Entering the Game
Going into this game, Montreal was coming off winning only three of their last 10 games. They lost three of them in shootouts, and four in regulation.
Even though the last game had shadows of last season’s Habs, they failed to push through. Going into Joe Louis Arena tonight, the most beneficent team was definitely the Stanley Cup Champs.
Only suffering two losses in 20 games, the Red Wings currently hold the best powerplay unit in the league, with the Habs trailing miles behind at the 23rd position.
The Canadiens have played very few good games so far in the 2008-09 season. And their opponents have not all challenged their abilities.
Playing against Detroit was the ultimate test. It's a team with all potential first-liners and the most touted defensive duo, comprised of Lidstrom and Rafalski. Along with the Canadiens’ lack in offense, we were in for quite a matchup.
As you may have all seen, the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge turned the tables and came up with what I personally feel is the best 60 minutes effort so far this season.
Let’s do a breakdown of the game and see where we stand, and how one game can make a difference in our play.
The first period was kind of used like a tryout for our team. They exploited the chances and actually played what looked like a well-coached scenario. The tight playing by both teams led to a scoreless beginning.
However, the Canadiens had to suffer the loss of Alex Tanguay due to an injury coming from a hard hit by Stuart. After completing that shift, the leading scorer unfortunately did not return to the bench.
Canadiens Turn Scoring Machine in Second
Going once (fourth line): After getting a sense of the type of plays by the Red Wings, the Canadiens used it to their advantage and scored three unanswered goals. The first was a dump-in from the back of the net to the front by Lapierre, which went off a Detroit player’s skate. This made it a 1-0 Montreal game!
Going twice (first line): After Hamrlik took a penalty for hooking, Gorges forced a rough play by Hossa, who annulled his team’s powerplay and gave a one-minute man advantage for the Canadiens.
Surprisingly enough, the Habs cashed on the opportunity and Plekanec scored his fifth goal of the season with a pass that came from Kovalev. It was now 2-0 Montreal!
Gone (second line): Higgins, who was on the second trio along with Koivu and Kovalev, scored a nice goal, which led from the captain’s set-up for his teammate. For his first goal since the hat trick against the Ottawa Senators, Higgins used the opportunity, and made it 3-0 Montreal!
Textbook Lead Protection in Third
The Red Wings were all over the ice during the third period, but to no avail. Carey Price came up big on many saves, particularly on Lidstrom.
Limiting themselves to a mere four shots on goal versus 16 by the champs, it was defensive hockey for the rest of the night. Although they were trying, the Wings weren't trying hard enough.
Fortunately, the white jerseys pounced first on the puck whenever they got a chance and dumped it deep into the offensive zone. Johan Franzen put an end to Price’s second shutout bid when he undressed Ryan O’Byrne to beat Price on what was a beautiful goal.
At the end of the night, the hole was too deep for a comeback and the Canadiens happily took the win. Their next game is against Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
Man of the Night
Although many could be in this category, I would have to hand it to Carey Price. He made 32 saves against the Detroit Red Wings, and is a great achievement for any goaltender.
The feeling of beating the Stanley Cup champs in their own home is the cherry on top. Price constantly stayed focused. What made me put him here was his play after the Franzen goal.
When Detroit was forcing scrums around, he dealt very cautiously with rebounds and handled the puck greatly. Also, it was the first I saw Price borrow Gorges’ stick, and use it to make the save, then return it.
Nice going, Pricey!
Invisible Man of the Night
It definitely had to be Alex Tanguay tonight because of his injury. Otherwise, everyone showed up. It was a complete team effort and that showed character.
They always backed each other up and did not try and make miracles happen. This probably occurred because they knew they were up for a big challenge, and the neutral zone transition was an important reason.
Line of the Night
In my opinion, the fourth line worked their fannies off tonight. One goal in their second consecutive game is a great additional support, and they deserve a mention. Their speed and aggression were much needed, especially against a less physical team like Detroit.
What I appreciate the most is that they don’t try doing anything fancy and stick to simple plays. Fortunately, it pays off.
Breakout of the Night
I personally feel that Tom Kostopoulos was amazing tonight. Perhaps his best game of the season. His presence in the offensive and defensive zone was a tremendous display of his ability.
The one thing we usually say is that "Tom the Bomb" has a huge heart. Tonight, we witnessed that he has tremendous skill and deserves a third line spot.
Goal of the Night
This would go hands down to Tomas Plekanec. Not because it was a powerplay goal, but because of the effort put together by Alex Kovalev to direct the puck to Andrei Markov, and then retrieve it back to put the puck on Pleky’s stick.
It was seriously a beauty to watch. And giving a slight cushion to the Canadiens, and a huge confidence booster for the rest of the game. Also, the second goal attempt which was waved off was the fruit of perseverance and determination from the player. It shows that he didn’t give up.
Heart of the Night
I am willing to give this to Ryan O’Byrne. For a 24-year-old, after the own-goal nightmare he went through, he bounced back and showed that he was not defeated by what had happened. His mistake was the talk of Hockey World the whole day yesterday, but I must say he played an awesome game.
And on letting Franzen score, I think it would have happened to any defenseman in his position. Anyway, there is nothing to regret about letting the Stanley Cup Champions’ lead scorer undress you. It can’t be worse than what happened against the Islanders. So, I would say good recovery.
On the Minus
The Canadiens’ tallied face-off win percentage was a mere 36 percent. It is not the end of the world, but it would be better to have consistency because there are teams who can set up plays coming off face-off wins. It might be the only small tick the Canadiens would have to improve.
I am also not sure if we can call the powerplay a done deal. It's not completely strong and back on track, but doing something is always better than doing nothing.
These are my notes on the game. Please do comment and nominate your favourite players of the night. I will try and compile the results and let you know in my next post.
Tell me your picks for:
Heart of the night
On the minus
Goal of the night
Breakout of the night
Line of the night
Invisible man of the night
Man of the night
Photo: Habs Inside/Out