Thursday, February 19, 2009

Moral victories don't count in the standings

Guy Carbonneau was once again satisfied with his team's effort Thursday night, but it was just another loss for the Habs, and this time they couldn't even make it to overtime while dropping a 5-4 contest in Pittsburgh.

Coming off a pretty gutsy game in Washington the night before, the Habs once again showed glimpses of a good team. But glimpses aren't good enough as the stretch drive continues.

"It's disappointing," Carbonneau told reporters after the game. "Those were probably the six best periods we’ve played in a long time, but we only came away with a point. It’s worrisome, but we’re going to keep pushing the positives."

One of the major positives for Carbonnneau to push would be the play of Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn on a line with Max Pacioretty. The first two weren't able to find that same magic they had with Alex Kovalev from last season, but the last two games playing with the rookie has made them Monreal's best line.

Is it a coincidence that Plekanec is playing so well after that forced two-game break by the NHL, as opposed to a forced two-game break from Bob Gainey. The Habs can only hope the time off has the same effect on Kovalev as it's had on Plekanec. Two goals and an assist to go with his goal Wednesday night makes for a pretty nice two-game stretch, and perhaps it means Plekanec has woken up from his season-long slumber. Maybe, just maybe, Carbonneau should have sit this guy out a long time ago.

As for Kostitsyn, it seems like he's just starting on another one of his streaks, which is looking like it's going to be his M.O. Seven or eight games on, five or six games off. Sound like any influential Russian wingers you know? When Kostitsyn is on he can be electrifying, and his setup on Plekanec's first goal was pretty magical. Hopefully for the Habs, Kostitsyn can maintain this level of play longer than a week or two.

Aside from that, however, not a whole lot went right for the Habs.

Mathieu Schneider came thumping back to earth with a minus-4 rating, though he scored a goal on a rifle from the point on a two-man advantage in the second. I guess playing 27-plus minutes in one game then playing again the next night is not a recipe for success for a guy with 39-year-old legs? I don't know, I'm just saying.

Saku Koivu was another one who looked like he had no legs for this one, because they certainly weren't moving as he watched Evgeni Malkin skate by him into the slot and score while Koivu was desperately tripping him only 0:29 into the third period of a tie hockey game. That goal was a killer, and Koivu really had no excuse for such a lazy play since he was just coming out of the intermission. His line with Christopher Higgins and Matt D'Agostini was Montreal's best in Washington, but they were the team's worst in this game, with each component finishing a minus-3.

Finally, Carey Price had a rough game in my opinion. He only gave up two bad goals out of the five that got past him, but both of them came at crucial moments. The first was the opening goal of the game, when Price gave up a juicy rebound on a pretty harmless shot before swatting the puck right on to Petr Sykora's stick. The other one was the last goal of the game, a bullet by Sergei Gonchar that Price still should have had, and would have had were he completely on top of his game. Instead, it turned out to be the winning goal.

The loss, however, is probably pretty good news for Kovalev, because if he does indeed practice with the team on Friday I don't see any way Carbonneau could keep him out of the lineup for Saturday's game. No matter how much better the team played in Kovalev's absence, Carbonneau is bang on that they weren't rewarded in the standings as a result.

In order to get more than just moral victories, Carbonneau will need all his best players at his disposal, and right now that includes Kovalev.

1 comment:

Sliver24 said...

I haven't been one to blame Price for the recent losses. It's not that he has played particularly well throughout the slump, it's more that he was just one player among the many that were stinking the joint out.

Last night's game was a different story.

Every time the Habs got back into the game Pittsburgh was able to get a quick one past Price to regain the lead.

The forwards and D did enough to win the game last night. The same can not be said for the goalie.