Friday, February 20, 2009

Finding new ways to lose

credit for the picture to Ryan O'Byrne and Habs inside/out

I am more than happy to report that the Montreal Canadiens are back on the right track. Tonight your beloved team played a solid game. From start to finish, from the first line to the last one, everybody played hard and with a passion we haven’t seen enough this year. There are only two players who made me cringe today. And I’m not even talking about Ryan.

Tanguay looks like a guy who doesn’t want to play the style of game the Habs played today. No shot, no hits and he seem to try to play like he doesn’t want to get hit, like he doesn’t want to get his nose dirty. He is the only player who entered the offensive zone with a backpass tonight. It was towards Higgins and as soon as he got the puck he pushed it hard in the corner. More on Higgins later.

The other player I have troubles with is Sergei Kostitsyn. He has a cocky attitude I like to see when he refuse to back down from any opponent but at the same time I think he’s playing over his talent level. Maybe he thinks he’s Kovalev. The 27 takes risks but at the same time, it’s a player who has great vision and more than 1200 games of experience in the NHL (regular season and playoffs). It was Sergei’s 83rd game tonight. He should keep things a lot simpler than he makes them. Some of his decisions are borderline stupid. I’m not doubting his talent but his play his inconsistent and erratic. Come back to the basics Sergei.

But those are only two players in a game that was a big team effort. Kovalev played one of his best games this year. Maxime Lapierre is back and Steve Begin was also solid. Koivu is always good this season and Higgins finally showed he deserved to play on the first line this year. Josh Georges got his first goal as a Habs and Price was his usual self. He doesn’t deserve the L. But without naming each and every player deserving of a pat of the back, the team played with energy. They were going hard in the corners to get the puck, they were circling the puck well and were avoiding fancy plays overall.

You have to give credit to the Islanders, they protected the slot all game long and blocked many shot. Richard Park and Trent Hunter in particular played a very solid game. Then again, the referees helped them a little bit too. The early whistle on Andrei Kostitsyn no-goal is a good example but my main complaint is how sometimes the interference penalty is forgotten.

And then there is Markov, hitting Price on a backcheck before the first goal. Markov isn’t playing well lately and I’m wondering why. And then… there is the other gift. I have been patient with O’Byrne even though he looked bad on at least one goal allowed in each of his past 6 games. Now, he just overdid himself. I’ll give him credit to face the Montreal media after the game but as an NHL player you have to look where your pass is going and he obviously didn’t. Guy Carbonneau said he didn’t think less of O’Byrne after the game, stating that accidents happen. I agree. Now we’ll see if O’Byrne can give a huge effort Wednesday against Detroit. He played well but his confidence could be shattered after this.

It’s a shame O’Byrne blundered like that. If the goal was scored any other way, we would talk about how the powerplay didn’t produce yet again. Or how the team isn’t able to kill penalties. But instead, we’ll talk about how a young player just gave a victory away late in the game.

We’re talking about how the Habs are finding new ways to lose…

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