of challenging the officiating (seen here with Florida) could lead to the team’s playoff downfall.

Thought the officiating sucked and that Canadiens coach Jacques Martin needs to grow a set behind the bench? Well you’re not alone!

Usually I can let a bad call, or two slide in the regular season. When it comes to the playoffs, it’s time for the referees to sharpen their game and call a balanced game.

Saturday’s Game Two between the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals was clearly a demonstration of not doing that.

By the time the game ended in a 6-5 overtime win for the Capitals, Robert Lefebvre of Habs Eyes on The Prize was already on the attack, citing the officiating as a railroad job.

Not to be outdone, a fellow goalie and legal eagle (only he’s a lawyer, not me) HabsFanForever33 aka Panger (HFF33) from Four Habs Fans brings to light the Mike Knuble butt slam in the face of Jaroslav Halak

HFF33 looks at NHL rule 69 and highlights the key notes that were clearly overlooked Saturday night.

TSN’s Darren Pang was livid over what happened in front of Halak at the end of the second period, backing up the rule by breaking down the play. If I can get a video clip of this, I will add it.

West coast Habs blogger Dennis Kane weighed in with a quote from The Province’s Tony Gallagher. I added a link to Mr. Gallagher’s full article as well.

Earlier this morning, I received an email from Daniel Grosso who did an excellent job of breaking down the questionable and missed calls after the Canadiens built a 4-1 lead.

Daniel noted six separate questionable moments in the final 22 minutes. His full write up can be found here.

On the flip side, Topham from Lions in Winter made a valid comment to Daniel’s post, noting that there were questionable calls on both ends, but that the Canadiens coaching is also part of the issue:

Instead of an inquiry into the NHL officiating, I suggest an inquiry into Montreal coaching after this one.

NHL refs have reffed in this way for as long as I can remember, it's the important game syndrome. They seem to feel they don't want to end the game one way or the other because of a penalty, instead preferring to end the game one way with no calls.

Montreal has to understand this, and more importantly work in this framework.

Don't allow Halak to be pushed, push around Varlamov, hook, interfere, generally play to the rules being reffed rather than those in the book.

That said, where was Jacques Martin during these infractions? A former goalie himself, you’d thing he’d be up on the bench either yelling at the officials or at least trying to get an explanation.

He didn’t, simply because he doesn’t, and it cost him. He’s no Dick Irvin, Toe Blake, Pat Burns or John Tortarella on the emotional side, that’s for sure. You know, coaches that have won a Stanley Cup.

During Sundays’ media conference, Martin was confronted with the numerous times that Halak was pushed in front of his net.

His response was simply this, “I have faith that the officials will make the right calls.” Huh? That’s it?

Again Robert puts in some very solid arguments to wake up the Habs bench boss.

Many feel that coaches and players are now afraid to comment or dispute a referees call without repercussions from the NHL or get the cold shoulder in future games.

In the comments on Robert’s post, I noted the NHL rulings on coaches comments that fall under Rules 40 and 75. You’ll find it below was well.

75.1 Unsportsmanlike Conduct – Players, goalkeepers and non-playing Club personnel are responsible for their conduct at all times and must endeavor to prevent disorderly conduct before, during or after the game, on or off the ice and any place in the rink. The Referees may assess penalties to any of the above team personnel for failure to do so.
NOTE: When such conduct is directed at an official, Rule 40 – Abuse of Officials shall be applied.

75.3 Bench Minor Penalty – A bench minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions:
(i) When a player, goalkeeper, Coach or non-playing Club personnel throws any object onto the ice from the players’ or penalty bench (or from any other off-ice location) during the progress of the game or during a stoppage of play.
(ii) Any unidentifiable player or goalkeeper, or any Coach or non-playing Club personnel uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gesture directed towards any person.
(iii) Whenever Coaches and/or non-playing Club personnel uses obscene or profane language or gestures anywhere in the rink.

75.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – Game misconduct penalties shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions:

(iii) Coaches and non-playing Club personnel who have previously been assessed a bench minor penalty for the use obscene or profane language or gestures anywhere in the rink. A confidential report to the Commissioner shall be completed and filed with the League for possible further disciplinary action.

(v) Any player, goalkeeper or non-playing Club personnel who directs obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures to any person after the expiration of the game. This action may occur on or off the ice.

Any player, goalkeeper or non-playing Club personnel penalized under this section may be subject to supplemental discipline under Rule 29.

Rule 40 – Abuse of Officials

40.1 General Description –A player, goalkeeper, Coach or non-playing person shall not challenge or dispute the rulings of an official before, during or after a game. A player, goalkeeper, Coach or non-playing person shall not display unsportsmanlike conduct including, but not limited to, obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures, comments of a personal nature intended to degrade an official, or persist in disputing a ruling after being told to stop or after being penalized for such behavior.

NOTE: When such conduct is directed at anyone other than an official, Rule 75 – Unsportsmanlike Conduct shall be applied.

40.3 Bench Minor Penalty – A bench minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions:

(i) Any Coach or non-playing person who bangs the boards with a stick or other object at any time, showing disrespect for an official’s decision. If this is done in order to get the attention of the on-ice officials for a legitimate reason (i.e. serious injury, illness, etc.), then discretion must be exercised by the Referees.

(ii) Any unidentifiable player or goalkeeper, or any Coach or non-playing person who uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gesture directed at an on or off-ice official or uses the name of any official coupled with any vociferous remarks. (see also 40.5 (ii))

(i) Any player, goalkeeper, Coach, or non-playing person interferes in any manner with any game official including the Referees, Linesmen, Game or Penalty Timekeepers or Goal Judges in the performance of their duties.

40.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – Game misconduct penalties shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions:

(ii) When a Coach or non-playing person uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gesture directed at any on or off-ice official or uses the name of any official coupled with any vociferous remarks, after already being assessed a bench minor penalty (40.3 (ii)), this Coach or non-playing person is to be assessed a game misconduct and the situation reported to the Commissioner for further action. When this type of conduct occurs after the expiration of the game, on or off the ice, the game misconduct shall be applied without the necessity of having been assessed a bench minor penalty previously.

(vi) Any player, goalkeeper, Coach or non-playing person who throws or shoots any equipment or other object in the general direction of an official but does not come close to making any contact. This action may occur on or off the ice.

Maybe coach Martin should re-read the rule book and realize it’s ok to yell at a ref, or question a call within reason.

Do it the right way and you earn the respect of the officials. Just don’t do it the wrong way and call him an a-hole or tell him to eat a donut!

A dubious distinction for AK46: Andre Kostitsyn became the 20th playerr for the Montreal Canadiens to record a hat-trick in the playoffs. Only problem is, he’s the first to do it when the Habs lost.

Here’s the full list from

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Capitals/Canadiens Game Two: Backstrom and Ovechkin escape potential Habs strangle hold


Mike Knuble (l) celebrates with Nicklas Backstrom (r) after Backstrom scores the overtime winner in Game Two – Photo: Chuck Myers (MCT)

The Montreal Canadiens were looking to extend on their stunning Game One victory and continue to contain Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. It looked like they might for the first 28 minutes. It wouldn’t be the case as the Capitals came back from a three-goal deficit to win 6-5 in overtime.

Washington came out early, with Ovechkin dishing out some early hits, but the Canadiens needed just one shot from Brian Gionta to take a 1-0 at the 1:00 mark.

Montreal got their second goal on their second shot of the night, when Andrei Kostitsyn was left wide open in front of the net at 7:58. Capitals goalie Jose Theodore was immediately pulled for Semeon Varlamov.

image Simoen Varlamov relieves Jose Theodore in the first period of Game Two – Photo :Bruce Bennett (Getty Images)

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau hoped the goaltending change would wake his troops up and give them some momentum. He certainly got their attention when Tomas Fleischmann broke up a Montreal offensive sending Eric Fehr in on a breakaway, going high blocker on Jaroslav Halak.

It was a first period dominated on the stat sheet, with Washington leading in shots (13-8), total chances (31-14), hits (18-4) and faceoffs (12-5). Ovechkin managed to get on the shot count with two and had seven hits.

Nonetheless, the Canadiens led 2-1 after 20 minutes.

“We knew that it was coming (the Capitals offense),” said Gionta between periods. “We had to get behind them and exploit their D.”

Montreal began mounting an impressive defense in the second period, keeping the majority of Washington’s shots to the perimeter.

Kostitsyn scored his second on the night at 11:06, again left open for a Mike Cammalleri pass, to give the Canadiens a two-goal lead.

image This play was reviewed after Andrei Kostitsyn’s third goal, during the second period. It was questioned if the puck had crossed the line earlier in the play. Photo: Chuck Myers (MCT)

The sold-out Verizon Center crowd soon began showing their displeasure as a chorus of boos echoed from the seats.

It didn’t get better for the home crowd as the Canadiens went on the power play and Kostitsyn got his first career playoff hat trick, at 17:44, by deflecting in a Jaroslav Spacek point shot.

Kostitsyn’s three-goal night was the first for a Canadiens player in the post-season since Eric Desjardins turned the trick in Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals.

“He played great. He went to the net and did what he was supposed to do every night,” said Kostitsyn’s linemate Tomas Plekanec. “Hopefully he can keep that up and keep scoring to help us to win.”


Andrei Kostitsyn scores the first of his three goals on the night in the first period of Game Two – Photo: Bruce Bennett (Getty Images)

The Capitals kept it within two when Nicklas Backstrom blew a shot past a screened Halak 37 seconds later.

“He’s a guy you’ve definitely have to key on,” said Canadiens defenceman Hall Gill. “But he’s not the only guy. They have a lot of good players that can make plays and score goals.”

One thing the Canadiens need to know is that any lead against the Washington Capitals is not safe. Washington was second overall in the league when trailing after the first period (8-7-2), and first overall when trailing after two (8-10-4). They were also an impressive 16-8-6 when their opponents scored the first goal in a game.

Montreal fought off a Cammalleri slashing call early in the third period, but Ovechkin finally got in the goal column when he came off the bench to shovel a rebound between Halak’s pads at 2:56.

With Mike Knuble crashing the net, Backstrom one-timed an Ovechkin pass for his second goal at 9:47 to tie it up.

The Canadiens regained their lead five minutes later ,when Roman Hamrlik battled the puck from Knuble and got it to Plekanec. The centre played give and go with Cammalleri, around defenceman Mike Green, before putting the puck past Varlamov.

The Capitals, sporting the top power play in the regular season, had two more opportunities late in the period but Halak and the Canadiens held them back.

With just over a minute to play, and a possible delayed penalty coming to Montreal, Capitals rookie John Carlson fired a shot from  just outside the faceoff circle to take the game into overtime.

of the 37 shots he would face on the night, the Carlson one would be the one that Halak would want back.

It didn’t take long (31 seconds) for Backstrom to complete his hat trick with a wrist shot between the hash marks that tied the series at a game apiece.

“The second period was kind of embarrassing," Backstrom said, talking on the Capitals’ second period collapse that led to a three-goal deficit. "We stepped it up at the end of the second and the third. We never gave up, and that's a good sign, I think.”

image Alexander Ovechkin lays out one of his eight hit in Game Two on Scott Gomez –Photo: Bruce Bennett (Getty Images)

Ovechkin, who had no shots in Game One, had a four point night (1G, 3A) in just over 20 minutes of ice time.

“I played my game. Some days you’re in a good mood, some days a bad mood,” he said. “Today we were in a good mood.”

“You could see his energy, his desire and his leadership,” coach Boudreau said of Ovechkin, a change from calling him out two nights earlier. “The difference (from Game 1) was like night and day.”

“He's a big part of this team, a big key,” Backstrom added. “It was good to see him get going again and hopefully we can keep going on the road.”

The Canadiens managed a split in the first two games as it now becomes a best-of-five series heading in to Montreal.

“We went on the road and we got one against the best team in the league,” Gill later said. “We can’t match them individually and have to play them as a team. We’re going to go home to a great crowd and feed off that.”

Games three and four go Monday and Wednesday at the Bell Centre.

Having played a seven game series in every NHL playoff round he’s been in, Ovechkin is well aware that it is far from over.

“It’s mentality important for us to win tonight, but it’s not done yet.”

Three Stars: 1. Nicklas Backstrom 2. Andrei Kostitsyn 3. Alex Ovechkin

Friday, April 16, 2010

Will the real Alexander Ovechkin show in Game Two?

image The Canadiens will be looking to contain Alexander Ovechkin in Game Two   Photo: Molly Riley (Reuters)

Having had the night’s sleep to reflect on their stunning Game One victory, over the Washing Capitals, the Montreal Canadiens were back on the Verizon Center ice for Friday morning practice.

After being outplayed in the first twenty minutes, the Canadiens came out strong in the next forty minutes and overtime to pull out the 3-2 win.

Despite shutting down the two-time defending Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin, the Canadiens still allowed 47 shots at Jaroslav Halak. They know there is still work to be done going into Saturday’s Game Two.

“We were very fortunate to be in the game,” said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin. “Our goalie kept us in it early  and that’s what we have to remember.

“It took us a while to find our game and that’s one thing we need to correct moving forward. You can’t play a first period like the one we did last night”

After leading the league in shots in 2009-10, some have speculated that the Capitals sniper may be injured based on his performance Thursday night. If so, the Capitals aren’t talking, and neither is Ovechkin.

“It was my fault. I didn’t play my game and maybe I was too excited,” the Capitals captain said. “Our line didn’t play well and we’ll make some changes.

“Tomorrow is going to to be a  different game for us.”

It would be highly doubtful of any injury to Ovechkin, given the fact Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau called him out after Game One and reiterated after Friday’s practice.

“He’s 100 percent healthy. We’re not making excuses for him,” Boudreau said. “He just had a bad game, and they played very well against him.

“I wasn’t trying to light any fire, but when he’s playing on top of his game, it doesn’t matter how (or who) they’re playing against him.”

Boudreau also acknowledged that the Canadiens cannot be underestimated in light of coming into the series as the overwhelming underdog.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s the number one versus an eighth seed, and it was an eight seed vs an eight seed, everyone would say, ‘What a great game from two evenly matched teams.’

“We’re not going to change our game, but they’re a lot better than what their regular season indicated. they went through stretches where they beat everybody.”

Players playing injured wouldn’t be something new in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Whether a player is injured or not, they know the importance of the post-season. Bob Baun, Dickie Moore, Maurice or Bernie Geoffrion are prime examples of that.

“That’s the playoffs. Guys are hurt and some guys show it, some guys don’t,” said Canadiens veteran defenceman Hal Gill. “But It comes down to what happens on the ice and getting wins.”

Gill, who earned a Stanley Cup ring with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, knows what it takes in the playoffs and what to expect from an opponents top players from one game to the next.

“I’m sure he’s gonna come back and play a lot better than he did, That’s the exciting part of the challenge",” he said. “He’s a dynamic player that can change your game and we have to be just as hard on him as we can.”

Fellow veteran rearguard Jaroslav Spacek noted that shutting down Ovechkin’s linemates Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble, is also a factor.

“We all played good against that line,” Spacek said. “If you make it hard on him (Backstrom) and that makes it tougher for Ovechkin because he wouldn’t get as many pucks fed to him.”

Game Two goes Saturday night at 7pm.

Capitals/Canadiens Game 1: “Jagr” Wins it in overtime for Habs


Tomas Plekanec is swarmed by his Montreal Canadiens teammates after his overtime goal in Game One vs. Washington Capitals – Chuck Myers (MCT)

Tomas Plekanec put his money where his mouth was, in the media-fuelled war of words against Jose Theodore, in Game One as the Montreal Canadiens shocked the Verizon Center crowd with a 3-2 overtime win over the Washington Capitals.

Plekanec beat out Capitals defenceman  Shoane Morrisonn, inside the Washington blue line, and fired a wrist shot past Theodore at 13:19 of the extra period.

The two adversaries had been in a war of words after Plekanec said Theodore was not the same level of goalie as a Martin Brodeur or Ryan Miller. Theodore responded sarcastically, referring to Plekanec as “Jagr”.

The game began looking just like it has been predicted, with a Washington offence swarming the Montreal end. The Capitals outshot their opponents 19-7 in the first period and dominated in the faceoff circle.

It could easily have been a three or four-goal lead if not for the goaltending brilliance of Jaroslav Halak. The underdogs would not get their first shot until the 7:24 mark.

The Canadiens knew they would be in tough against the top five-on-five team in the regular season (213 goals) and would need special teams to help their effort.

They got just that at 12:26 when Mike Cammalleri scored on the power play to give the Canadiens a one-goal lead.

Washington continued to mount the pressure and Joe Corvo lobbed in a shot from the blueline, over the shoulder of a screened Halak, at 15:33.

In the second period, coach Jacques Martin made some adjustments and the Canadiens turned things around. The visitors dominated the Capitals in the second half of the period. Martin double shifted Cammalleri on a line with Maxim Lapierre and Mathieu Darche to put some strain on the larger, but slower Capitals defence.

With the majority considered slow and, in some cases old, themselves, the Canadiens corps of blueliners were able to shutdown the league’s most explosive player, Alexander Ovechkin. The Russian sniper had no shots on goal and five attempts blocked for the entire game.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau put more of the blame on his captain. “They gapped up on him (Ovechkin), but I don’t think he played very well,” he said, indicating that the rest of the Capitals had 47 shots on goal.

"Our best players weren't our best players tonight. I just didn't think he was very good tonight"

The Canadiens hoped to carry the momentum in the third period, but a poor clearing effort and a bad bounce off the skates of Hal Gill led to a Niklas Backstrom goal.

image Washington Capitals Jose Theodore makes one of his 35 saves in Game One – Molly Riley (Reuters)

Montreal refused to give up and fired everything they had at Thoedore , who made 35 saves on the night. They finally broke through when Scott Gomez beat out defenceman Mike Green to the front of the net, defecting a feed from Brian Gionta past the Washington netminder to tie the game at two.

image Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin skates away in disgust as the Canadiens celebrate Scott Gomez’s tying goal. – Greg Fiume (Getty Images)

The Habs defence and Halak continued to hold back the Capitals through the rest of the period and into overtime. Jaroslav Spacek logged just under 20 minutes and thwarted Ovechkin and co. at every window of opportunity. Gill was equally effective in his 25 plus minutes, blocking nine shots.

“We gave him (Ovechkin) no space or time to shoot,” Halak said. “He’s a great one-on-one player. We probably pissed off everybody, so they will try to come out stronger on Saturday.”

Martin praised his team for the group effort to shut down the league’s top offence shut down all four Capitals power play chances.

“When you face an elite player, like Ovechkin, it’s not one individual’s responsibility, it’s a team effort,” he said. “Our support players gave us some good help tonight. I thought it was some excellent teamwork.”

Overtime began with and unsuccessful Canadiens power play and was followed by some exciting end-to-end play, cumulating in Plekanec’s winner.

Plekanec explained post-game that his comments, from earlier in the week, were taken out of context. “I didn’t take it personally. It wasn’t completely right in the newspapers,” he said. “I would never say anything wrong about Theo, and I respect him.”

Game Two goes Saturday night in Washington, with Games Three and Four in Montreal on Monday and Wednesday.

Three Stars: 1. Tomas Plekanec 2. Jaroslav Halak 3. Jose Theodore