Friday, February 20, 2009

A tale of two Kostitsyn

credit habs inside/out

Tonight the Habs played a better game than yesterday against Washington. I know, it’s not a huge statement to make considering Friday’s game but it’s still something positive to work with. Against a surprising (at least to me) Sabres team the Canadiens ended up outplaying a hard working team. But not all was well.

Now what the hell is wrong with Sergei Kostitsyn? He took three fully deserved and entirely unnecessary penalties with the first one leading to Buffalo’s opening goal. Yes, he redeemed himself a little after his second penalty when he screened Patrick Lalime on Steve Begin’s goal but he has to be smarter than that. It’s not like it’s the first time he takes bad penalties like that, he’s already at 30 PIM this season. That’s 5 shot of Kostopoulos who fought twice and got 17 minutes against Toronto for his check from behind. Right now, I hope he’ll be sent back to Hamilton for a couple of games when Tanguay comes back.

I was against Matt D’Agostini playing on the first line as a general concept but then again, why not see how he reacts under pressure right now? We know his stint with the big club is only temporary so giving him a chance to shine is understandable. He was out of position a couple of times, especially in the offensive zone but you can see the kid has talent and will probably be in the lineup to start the next season. I would love to see him a couple of games more playing on different lines to see how he handles third or fourth line duties. Again, send Sergei down for a couple of games. It could do him some good.

His big brother, however, played a much better game. I’ve said recently that Andrei is at his best when he is physical and today he registered 4 hits and scored a somewhat lucky goal. After fanning on a shot attempt he tried a second time and buried the puck. He also was very close to score the third goal of the game when he missed an empty net from a closed angle but Markov ended up scoring less than a minute later from a beautiful play he set up himself with help from Koivu.

Again the captain was working hard and it got me to think about Kovalev. Since the beginning of the season Saku saw his ice time go down significantly compared to last year but it also let him be much more efficient on every shift. Maybe Kovy needs to do the same. Kovalev was sometimes very efficient tonight, especially on some penalty killing missions but he also was trying to deke too many players at some times and that’s something that he does too often. Every player in the NHL knows how good this guy is, one of the best stickhandler in the league, but they also know how much he loves to keep the puck. That’s why he can often do a great set up for his teammates; his opponents don’t expect that. I think AK-27 should pass on every opportunity he can until the NHL start taking notice and start adjusting. Then he will be able to use his deking abilities more and with a better impact.

Carey Price was good and even spectacular in the last minute of the game. Those who doubted the kid ability to be a starter in the toughest city for a goaltender can relax. He is calm, collected and can obviously lead his team to victory if given the chance. Bob Barker would be so proud…

Josh Gorges had a difficult night being somewhat responsible for letting Thomas Vanek score twice. On the first goal, Higgins missed his clearing attempt and Josh took a risk trying to poke the puck away but instead left Vanek alone. He also missed his chance to clear the zone and ended up giving the puck to Buffalo for the second goal. But I have no fears, he’ll be back with a big game on Tuesday.

The last thing I want to touch upon is the 5 on 3 in third period. I was happy for multiple reasons. The first one being that while I am not impressed with the calibre of NHL referees I am at least glad to see that they aren’t afraid of calling two penalties on the same play, something that was nearly unheard of before the lockout. Also, the puck movement was efficient and I prefer Markov as the set up man rather than taking the shot. And since I love Andrei Kostitsyn shot, I was pleased to see him there. Buffalo played very well for the whole two minutes and you have to give them credit for their numerous blocked shots on that particular sequence.

Overall a feel good victory with the Canadiens coming back twice from one goals deficits. Not a dominating performance by any means but at least some good moments and a much better effort than the day before.

Now let’s all pray the Habs don’t fall into the same “not showing up against inferior opponents” pattern that plagued them all season.

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