4-2

And it wasn’t that close.

The Canadiens tried to play run-and-gun with a team of sharpshooters.

It didn’t work.

"Our defensive zone coverage was pretty bad," said Christopher Higgins, the Canadiens’ go-to guy for trenchant – and, in this case, understated – analysis.

"They scored four goals from the slot," Higgins added. "They were skating through the slot easily – not being checked, not getting their sticks lifted, slipping checks easily.

"We can’t play run-and-gun against a team like that. They’re too skilled."

The Canadiens had 38 shots on Martin Gerber. But most were from long range. The team in red buzzed around the perimeter as though the opening ceremony had been the retirement of Sergei Samsonov’s number.

Ottawa, as Higgins noted, glided unimpeded through the area in front of Cristobal Huet and scored four goals that travelled a total distance of maybe 40 feet.

"They backcheck, they play well in  their own end," Higgins said. "We can match them offensively, but we sacrificed defence."

And so it’s on to Long Island, where a loss on  Wednesday nnight would lleave the Canadiens one point ahead of the Islanders, who have three games in hand.

Yikes! 

 

251 Comments

  1. Naila Jinnah says:

    Cool! I didn’t know the bit about sport!!

  2. Naila Jinnah says:

    LOL! That’s funny in ways you can’t even begin to understand!

  3. Girth says:

    Does that qualify as “good coaching”?

  4. zamboni says:

    Hope you’re right nightmare_49, nothing would make me happier than seeing character players rise to the occasion.

  5. zamboni says:

    Right on Moey,
    indeed they play crash and and bash style, but Philly tried that with us, so did Boston, and see what did we do to them.
    Somehow we can’t do the same to the Laffs.

  6. Moey says:

    They don’t dictate the pace, that implies that there is a game going on. They shut us down and they shut Ottawa down completely on Saturday night.

    Anaheim shut Ottawa down last year in the same way, it’s not a question of pace.

  7. Ed says:

    Ian, I think you are on to something. I don’t know if you agree with me, but I believe that Higgins likes to carry the puck, and is not a passer like Koivu. Therefore, when Higgins and Ryder are on the ice together, Ryder’s scoring chances are reduced accordingly.

  8. showey47 says:

    “Lacking in real talent, they have to simply stop us from playing our game. Just like they did to Ottawa on Saturday night”. This is called dictating the pace like i said in my post. The laffs are a slower team than us, especially on the back end. Their size is overrated since most of it lacks talent other than sundin, do you actually think the laffs should of won the first 2 games against us?

    Sure they outshot us last game but at the same time the poweplays were also 8-3 which played a huge role. If the poweplays had been 8-3 for us the game would of been over after the second.

  9. Ed says:

    Thanks Naila. I see that it is now at 61.

  10. Moey says:

    Bang on Rugger, only you said it much quicker than I did!!!

  11. Rugger says:

    I agree, when the Bruins used to play that way, I called it anti-hockey. They could only win by preventing a hockey game from happening.

  12. Moey says:

    I have to disagree on your comment about playing the laffs, it’s not so much that their slow,if that were the case we can out skate them ten ways from Sunday, so it should be an easy win. The real problem is that they play a crash and bash type of hockey. Lacking in real talent, they have to simply stop us from playing our game. Just like they did to Ottawa on Saturday night. Keep ’em pinned against the boards and don’t let them get a decent play going. It’s not pretty to watch, but it’s the only way they can be successful. We play a very similar game to Ottawa, a pleasure to watch (IMO). In saying that, we have to hang in the full sixty minutes tonight….not fifty.

  13. The Ian Cobb says:

    Mike Boone– Watch the time of posesion tonight for the 1st line if Higgins is on with Ryder. Between the two of them. Last game Ryder had his best game and able to carry the puck after Higgins went down.

  14. Chorske says:

    Oooh, is that a score updater in the upper right corner?! AWESOME IDEA.

  15. nightmare_49 says:

    You made some good points about the Smolinski vs Bonk bit (Bonk i really liked) but IMO the difference between the two is Smolinski’s versatility (LW C RW) and Smol can change his style where Bonkie was limited. They are both good players but i’m happy with Smols and the best is yet to come. Bonk wasn’t the greatest in big games , ask Ottawa.

  16. Keg says:

    Long overdue for Big Bird. My Dad remembers watching him in Halifax while he was with the Vees. When I started following the Habs in the mid-70’s my earliest memories are of HNIC panning to him sitting in the Forum crowd after having been ejected from the game for fighting! Ahhhh, bench clearing brawls, those were the days!

  17. Les-Habitants says:

    Huge game, another great test for the Habs.

    We’ve essentially lost two 1-goal games against Ottawa this season, and last game was one we should have won. That said, we’re going to have to play a lot more sound hockey to keep this team at bay.

    Keys to the Game:;
    Higgins isn’t slowed too much by his ‘bone bruise’
    Ryder and Higgins pot a couple of the scoring chances that Koivu sets up.
    Plek and the Super K’s keeping rocking
    Tight checking the rest of the way

    One quick question, unless someone answered it above: Grabo has played C and LW thus far, so where does he fit in? Is he centering the 4th line like TSN is projecting, or is he playing RW next to Chip?

  18. Ftonhabsfan says:

    Well, after lurking for ages I guess Big Bird’s night is the appropriate night to chime in. Loved watching him play. So happy this finally gets done tonight.

    P.S. You know you’ve got a great site when people come in not only to read the content posted but also check out the latest comments by some of their favorite posters (is that the proper word there?).
    Nice job by everyone to keep the entertainment value so high at every level! Give yourselves a pat on the back..

  19. showey47 says:

    Hope we can carry over from saturday nights game without giving up so much goals. Playing at home will allow us to get the defensive matchup against ottawa’s big guns. This is a great oppurtunity to show the sens thta we are for real and close the gap in the standings, meanwhile putting some space between us and the laffs with games in hand.

  20. showey47 says:

    I think we play lousy against the laffs because we allow the opposition to dicate the pace of the game. I think thats why we play much better against teams that are firewagon type teams like pittsburg, ottawa and buffalo (not counting last game). So when we play a slow team like the laffs we get lulled into a slow pace game

  21. showey47 says:

    Bonk is also playing on the top 2 lines in nashville with much more offensivly gifted players. Smokes will only be here for this season and when chipper takes his job next season, no one will remember bonk.

  22. shadow says:

    16 Pocket Rocket
    While we’re obsessing about the similarities of this season’s record and last year’s record, I might add that the 2005-2006 season started exceptionally well too. That fast start at the 19 game “quarter pole” (13-3-3) was followed by a Canadiens’ Coach Canned by Christmas. And a final regular season record of 42-31-9 after M. Gainey stepped in; and 4 straight 1 goal losses to Carolina in the first round of the “playoofs.” So, let’s hope that histoire doesn’t repeat itself…twice.

  23. VancouverHab says:

    Mr. Boone:
    Podia is indeed the plural of podium — as stadia is the plural of stadium.
    And ‘sport’ is the singular and the plural: ‘sports’ is an American malapropism.

  24. LeB7 says:

    For the last 2 seasons, I always thought that Markov was our most important player except for the goalies. This year he is answering very well to the challenge of becoming our general at the blue line.
    So I might add to the list of differences from last year : Markov is even better.

  25. zamboni says:

    I agree with a previous poster that we should compare Smolinski to Bonk and not Freddy to Bonk, after all we got Smolinski to replace Bonk.

    To be honest I’m not sold yet that Smolinski is an upgrade to Bonk.
    Here’s 2007-2008 stats for the two.

    Player Games G A P +/-
    Bonk 19 7 2 9 -1
    Smolinkski 19 2 5 7 -5

    Let’s also not forget that at this point last year’s Habs had the best PK in the league, and we finished the season with a strong PK.

    If we consider the salaries of the two, then it really becomes a no contest where Bonk wins in leaps.

    Still, I’m enjoying watching the product on ice, if we continue this way, sooner or later all those so called hockey experts that predicted us to be the bottom dwellers will start eating crow.

    Why can’t we play the lousy leafs the way we played Boston?
    It’s not like their defense is better than Boston’s.
    Why can’t we really use our speed against them?

  26. Morenz7 says:

    Piche’s numbers are illuminating—and sobering. Season begins at the all-star break, a wise man once said (was it Red?). Watch for those flu bugs, boys. Watch that ankle, Higgy…

  27. Morenz7 says:

    Don’t have much to say. I’m just trying to keep Mike’s numbers up…:)

    Seriously though, I had the misfortune of attending Friday’s game in Buffalo, and I DID get that sick feeling that they were lapsing back into last year’s ways. The cure arrived Saturday night. Zowie. That was fantastic.

    And while this isn’t, er, “data-based” analysis, my two bits say that Jorges belongs in the lineup tonight. Anyone in the building in Buffalo could see that Breezer was awful. I’m sorry to heap more scorn on the man, but honestly, you can see his mistimed moves and ill-conceived decisions so much more clearly live … caught up ice at least three times… soft checking in his own zone. Only the poor play of the rest of the team camouflaged his weaknesses. Most important, I can’t ever see him making a bee-line for Reich (or whatever that idiot’s name is) to send a message about slew-footing our prize goalie.

    I know Mike and others have spoken kindly of the Breezer recently, but I’m just not seeing the great benefit to having him out there as opposed to one of their youngsters.

    ‘Nuff negativity. REALLY looking forward to tonight—Patrice or no Patrice.

    GO HABS GO!

  28. J.T. says:

    Great idea Jay! I’m rubbing my hands together in excitement over the “mystery” prize you get for fifty. Could it be the official Mike Boone bobblehead I’ve long coveted?

  29. piche says:

    Mike – Montreal won their 20th last year… and after 50 games we were still a point ahead of Ottawa. Here are a few more stats:

    2006 – 2007 Regular Season

    Through 10
    Team W L O PTS
    Mtl 5 2 3 13
    Det 5 4 1 11
    Ott 5 5 0 10

    Through 20
    Team W L O PTS
    Mtl 12 5 3 27
    Det 12 5 3 27
    Ott 8 11 1 17

    Through 30
    Team W L O PTS
    Mtl 17 8 5 39
    Det 18 8 4 40
    Ott 15 14 1 31

    Through 40
    Team W L O PTS
    Mtl 23 12 5 51
    Det 25 10 5 55
    Ott 21 18 1 43

    Through 50
    Team W L O PTS
    Mtl 27 18 5 59
    Det 30 14 6 66
    Ott 28 20 2 58

  30. Dan23 says:

    No expectations tonight except a classy ceremony dedicated to one of the great Habs players of all time, and hopefully a game as entertaining as the one these two teams played two Saturdays ago (or as entertaining as the game the Habs played this past Saturday!).

    A win would also be a nice way to cap off tonight’s ceremonies.

    Do it for Big Bird.

  31. Jay_in_PA says:

    Mike: Why don’t you just treat the whole post-count scene like a PBS pledge drive?

    “If you pledge to post 10 times during tonight’s game, you get to join the Mike Boone Inner Circle(TM) which will entitle you to special privileges at next year’s Fan Summit. At the 25-post level, Mike will come over to your house and kiss your granny…”

  32. Chuck V. says:

    JF

    Last year I remember the whole team was talking about how great it was that there were no more cliques in the dressing room and that the camaraderie was better but as we quickly saw, that was not necessarily the case (I’m thinking of the Kovalev controversies, Rivet, Samsonov, Carbo’s lack of communication). This year, while we’re not hearing the players talk about friendship and their newfound sense of team, we’re seeing it on the ice game in and game out. Instead of being a team weakness, the Canadiens’ lack of enforcer has brought to light the strength of unity on the team as they have been forced to stick up for each other game in and game out. Needless to say they’ve responded admirably, which bodes well for the rest of this young season.

  33. longbow says:

    OT and Shootout losses should be counted as a tie since we get a point out of it.
    Heres a strange fact…If you win 10 games and lose 72 in OT or shootout,you end the season with 92 points which should be enough to make the playoffs !

  34. Naila Jinnah says:

    If you click to a post from the main site, you will see the number of comments on each blog. It’s only if you go directly to the full blog post that there is no number.

  35. drecha says:

    I agree the record may be the same (kind of weird) but last year I always had that feeling that the other shoe was going to drop any time. I never really felt that they were legit. I don’t have that feeling this year, I really think that this team is playing like a “team”. The young guns are firing and getting better with every game and the veterans are producing as expected, hope that this carries on for the rest of the year.
    GoHabsGo!!!

  36. Ed says:

    Thanks JF. They had quite a record to late December. I will have to remember Wikipedia, as they seem to have everything.

  37. likehoy says:

    do you consider shootout/ot losses to be losses or are they separate from your under 20?

  38. JF says:

    Our record might be the same as this time last year, but this is a very much improved team. Not only are the individual players better, but overall play in every aspect of the game is better. The powerplay is much more creative than last year, our defensive zone coverage is way better with the result that we spend less time chasing the puck in our own zone, which results in fewer scoring chances against us, an improved transition game and more shots on goal. 5-on-5 is still a concern but better than last year, and overall team chemistry and work ethic seem to be vastly improved – witness the way the guys all stick up for each other, most notably in Saturday’s game. Also, the way we are winning games is much more convincing. As J.T. points out, there are few games in which we dig ourselves into a hole early and then have to spend the entire game trying to get out of it. More often than not, we set the tempo and play the game our way. And the only game this year in which we’ve been out of it from the start was the last Buffalo game. Lots of room for optimism, but tonight will be tough.

  39. Ed says:

    On the MAIN page, Dave Stubbs says Huet is starting.

  40. Leonard Zukerman says:

    Never looked at it that way but you clearly nailed it. Credit to management for seeing and correcting the
    flaws that existed last year.

  41. Fer_hab says:

    Have we named a starter for tonites game.

  42. Ed says:

    Hi Boone. I am sure this has been asked before, but why does your blog not show the number of comments attached? They are shown for the articles on HIO. Maybe it is there, and I am not seeing it. By seeing the number, it gives me an idea how much reading I have to do.

  43. Ed says:

    I am not aware of any place where the stats are readily available, but there probably is a site somewhere. The scores are available for last year, and you could do your own calculations. I would also like to know if they are readily available, and our total shots for and against, etc. I think the team has improved in this area.

    http://canadiens.nhl.com/team/app

  44. longbow says:

    Every year I hope they finish the season with fewer than 20 losses.I think this might be the season.19 or less.Thats the goal.
    It would be nice if they took advantage of the open roster spot to bring up different players from time to time to at least evaluate them under NHL conditions.
    I wish Ottawa hadn’t lost their last game.Good teams bounce back which makes the task of beating them tonight that much harder.

  45. Geoff F says:

    I stongly urge anyone who hasn’t done so to watch some of the Robinsom highlights prior to the ceremony. I realize it feels like only yesterday that i was watching Robinson skate around the ice and do his thing but watching some of those highlights brought all the emotion back. I especially like the hit on Dornhoffer but the way he comes in and picks Schulz out of the melee with the Flyers and sets the tone just reminds me of what the Habs need and what they are in the process of learning. The need to stand up for each other and not to take any crap from anyone. It’s a great feeling, i’m a proud Habs fan and today is a special day to be shared amongst us all!

    UNITED WE STAND BOYS!

    GO HABS GO!

  46. tareq514 says:

    is there anywhere where i can look up the Habs’ record after 20, 21, 22, etc. games?

  47. likehoy says:

    easy game boys.
    lets take the 2 points and go home and think about the next one.


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4-2

Canadiens win by two goals!!

And finally this season, a few bounces go their way.

The winner, for instance: a Roman Hamrlik shot that bounced off the glass behind Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller and then ricocheted off a Sabres defenceman who was trying to tie up Christopher Higgins, then off Miller and in.
The goal, initially credited to Higgins, was Hamrik’s

“Not a very nice goal,” Hamrlik conceded. “But you know what? I’m going to take it.
“We won. We have two points. That’s all that matters.”
Hamrlik played almost 26 minutes, had two assists and was the game’s first star.
Higgins’ got a goal – an empty-netter that put this one away and allowed the With the win, Canadiens to leapfrog Buffalo in the Northeast Division standings.

Red Sox are leading 10-1 in the third inning.
Dice-K tomorrow.

And I’m off to Hurley’s to hoist a few with Habs I/O Summiteers.

Thanks everyone for 195 comments.
You rock!

Third Period 24.9 Chris Higgins ices it on a 70-footer into an empty net.
4-2

Third Period 1:27 Kostopoulos makes a big shot block

Third Period 2:12 Huet fails to clear and chaos ensues.

Third Period 2:47 Pleks, Dandy, Hamrlik, Bouillon

Third Period 3:16 Here we go. Kovalev for hooking. And Lindy Ruff calls timeout.

Third Period 4:07 Line changes and no penalties will be crucial here. Will Carbo shorten the bench?

Third Period 5:18 Anxious moments for Grabovski line.

Third Period 12:46 Still a PP for 1:06. But the goal is being reviewed.
It was in off Miller, so what’s the problem?

Third Period 7:22 Another rebound off the boards, and Chris Higgins is right there.
3-2

Third Period 8:16 Two-man advantage for 1:04. This is where they HAVE to put them away.

Third Period 9:04 Stafford goes for ooffensiive-zone high-sticking.

Third Period 10:08 Hamrlik for tripping. His first penalty of the season.
This will be tense.

Third Period 12:00 Buffalo sends a three-man forecheck that gives the Canadiens all kinds of trouble.

Third Period 12:46 The Sabres skate faster than I can blog. Bring on the Leafs.

Third Period 15:10 Chris Higgins comes close … again. He should have six this season.

Third Period 17:00 Markov has made more mistakes tonight than he made last season.

Third Period 19:00 Next goal wins it … maybe.

• • •

Mike Komisarek has five hits and the Canadiens have a 27-10 advantage.

Bryan Smolinski has four shots, four hits and has won four faceoffs (44%).

• • •

J.D. Drew: grand slam
Woo hoo!
I’m a huge Red Sox fan.

• • •

Francis Bouillon, Mark Streit and the Koivu lline are -2 tonight.

• • •

This is turning into an interesting game. It’s the toughest test the Canadiens defence has had this season, because Buffalo is a buzzsaw.

Should be a lively thrird period.
Will the Sabres, who played last night, have their legs.

Second Period 1:51 Sabres imitate the Canadiens’ PP. Passing on the perimeter, then a shot right on Huet.

Second Period 4:40 Afinogenov for roughing. And a frustrating PP with too mmuch passing.

Second Period 5:18 And Breezer gets four minutes for HS. But there’s a makeup call on Buffalo.

Second Period 5:18 Best end to end sequence of the season. The Buffalo shot looked in from up here.
Commercial break, and they’re reviewing it.
Off the crossbar.

Second Period 7:21 Andrei Markov is having an unusual number of brain cramps.

Second Period 7:34 Brutal PP.

Second Period 9:28 Another PP. And the crowd is alive.

Second Period 9:50 I can’t take 38 more Bell Centre car races. So idiotic and noisy.

Second Period 10:00 Sabres REALLY pass the puck well. And they’re in constant movement in the offensive zone. Even without Brière and Drury, they have a great system going.

Second Period 12:50 First shot, first goal.
Chipchura’s first of his career
2-2

Second Period 14:20 All the energy has been sucked out of a very large building.
Through six minutes, the Canadiens don’t have a shot … or anything that looked like one.

Second Period 15:39 Derek Roy pounces on a giveaway for his fifth of the season.
2-1.
Three shots, two goals for Buffalo

Second Period 15:48Paul Gaustad redirects a Tim Connolly shot past Huet’s right pad.
1-1

Second Period 16:21 Lindy Ruff POed about something.

Second Period 16:25 Second Buffalo PP

Second Period 16:44 Great backcheck by Dandy. No shots yet.

Second Period 18:39 Live from the neutral zone: It’s Saturday Night!

• • •

My favourite new guy, Roman Hamrlik, played 9:31 of the first 20 minutes.
Mike Komisarek played 8:13 and Alex Kovalev 7:50.
Canadiens outshot the Sabres 12-t and outhit the visitors 14-6

• • •

First Period 02:00 A Tom Kostopoulos breakaway!
He didn’t score, but all is forgiven.

First Period 06:09 Cristobal: DON’T HANDLE THE #$%^ing PUCK!

First Period 9:46 Pleks hustles another penalty but takes one himself, crashing Miller on the continuation.

First Period 10:40 Steve Bégin loses his stick, gets one off the
bench and hustles back to block a shot.

First Period 11:49 Koivu gets stripped on the PP and takes a tripping penalty. This used to happen a lot last season.

First Period 14:27 Everyone is hustling. Dandenault raced down to prevennt an icing.

First Period 16:45 Smolinski-Grabovski (who got his first point of the season)-Dandenault
Chipchura-Bégin-Kostopoulos

First Period 17:26 Bing-bang-boom. Rebound off the boards and Bryan Smolinski smacks it home. PP
1-0

First Period 19:20 Plekanec hustle produces a Tllender penalty

First Period 20:00 Standing O for the King Clancy Trophy winner, Saku Koivu.

First Period 20:00 Kovalev, Latendresse and Plekanec to start.

• • •

Kostitsyn a healthy scratch.
Hmmmmm …

• • •

Pinch-hitting for his unilingual captain, Francis Bouillon does “Voici mon équipe …” on the big screen

• • •

Players are wearing Hockey Fights Cancer decals on their helmets.

• • •

Nice video segments with Francis Bouillon and Dickie Moore on what it means to play for your Montreal Canadiens.

• • •

Ryan Miller starts. He played last night also.

• • •

The game tonight is dedicated to people fighting the good fight against cancer.
There will be a pre-game ceremony featuring Saku Koivu.

• • •

I wish Tomas Plekanec would go back to wearing number 35.
14 has too much negative Rejean Houle karma.

* * *

Saku is in uniform.
Chantal Machabée is interviewing him at the Canadiens’ bench.

• • •

Is George Gillett in for a double?
Liverpool edged Everton 2-1 to win the Tyneside Derby today.

• • •

Two words you don’t like to read in the same sentence: “Canadiens” and “flu”.
So how about these five words to strike terror into your heart:
Saku Koivu has the flu.

Or maybe he doesn’t.
It might just be a bad cold that kept the captain, off to a spectacular start this season, away from the team’s morning skate.
Whether Koivu plays or not will be game time decision. If he can’t go, Tomas Plekanec will move up to the top line, with Christopher Higgins and Michael Ryder. The “(Belo) Russian line of Mikhail Grabovski, Alec Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn would remain intact, with Bryan Smolinski centreing the third line and Kyle Chipchura dressed to centre the checkking unit.

• • •

Hockey is a funny game.
The Sabres totalled 95 shots in wins over Washington and Toronto then managed just 21 in a shutout loss to Columbus – in Buffalo! – last night.

• • •

Should be a good one with the Sabres at the Bell Centre tonight.

Buffalo plays an up-tempo skating game … as does the home team.
Both clubs could use a win. They each have six points and are bringing up the rear in the Northeast Division.

Tonight’s live blog may be lacking a crucial element: fan commentary.

The first annual Habs Inside/Out Fan Summit is happening today, and many of my most faithful correspondents – including Jay in PA, JT, Yeats, Jim M, Nailah Jinnah, Pleks-Andrew – are in town for the festivities and attending the game.
With all my most reliable posters in the Bell Centre and away from their computers, the over/under on Comments is 50.


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