Sabres-Canadiens: Habs Hurt by Weak Defensive Effort


Montreal 3 Buffalo 4 SO (Bell Centre)

posted by Rocket

It was a very entertaining hockey game tonight: two teams battling for a playoff spot; two good coaches; two excellent goalies. Despite the loss, there were positives for the Canadiens.

Bob Gainey has to be pleased that his team took five of six points this week. He should be happy that at times, they are playing closer to their potential and look like a completely different team than under their previous coach.

It was an exciting first period. The Habs played well outshooting Buffalo 12-to-8. Carey Price and Ryan Miller traded great saves. The Sabres scored as a hard pass by Johan Hecht was tipped in by a wide open Adam Mair. Saku Koivu hit the post as the period expired.

The only ones not on their game in the first were the officials. The linesmen threw both Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev out of the faceoff circle which led to a rarely called minor penalty to Kovalev. The linesman seemed to be at fault for delaying to drop the puck while both were set.

Buffalo’s goal came a mere five seconds after Kovalev’s penalty expired.

The Canadiens started slowly in the second. Buffalo scored a power-play goal when Price made a great save on Thomas Vanek but the Habs couldn’t clear. Connolly buried his shot with traffic around the net.

The Habs came to life on a terrific shot by Chris Higgins. Good work by Metropolit and Dandenault to set up the play.

The Canadiens then scored two more making it three goals in a seven minute span to lead the Sabres 3-2.

Price made several more big stops including saves on Pominville and Vanek to finish the period.

The Habs sat back in the third period. They weren’t aggressive on the forecheck. They weren’t getting pucks deep in the Buffalo zone. The Sabres outshot the Canadiens 16-to-7.

Buffalo’s tying goal came as the Habs were caught chasing the puck. Montreal fell into the bad habit of poor defensive coverage.

Price had a great game and was the best Canadiens’ player. He hasn’t lost in regulation in seven games with a record of 4-0-3. The Canadiens have taken 11 of a possible 14 points with Price in goal.

Chris Higgins continues his terrific play and was rewarded with a goal tonight. Metropolit is playing smart hockey and Dandenault is great on the forecheck.

Koivu’s line continues to provide the offensive spark. The trio had five points tonight. Kovalev had two goals with one coming via the power-play.

Matt D’Agostini continues to struggle. He played less than five minutes in this game. Plekanec and Sergei Kostitsyn will hopefully welcome back Andrei Kostitsyn on Tuesday night to help this line to contribute.

The Lapierre line didn’t play well. Guillaume Latendresse was missing in action for most of the game. Lapierre was only 28 percent on faceoffs and delivered a questionable hit to Patrick Kaleta. Tom Kostopoulos fought Craig Rivet.

Josh Gorges was back to his inconsistent play. Mathieu Schneider played too many minutes and his defensive play suffered. Roman Hamrlik seems to try too hard when paired with Patrice Brisebois.

Brisebois is simply the worst player on the ice each night. His play is embarrassing for an NHL defenseman.

The Canadiens once again could not play a solid 60 minute game. Giving up goals in the third period is also becoming a bad habit in this home stand.

The conference standings for the playoffs are even tighter after tonight just as the Canadiens are scheduled to face tougher opposition.


Starting lineup: Lapierre, Latendresse, Kostopoulos, Brisebois, Hamrlik

Carey Price and Ryan Miller started in goal.

O’Byrne, Laraque, and Stewart were scratched from the line-up. Andrei Kostitsyn was out with the flu. Bouillon and Lang were on injured reserve.


Plekanec-D’Agostini-Sergei Kostitsyn

Rocket’s three stars:

1. Ryan Miller
2. Carey Price
3. Chris Higgins

(photo credit: Getty Images)

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