Canadiens-Capitals: Plekanec Lets His Stick Do the Talking
Montreal 3 Washington 2 OT (Verizon Center)
Posted by Rocket All Habs
"Stranger things may have happened than the Canadiens upsetting the Capitals, but frankly, it would be an upset of legendary proportions if Montreal won this series. In fact, given how deep the Capitals are on offense, and how inconsistent the Habs have been during the regular season, Montreal could be hard-pressed to win one game, let alone four."
The Hockey News says: Capitals in four.
It's early in the postseason and already the venerable Hockey News has bit the dust with one of its playoff predictions. At the beginning of the season, they picked the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup. That one is looking like a long shot right now.
But let's not be too hard on the good folks at THN . After all, who could have known that Philly would have goaltending issues this year? More to the point, how can anyone predict the outcome of a single Canadiens game, never mind, a series?
Tonight the Washington Capitals outshot and outhit the Canadiens by a wide margin and dominated on faceoffs, yet the Habs got the win. And just like that, Montreal now has home-ice advantage in this series despite finishing 33 points behind the Capitals in the standings.
Let's be clear. The Canadiens didn't discover the perfect template for beating the Capitals. Far from it. In fact, it would be an error of monumental proportions if coach Jacques Martin didn't make significant changes in time for game two.
But the Habs did some very good things and that can be found by simply looking at the scoresheet.
The Canadiens goal scorers were Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, and Tomas Plekanec. The goals were assisted by Andrei Kostitsyn, Brian Gionta, and Benoit Pouliot. Every member of the top two lines contributed to the scoring.
The first goal of the game was huge. Scoring first is always important for the Habs but in addition, it was a goal with the man advantage and the first for Cammalleri since Jan. 23.
"It feels good, but more importantly it was a big goal," Cammalleri said. "It's our first goal of the playoffs, it gets us a lead, and now we lead the series. All that stuff makes me much happier."
The Canadiens won the special teams battle with the power-play goal. The penalty-killers blanked the Capitals.
The Habs defense as a group was able to effectively shutdown Alex Ovechkin, who finished the game without a shot on goal for only the second time this season. Habs forwards and defenders supported each other and were working well as a team.
“Right now I’m mad, and right now we’re disappointed, but tomorrow’s a new day,” said Ovechkin. “They just don’t give us the room. They put two guys in front of me…We’re going to watch the game and make some changes.”
With Washington firing from all over the ice, Jaroslav Halak had to be sharp early on. When the Capitals Joe Corvo floated one over the the shoulder of a down-early Halak near the end of the first period, it was the team that came to the aide of their goalie. The Canadiens took control of the game from the time of the softie until the end of the second period. Halak was tested again in the third.
As for the adjustments, it's time that coach Martin shelves his enormous ego and does what is best for the team. Let's face it. The Canadiens are not going to win the series with Marc-Andre Bergeron playing 27 minutes per game.
For about 21 minutes, Bergeron was committing turnovers and getting beat by Washington forwards. He simply couldn't handle the physical play of Capitals like Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera and Ovechkin.
The Canadiens were outhit 37-to-24. With all due respect to Dominic Moore, who led the Habs, there was no one in the lineup who could deliver a punishing hit. The Canadiens can't possibly stay in this series without the return of Ryan O'Byrne.
You can also be sure that Capitals coach will be sending his big forwards to the front of the Canadiens' net for the next game. O'Byrne's size and strength will be needed to clear the space in front of Halak.
Washington was dominant at the faceoff dot. Eric Belanger was an amazing 18-for-21. Max Lapierre and Tom Pyatt were a combined 9-for-23. With Lapierre being absent in the physical game, he could be the best option to sit for game two, making room for O'Byrne.
The Canadiens lacked patience with shot selection, especially early in the game. Rushed shots often found the legs or sticks of their opposition. The Gomez goal proved that the Habs can use their speed to score from the rush. He took the puck the length of the ice, dished to Gionta, and when Gomez got it back, he deposited the puck and Mike Green put it in the Capitals' goal.
A win in Washington where the home team had only lost five games all season was a tremendous accomplishment by the Canadiens.
This team likes playing together. Now if the coach would only jump on board and consistently put his players in the best position to excel. They surprised more than a few naysayers tonight. With some changes, they may be able to challenge several more expert playoff predictions.
Game two of the series takes place in Washington on Saturday night.
Rocket's three stars
1. Jaroslav Spacek
2. Jaroslav Halak
3. Nicklas Backstrom
Special mention: Tomas Plekanec
Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.
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