GOING INTO THE GAME
The Montreal Canadiens entered this game against Minnesota after having suffered and survived against the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout victory. The first & second periods of that game were struggling moments for the Habs who managed to emerge with the win. After a day-long break, the city of Minnesota awaited the team who was in full-form. Ryan O’Byrne, after having made many mistakes, was a healthy scratch along with Bégin and Georges Laraque. Coming off a rough game, the Canadiens had two possibilities: get their act together and perform excellently or struggle through the game and blame it on Minnesota’s skill and competence.
The Minnesota Wild, on the other hand, enjoyed a season debut with no regulation losses until October 29 when Dallas put a period to their hopes of continuing their streak. Their team, which relies mostly on Mikko Koivu’s line, returned home in the wee hours of October 30. There were two possibilities for their gameplay: bounce back from their defeat and bring their A game or play a tired game because of their back-to back schedule. Marian Gaborik, the star of their team, was on injured reserve. Another setback for the Wild was that their No.1 goaltender, Niklas Backstrom let in 3 goals on 13 shots and was replaced by Josh Harding. The backup goaltender was in the nets for this game.
The game started off by Plakanec failing to make the right decision and not fore-checking Stafford who was able to make a pass from behind the net to Brett Burns who scored 1:31 the game. Now, just when it looked like one of those dreadful games, Bouillon scored his 2nd goal of the season (he reached the same stage only in his 80th game in the 2007-08 season) 3 minutes later to tie the game.
The second period was filled with penalties for the Montreal Canadiens. The referee Chris Lee, in my opinion, made the right calls (except the one on Hamrilik) and it was noted as a major problem for the Habs. Guy Carbonneau got so frustrated that he was standing up on the bench and showing his disapproval. Including three 5-on3s, the Wild were on the powerplay for a total of 10 minutes. However, the opposing team could not manage to get the puck deep in the net. Beyond Carey Price’s few amazing saves, the Canadiens Penalty Killers have to be mentioned and because they did keep up with the attack of the Wild.
Nevertheless, the Habs cannot entirely be credited for excellent play because there were equally other reasons why Minnesota was unable to score. There were many synchronization problems amongst the players and the passes were not completed. That is the main explanation why the Canadiens feel so relieved with the Win because had the wild played their regular game, the situation would have completely changed. On a side note, the game-winning goal by Markov was scored on a 5-on-3 powerplay for Montreal. A shot from the point was enough to seize the win.
Hanging in there
Carey Price was kept alert throughout the third period as the Wild tried incessantly to score. It was clearly one of his best game because he fought hard to conserve the 1 goal lead. He stood tall and held himself very well in position. The Canadiens also showed their fore-checking capacities; especially Komisarek and Andrei Kostitsyn who were really efficient on taking the puck away for the opposition. Mikko Koivu became the Plekanec of the Wild when 7 of his shots came really close: hitting the post, teammates missing the big rebounds. Speaking of Plekanec, it is actually very unfortunate that he can’t find the net. The frustration shows in his face and his play demonstrated hope.
Mistake of the night
Robert Lang missed a beautiful scoring opportunity even after having beaten Josh Harding. A redirection towards the top of the net would have been enough for the goal. Confidence was a lacking element in his play. Had it been Alex Tanguay in that position, it was highly probable that it was a goal. Is the shining of Tanguay too much to handle for Robert Lang? He hasn’t been the same player we saw at the beginning.
Remember how I mentioned that the Canadiens’ defense needs improvement? Well, the two goals of the night were scored by defenseman and it worth mentioning the play by Josh Gorges. No penalties and tons of blocked shots, I thought he deserved a star. They seem to be pulling together.
Sergei Kostitsyn, Alex Kovalev and Robert Lang had rather normal nights where they did not seem to be involved and the energy wasn’t in them. Kovalev was turned on but wasn’t his usual self. Brisebois equally had his share of silence when he was seen not making many mistakes as in previous games. Perhaps, the rest was well-needed for the veteran.
Best lines of the night
On the Habs’ side the fourth line was undoubtedly amazing! They were hard-hitting, controlled the puck and maintain good speed. It was rather disappointing to see their efforts go to waste each time there was a penalty. An exception would be Dandenault’s bad penalty where he lost his stick and manged to trip another player. Maxim Lapierre had a great night and did not make many mistakes.
Guillaume Latendresse again proved many people wrong by demonstrating his skills out there. He passed the puck well and set-up many sequences for his linemates. The Markov goal was triggered by that line and they did a job overall. Saku Koivu got his first penalty of the season slashing his brother Mikko Koivu.
Towards the end, the Minnesota Wild were desperate for the win and took the Philadelphia lane. A person who surprised in the mêlée was Carey Price who was seen holding back Mikko Koivu. A usually poised and elegant Price who moves away from fights stood up yesterday. It was a side of the young goalie we hadn’t witnessed before.
Also, did anyone notice the number of sticks that broke? I counted at least six times where there were broken sticks? Pretty unusual in one game!
AT THE END
Considering all these aspects of this match-up, we can evidently see that the Habs learnt a lot from this experience. It is not everyday that they get to play against a team as strong and the Wild. Obviously, this victory will be well accepted taking into account that the Montreal Canadiens were not the most beneficial team entering the game. The Habs need to learn to play for a full 60 minutes. If they can do that, they can be a very solid team. In summary, it wasn’t a totally-deserved win given the circumstances but there are shades of a good team, it was more of discovery period. Next up, the Canadiens will be facing Mark Streit and his team, the New York Islanders on Saturday.
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