posted by Rocket
There wasn’t much question that this was going to be Martin Brodeur’s night.
Bob Gainey tried to diffuse the hype. First he eliminated the natural comparisons of a Brodeur-Carey Price matchup by starting Jaroslav Halak. With Patrice Brisebois in the lineup, a Canadiens player would be celebrating their own milestone.
The Canadiens were going to be in tough against a very good New Jersey team who would were doing everything necessary to get a win for Brodeur on Montreal ice.
But did the Habs have to make it so easy for the Devils?
Discipline was a problem early on, with the Canadiens taking three penalties in the first five minutes. It’s fair to say that they were not ‘good’ penalties: two minors for holding by Tom Kostopoulos and a delay of game call on Mike Komisarek. The Habs would add two more minors before the period was over.
Goaltending was also a problem in the first. Halak allowed two very weak goals. The first was a shot from the point by Elias. Halak had a clear view and should have made the easy save. The second was shot from near the point boards by Rolston on Halak’s glove side that had no business finding the back of the net.
The Canadiens seemed to be handing the game to Brodeur on a silver platter. But a short time later, Tomas Plekanec brought the Habs within one.
That’s the way it stayed until midway into the third period when Langenbrunner gave the Devils an insurmountable lead.
There were some positives for the Canadiens. Tomas Plekanec continues his hot play with a goal. Chris Higgins has been rejuvenated under Bob Gainey. He has a bigger role and is playing much better. Higgins and the other penalty-killing forwards, Dandenault, Lapierre and Metropolit have been very effective. The PK unit gave up two goals tonight but that was solely due to Halak’s poor play.
The expected second period collapse didn’t happen. The Habs skated with the Devils and had some scoring chances but couldn’t tie the game. The Canadiens could not find a way to get to loose pucks and rebounds.
Defensive zone coverage was better but there is still a long way to go. Halak faced 48 shots but most were from the perimeter and didn’t pose a threat. The inflated shot total was due to rebounds by Halak and turnovers by the Habs defense. The Canadiens kept getting trapped in their own zone. Hamrlik and Komisarek combined for 11 giveaways.
The defense only had three hits in the game. They really missed the physical presence of Ryan O’Byrne. Hamrlik, who had a terrible game, seems to play much better when paired with O’Byrne.
Patrice Brisebois had his moment of recognition for his milestone, but it’s now time to give him a permanent pass to the press box. A somewhat humorous moment surrounded the acknowledgement of Brisebois’ 1000th game. The announcement came during a stoppage in play. Just prior to the whistle, was a classic Brisebois giveaway at the New Jersey blueline.
Halak improved as the game went on but the damage was already done. He was solid down low but is still struggling with his glove hand. He was also having trouble tracking the puck.
The Canadiens powerplay was 0 for 2. They missed Alex Kovalev who has enjoyed considerable success on Brodeur. Kovalev has scored the third most goals given up by Brodeur.
Martin Brodeur made a couple of tough saves but, for the most part, wasn’t tested tonight. He (and the Canadiens) are just glad it’s over. The Bell Centre fans gave Brodeur a well-deserved standing ovation at game’s end.
The Canadiens will need to be better next week against the Rangers, Senators and Leafs to improve their playoff chances.
The Canadiens wore their sharp-looking white vintage sweaters.
Starting lineup: Lapierre, Higgins, Kostopoulos, Brisebois, Komisarek
Jaroslav Halak and Martin Brodeur started in goal.
O’Byrne and Latendresse were scratched from the lineup. Kovalev was ill with the flu. Laraque, Bouillon, and Lang were out with injuries.
Brisebois played his 1000th game in the NHL
Rocket’s 3 stars:
1. Martin Brodeur
2. Travis Zajac
3. Tomas Plekanec
(photo credit: AP)