Breaking news: Halak doesn't implode against Rangers!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

For everyone who had question marks about Halak and the Habs coming into this game in Madison Square Gardens I have one thing to say: HAHA!

Not only did Halak play a billion times better than he did in the last two games, but the rest of the team actually played really well tonight too. Among the nicer moments of the game were TWO powerplay goals from the Habbies (forgive me for getting excited, but I would have been happy with just one powerplay goal. Something we haven't seen since... uh... a while....) and a hat trick for Lang who now leads the Habbies in scoring. Not bad for a guy who just turned 38 a couple of weeks ago. On the night that Mats Sundin (finally) made his season debute with the Canucks, it was nice to see the previously considered "after-thought" proving that the Canadiens don't need the big Swede in their lineup.

But I'm getting ahead of things now. I dunno if it was just me or what, but people in New York are not big on the cheering department. At least not tonight anyway. It was really quiet in there tonight for the most part and it got a lot quieter when Lundqvist made a big error that cost his team their first of six goals tonight. He came behind the net to clear the puck but Kovalev got in the way and so Mr. Goalie clears the puck in the other direction and it lands on the stick of.... Max Pacioretty who may have grown up being a Rangers fan but tonight he was a Hab. And a good one too. He then passed the puck back to Kovalev who had now circled back and was standing in front of an empty net. No way Kovalev was going to hit the post this time. That would take some real skill not to get the puck in there. So in the puck went. Up when Lundqvist's shoulders in annoyance and it was now Habs 1 Rangers 0.

The Habs were looking good until 17 minutes into the game, when the Rangers decided to play 'let's see how many people we can knock around without taking a penalty' around, and consequently Halak got booted out of the net and Markov went down and the Rangers scored on basically an empty net. Yeah. Being the biased person that I am, I thought that the Rangers should have taken a penalty for knocking either Markov or Halak but anyway... call it a consolation goal. Hamlrik and Latendresse were to put away any thoughts of this period ending in a tie. Hamrlik ripped the puck at Lundqvistl. It rebounded quite far off him and lookie who was there to grab the rebound and sink the puck into the back of the net. Oh yes: Latendresse. Habs 2 Rangers 1.

By all accounts the second period was pretty good for the Habs too. Even though the Rangers woke up some more, the Habs were still getting the puck to the net and registering some good shots on goal which were all stopped by Lundqvist. Halak came up with some brilliant saves but Callahan finally put one past him. I think of all the goals this was the one that probably had people thinking "Oh great. Here we go again... Habs are going to crumble". Well, they didn't. It was the only goal of the entire period. The Habs did have one powerplay in here but it was so awful that I won't even say anything about it. So it was Habs 2 Rangers 2

Hard to imagine that the Habs would record four more goals before the night was out but they did. Early in the period Voros was sent off for hooking. Now here's the great part. Voros gets sent off at 2:39. Three seconds later - I'm serious - Markov gets the pass from Plekanec and ripped it past Lundqvist. And that people was a glimpse of the powerplay of Christmas past. Uh... don't know where that came from...and maybe that goal would have gone in no matter how many Rangers were on the ice. BUT WHATEVER! Anyway, it was a very pretty goal and it was nice to see a goal on the powerplay for once. It got better though. Callahan was sent off for hi-sticking and he was soon joined in the penalty box by Gomez. So it was 5 on 3 now for the Habbies. Andrei Kostitsyn and Markov take a couple of swipes on the left side of Lundqvist before the puck winds up on the other side of the net where Lang is pattiently waiting for the puck. In the puck went. First goal of the night for Lang. And second goal on the powerplay. Nice.

Rozsival had to go and make things not so nice when he took a quick pass in front of the net from Zherdev and ripped it past an unready Halak. Can't blame Halak for that one. There was no way he was getting that one. Someone should have been on top of that. There was mild cheering in MSG but I think everyone had a feeling that the Rangers weren't coming out the victors in this one. I mean, they tried. They really did. But it was no use. After a brief scuffle behind the net, Boullion and Zherdev were sent off for something and it was now 4 on 4. After trading some shots back and forth, the play finalyl made its way back to the Ranger's zone. Lang grabbed the puck, skated around Marc Staal like he was just standing still, and put the puck over Lundqvist's shoulder. 5-3 for the Habbies!

At this point the Habs decided to make things difficult for themselves as they took two straight penalties from Hamrlik and Komisarek. So because it was almost the end of the game, Lundqvist was pulled and the Rangers enjoyed the extra player(s). The Habs played excellently on trying to kill the last bit of time for the most part. The Rangers almost got themselves a goal. But thanks to Kovalev and Halak, the puck was stopped right on the line and play wasn't even stopped - and the refs who had been a little sleepy all night were standing right behind the net to see it not go in. At this point Lang again got the puck and this time he put it away into the empty net with 37 seconds to go in the third period. Habs 6 Rangers 3.

I liked this game a lot. Not only because of the scoring but I liked the effort. I like what the Habs do when they put in the effort and work as a team. It makes me love them again! The thought of where this team could be sitting in the league if they put up efforts like that every night scares me. Well, it doesn't really. But you know what I mean. Right? Right. Anyway, no matter what you say about Halak and the goals that did go in, I'm going to think positively for once and remember the goals that did NOT go in. I mean, c'mon people, would you rather Halak had played like Lundqvist? Of course not. Give the guy some credit. Stopping 36 out of 39 shots is good. Especially when you compare that to 19 out of 25 shots......

What concerns me at this point is what are the Habs going to do when they play the Leafs tomorrow? Barring the fact that they will be tired, my main concern is that they won't be motivated to beat the Leafs. I would hope that they are considering what happened last time they played, but we all know that the Habs have a huge tendency to go off and die against weaker teams. They have to come out and try as hard as they can against the Leafs. They just have to. It's the Leafs!!! But I'll whine about that tomorrow.

The good -

  • H-A-L-A-K.
  • POWERPLAY! For once!
  • The Kostitsyn brothers + Lang
  • Speaking of Lang... Lang's hat trick was a nice way to squash the Rangers
  • Kovalev showed signs of life for real this time tonight. I think Pacioretty being really motivated to play tonight might have helped. Or maybe it was that early goal (is it just me or do Russians have a thing with needing to get a goal early to stay motivated? Malkin is the exact same) Whatever the reason... Kovalev was awake. Good.
  • Chipchura had a couple of good moments out there even though his line was not really that active.
The bad -

  • Um... There wasn't that much that was bad. There were almost no stupid turnovers. No powerplay goals against them. I guess Callahan's goal should have been stopped but I guess you could say that all of them should have been stopped....
  • I didn't like those two penalties at the end. It was a really bad time to get them and it could have resulted in things turning out not so nice.
  • The quiet fans. Early on it looked as though the players were having trouble getting into the game. I think a noisier crowd would have gotten them going earlier.
  • I'm guess Lundqvist is going to add this one to the (large) list of games that he would like to forget. It's kind of a pity from his point of view, considering that the Rangers just came off of a 4-0 blanking of the Pens. But oh well... that's only bad if you're a Rangers fan.


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