Thursday, February 21, 2008

Please Malkin Don't Hurt 'em

In a raucous Montreal environment a team could be excused for pulling the Islanders method: just trying to play simple, road team hockey, muck and grind your way to a 2-1 win or maybe a 2-1 loss if the bounces don't go your way. Well the Penguins aint your grandma's Islanders. And now for your "All Malkin All the Time" gamenotes:
  • Chalk Alexei Kovalev up as the latest player to visibly try to ratchet his game up to the level of Evgeni Malkin. The competitive countrymen were all over the place tonight, both were the best player on their respective teams.
  • In perhaps the peak of the game, with the Habs up 4-3, Malkin high-sticked Kovalev and went to the box. The vaunted Montreal powerplay failed to score for the first time tonight (they were 2-2 before) and Ryan Malone sprung Malkin on a breakaway shortly after he got out of the box. Goal.
  • Speaking of Malone, he had a wonderful game. He's extraordinarily good at tossing out those 2 line passes to trigger breakaways and he also added his 20th goal of the season. The big guy was amazing and is definitely playing the best hockey of his professional career in the past 4 or 5 weeks.
  • Congrats to Sergei Gonchar on his 600th career NHL point. It was fitting for him that it came on a goal, and on the powerplay.
  • Ryan Whitney had another up and down game. In perhaps the micro-cosm of his career, he scored his 12th goal of the season (ties him for 4th in the NHL among defensemen) and dished out 2 primary powerplay assists. But he was weak in his own end and was on the ice for three of the goals Montreal scored.
  • Just as Malkin took that high-sticking penalty the Montreal crowd took to sing-songing his name in a fimiliar chant. After he delievered the dagger, they had nothing to say. Perhaps the lesson was learned: taunt Zhenya at your own risk.
  • Malkin was flying all over the place, credited officially with a game high 3 takeaways. He was literally backchecking like a man possessed and just effortlessly stealing pucks away from sticks. Not only has he been the best offensive player in the league since Christmas, he's been one of the most well-rounded forwards out there as well.
  • Dany Sabourin had an up and down night too. He wasn't particularly sharp and was caught cheating a little too far by Montreal's sharp-shooting powerplay. But he did his part to hold the team in the game when he had to; no spectacular or inspiring saves but a nice performance.
  • It seemed like a pretty quiet performance for Petr Sykora, but it's anything but a quiet stat-line at the end of the night: 2 assists and a +2
  • Jordan Staal fired 6 shots on net and Colby Armstrong had a game high 5 hits. Keep it up boys, the work will eventually pay off. Just ask Jarkko "Maurice Richard" Ruutu..

One gets the feeling that the atmosphere in both barns, should it happen, for a Canadiens/Penguins playoff series would be absolutely electric. Both teams don't just play aggressive, they play to win. They have deadly powerplays and don't know how to take the foot off the gas.

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