What a finish! Two goals by the Canadiens in the final two minutes of the game. The players that made it happen : Koivu, Higgins, Markov simply refused to lose another game. The Habs were in a position to come back due to the stellar goaltending of Carey Price. It was a win that the Canadiens really needed…and it was a win because the Habs star players went out and got it.
Any analysis beyond the 4-3 final score is not as rosy. But there were some impressive individual efforts to acknowledge first.
Saku Koivu is a terrific leader, the hardest working player, and the heart and soul of this team. Koivu had a goal (the winner), an assist and was 63% on faceoffs. Koivu won a big faceoff to get the puck to Andrei Kostitsyn for a power-play goal. On the winning goal, Koivu didn’t move from the top of the crease even though he was getting hammered by Matt Greene.
Tomas Plekanec is another player who works hard every shift, every game. It was nice to see his effort rewarded with a goal today. Plekanec, like a few others on the team, has been receiving unwarranted criticism.
Christopher Higgins has been stripped of his ‘A’, has been the target of almost every trade rumour, yet played well at both ends of the ice today and scored a huge goal. The Kings will argue that Higgins stiff arm on Drew Doughty should have been a penalty, and they may have a point. But more importantly, I was impressed with the will, determination and quick release by Higgins to tie the game.
Carey Price is the Canadiens’ franchise player. He is not only an amazing talent on the ice but has emerged as a leader. When a team is struggling, often, good coaches deflect media attention on something else. Given the void in Montreal, Price has taken on that role. He was in no way to blame for any of the past four losses yet focused the media attention on himself sparing his struggling coach and defense. And today, Price shut the door on the Kings making several spectacular saves including 3 on Alexander Frolov.
Andrei Kostistyn can skate, is aggressive and has a laser shot. He displayed his release and accuracy on his power-play goal today. He simply needs much more ice-time. Another player who inexplicably is getting too much bench-time is Max Pacioretty. Credit to Max who had his first NHL fight with Wayne Simmonds.
Individual efforts won the game today because the lines looked like they hadn’t played together before. Truth is, they hadn’t! And that should not be happening in game #49 of the season.
Players have different styles and mesh better with players who understand their style. Here’s an interesting example. During the post-game interview, Chris Higgins described the play of his tying goal. Higgins said that he finally received a pass up the middle. He said that he had been instructing his linemates all game to feed him that way.
Carbonneau’s rationale…’I want a worker on every line’…is just juvenile. The insinuation is that the pluggers (like Carbo, I suppose) will teach the skilled players about work ethic. The result is predictable: a mess! And it leads to situations where players have to learn about playing a different way, as explained by Higgins. This isn’t the time of the season for irresponsible experimentation by the coach.
And what does Alex Kovalev think about ‘being taught’ by Steve Begin? The answer was on the ice. The Lang/Kovalev/Begin line was the Canadiens’ worst this afternoon. If the coaches motive is to punish Kovalev or make him angry, then I suppose Carbo succeeded. But good coaches are supposed to find ways of getting the best out of their players…even struggling players. It’s clear that Carbonneau has been a colossal failure in that regard this season.
I have been critical of Kovalev as well. I look forward to the first time this season when Kovy skates at full speed. But Kovalev should also be acknowledged for his good plays. On the Canadiens 2nd goal, Koivu won the draw, but it was Kovalev who tied up the King defenseman so that Andrei Kostitsyn’s shot had a clear path to the net.
Guy Carbonneau isn’t doing Gui Latendresse any favors moving him to a line with two speedy forwards like AK-46 and Plekanec. Latendresse looked out of place today. He doesn’t have the footspeed to keep up. Gui had at least 3 wide open chances but was erratic in his shooting. Perhaps the puck is coming to him when he is not expecting it. Latendresse really plays much better with north-south line-mates like Lapierre and Kostopoulos. Max and TK were ineffective today too.
This is a simple message to Guy Carbonneau. To borrow (and slightly change) a slogan: It’s the defense, stupid! While Carbo is mindlessly tinkering with forward lines, the defensive zone coverage remains terrible. Even Kirk Muller acknowledged that it is the defensive giveaways that are killing the Canadiens.
Let Patrice Brisebois have his 1000 games and then never slot him in the line-up again. Brise was just brutal on the Kings 2nd goal, mishandling the puck before turning it over and then just waving his stick. That was a huge goal for LA coming after the Canadiens had a 5 on 3.
Josh Gorges giveaway was costly giving the Kings a 3-2 lead at the end of the second period. But Gorges should have never been on the ice. It was a poor coaching decision to allow Gorges to play after the dirty Gauthier hit. Still a little foggy, Gorges not only gave up the puck for a goal but was hit again.
Individual will and effort will not be enough to win against the Bruins tomorrow. It’s time that the coach gets on board with a better effort too.
Tanguay, Dandenault, Laraque out with injuries. O’Byrne and Sergei Kostitsyn are scratched.
Rocket’s 3 stars:
1. Andrei Markov
2. Saku Koivu
2. Chris Higgins
3. Carey Price
(photo credit: AP Photo)
Category: Game review