Thursday, 12 January 2012

Seen it all before

Prior to the game it became public knowledge that Ron "The Professor" Caron had passed away. Fitting that the 2 teams for which he worked much of his career as a hockey executive would meet the same night. At least one would honor him by their performance. Condolences out to the entire Caron Family.  

"What can I say about tonight's shutout? It was the easiest shutout I've ever had in the NHL. I think I'm embarrassed to get a shutout like that."

The quote comes from Dominik Hasek (01/26/2006) but it could have just as easily have come from Jaroslav Halak after the Blues turned away the Canadiens 3-1 on Tuesday night. Not for a lack of trying from reporters end, Halak - a classy guy - wouldn't take the bait. Mike Cammallerri however took it for him.

"I would say we can do a lot more to create momentum, speed and puck control and make it harder on the other teams to defend. When you do those things it makes it hard on any team to defend." "I'm pretty sure if you asked them honestly, (The Blues) would tell you they weren't challenged as much as they should be tonight".

3:08 into the opening frame, with Lars Eller (he who was traded to Montreal for playoff hero Halak) off for interference, Thomas Plekanec stormed in on the Blues goalie with a short-handed breakaway. Halak would make not only his best save of the night- but pretty much his only save.

The bigger, stronger St.Louis Blues were first to every puck on this night. They played a variation of the Jaques Martin system (that Habs fans oh-so-loathed) to a perfect tee and the Canadiens sat back and had no answer. Stifling defense, solid dumping, good hard checks, 5 players back checking in front of the goalie. The Blues would block 12 shots for Halak, but the Canadiens would help them out by missing the net 12 times.

The similarities on this night to that fateful Habs/Sens meeting in January of '06 are plentiful. Both games ended with identical 3-0 scores. Both Hasek and Halak had to make 19 saves en route to a shutout. 

On that fateful January 26th night in 2006 Senators Captain Daniel Alfredsson described his teams strong play: "We controlled the game from the first faceoff. Once we got going, I think we played smart and we kept the puck in front of us." Seems like a quote that could just as easily be attributed to any of the Blues skaters after Tuesdays game.

Carey Price made 22 saves for the Habs in the loss, a few of the spectacular variety. 9:04 into the first he made one sprawling on his back, 4:04 into the second he tracked some slick moves by former Hab Matt D'Agostini, at 15:00 of the 2nd period he'd make a great stop off David Backes before Hal Gill would screen him on the rebound resulting in the St.Louis second goal.

TSN Analyst Marty Turco would give first star honors to Jaroslav Halak after the game, but I can't believe he was being serious. Turco said Halak was strong in the victory - however had he given up 1 goal, I'd argue most pundits would say he was weak. The fact that Halak had a shutout was a matter of circumstance, not due to a valiant performance. 

As TSN 990's Tony Marinaro would bring up on his show yesterday, if Price and Halak swapped teams last night, I believe the score would have been the same. Neither goalie was a factor in the result. The Canadiens looked listless for the most part, and they were outclassed, by a bigger, stronger team beating them at their own game. 

The Habs/Blues game was billed as a game of two goalies, but it can be summed up as a game of two words: Deja Vu.

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