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Habs Report

by Archives January 29, 2008

The Montreal Canadiens’ confidence level was through the roof going into the All-Star break, as they tore through the Boston Bruins on Tuesday and got sweet revenge against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
The game against Boston on Tuesday was over 14 seconds in, when Tom Kostopoulos put away the first goal of the game. Boasting a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, an assist and a fight, Kostopoulos rightly earned first star of the game. With a total of eight goals from seven different players, the Habs dominated the game despite being outshot 31-24. The other goals came from Michael Ryder, Maxim Lapierre, Bryan Smolinski, Mike Komisarek, Alexei Kovalev and two from Andrei Kostitsyn.
On a side note, the Kostitsyn brothers (Andrei and Sergei) continue to impress me; it appears as though we may have found our next great pair of brothers to add to a team that already has an awesome sibling track record.
The win over Boston increased Montreal’s winning streak against the team to nine games, and Boston really didn’t put up much of a fight to stop it. Allowing eight goals on 24 shots between two goalies doesn’t say much about the defense, which appeared lifeless right from the puck drop.
I feel compelled to mention Mark Streit when discussing this game because I think he played an outstanding 60 minutes. He was tight on the defense, diffusing many plays, and he helped out on the offense by making key passes. Oh yeah, and he finished his hits like a champion. Well done, Streit.
Regardless of how horribly Boston played, the Habs did something that great teams do. They didn’t let up, they didn’t relax; they played a full 60 minutes despite being up by several goals. They didn’t take the situation for granted like they do so often. It happens many times when the Habs get up by two goals or more and relax and basically sit on their lead.
But last Tuesday, the spark was there right until the final whistle. Three cheers for a full-game effort, it was a good, old-fashioned 8-2 slaughter.
Thursday’s game against the Devils had fans on the edge of their seats. Not surprising, since the Habs haven’t won against the Devils in New Jersey since February 2002. Habs fans watched in horror as their team endured a two-goal deficit against arguably the best goalie in the league, the one who always seems to have our number: Martin Brodeur.
Despite getting off to a slow start, Montreal exploded with newfound energy after Bryan Smolinski offered some inspiration for his teammates by pitching in with two goals. The Habs simply dominated the final frame, outshooting the Devils 20-3 in the third period.
The defense was solid; Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek were simply outstanding at smothering Jersey’s effort. The other two goals came in the form of a rebound shot by Christopher Higgins and a controversial bat-in from Saku Koivu.
The bottom line is that the Habs owned this game, despite being down by two goals at one point. They outskated, outplayed and outlasted the Devils in an effort that was reminiscent of the 1970’s Canadiens team.
By breaking their losing streak against New Jersey, they have lifted the psychological complex that comes with such a situation.
This is crucial, because if they end up playing the Devils in the playoffs – which is a big possibility – they’re going to need to be as healthy, both physically and mentally, as possible. The confidence that comes with breaking a losing streak like that against a team such as New Jersey is just huge. Cheers to the team for a solid effort and a great 4-3 win.
Make sure to check back next week when we’ll be addressing some trade rumors in addition to analyzing how the Habs fared throughout back-to-back games Tuesday and Thursday against the Washington Capitals and then the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

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