After such a brilliant showing in Philadelphia, the Habs were completely putrid tonight. There are those who will say it was the towering defence and wonderful trapping play of the Devils that was the cause, but I beg to differ. Even open passes were in the skates, or completely behind the intended receiver. There were times when two players stared at each other wondering who was going to have to do the dirty work and get the puck. Heck, there were even points when Hab players blew a tire thus leaving the Devils to the puck uncontested. In short, there was a complete lack of concentration tonight.
The two worst aspects of the whole thing, because in the end Hab fans can probably accept a loss or two here and there, were the pathetic way they lost the game and the fact they lost Ward in the process. It’s one thing to lose, but to lose when you look like you just aren’t there? And just when Ward was really putting his stamp on things, he barrels into the boards and, I’m guessing, pops that shoulder out but good.
Theo: He doesn’t get a free pass tonight because the guy couldn’t handle the puck to save his life. I know neither goal was his fault – though I question if he challenged enough on the Elias break – but pucks were bouncing off him like he was nothing more than a rubber man. Good thing the Devils have a lousy offence. B+
Bouillon: No surprise that he played a typically good game. He’s never going to get caught out playing poorly because he knows if he does, he’s sitting and it could spell the end of his NHL career. B+
Brisebois: Another solid game, though tonight I would have loved to see a little more of the Breezer that makes things happen. At least his passes hit the mark – he was one of the few. B+
Rivet: An old-time Breezie-esque pass through his own zone right up the middle and a complete blowing of the tire on a one-on-one situation tells me he’s not completely around the corner yet. B-
Markov: Welcome back and kindly take that rust off. There were elements of the good Markov’s game in there, but there were equally as many elements of scary Markov as well. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because it’s his first game in three weeks, but… B-
Quintal: Passing lessons for you! Defensively he was fine, but man alive, if he played like that with the puck every game, we’d be watching Dykhuis and not Quintal right now. C+
Souray: Thankfully, they cannot revoke All-Star nominations, because tonight it would have happened. He was fighting the puck all night: jumping off his stick, seriously flubbing pass after pass, bad decisions on and off the puck. Let’s just put this one in the book and forget about it. C
Langdon: Tonight the Habs needed an injection of spirit and it would have been good had he picked a fight. His play on the fourth line was fine, but I think he’s got to take things in hand, mind the pun, more often during games like this. B-
Perreault: Where do you go from here? I mean, had Juneau been able to play, that means Kilger would have been in the press box. But honestly, who is more deserving? Sometimes I have to wonder. D+
Balej: Kudos to Julien for giving him a period on the second line and equal kudos to Balej for playing a pretty good first game in the NHL. Tough when you have to play against the Devils for that inaugural event, but I felt he acquitted himself well. I was particularly impressed by the fact that he’s got a solid two-way game and was quick to get back. The other thing that impressed me to the point of bringing a smile to my face was the speed factor. Three strides and he was going faster than any Devil on the ice at one point. B-
Sundstrom: He made some wonderfully deft plays in the defensive zone to save potential goals. His offensive game was also pretty good in the limited opportunities his line created. B
Ward: That injury is a complete shame because he was probably the best guy out there for the Habs tonight and has been right up there the last couple of games. It looked like a nasty dislocation to me, and I wonder if we might not see him for a few weeks at least. A-
Kilger: Some shifts were excellent, but most were typical Shrug: weak hits if any, indecisive play, perimeter work. If injuries weren’t taking their toll, I’d predict waiver wire again in the within the next week. As it is, we might have to see him a few more times. C-
Dagenais: Honeymoon over, time to produce over the long haul and that means putting your nose to the grindstone every shift, not just when it suits you. There’s a reason for that demotion and I hope you take it personally and work your patootie off to get back. D+
Zednik: A guy with that much power should not be wussing out on hits. Zed is exactly the type of player that has to make things happen in games like this, but for the most part he was nigh on invisible. C-
Ribeiro: He made some good plays, for sure. Deft deke in the first to get the Habs first shot and a few dandy plays on the PP to create things – including two passes to poor Ryder who was unprepared and whiffled both times. These are the games where, if he’s really going to make it in the NHL, he has to step up. Not bad tonight, but still could be better. B+
Bulis: Didn’t use his best asset all night! Where was that speed? He played a solid two-way game, but when you’re on the first line, things have to happen. B-
Ryder: He may have missed those two opportunities, but he doesn’t let it get to him. He took a Koivu feed in the third and marched in alone to challenge Brodeur. I like the fact he never gives up and I like that you notice him every game. Tonight he did a little less hitting, but he was trying to make things happen. B
Koivu: I haven’t seen him struggle with the puck like he did tonight in years. Popping off his stick, passes that were ill-conceived, poor choices, oy! The gaffe on the blueline was tough and a bad decision, but that’s what happens when you play four forwards. Live by the sword… Now, he still played well defensively, but for the first time in a while, he made almost nothing happen. C+
Julien: (By popular request.) Well, let’s be honest, the team didn’t look like it cared tonight, and that has to reflect at least somewhat on the coach. On the other hand, he’s not the one to sit back and let things happen and his line changes – Balej for Dags, was a good sign. Furthermore, he put Markov with Rivet by the end of the night, hoping to spark the two who did so well last year. Didn’t pull the goalie at the end, but that’s a tough call when your team isn’t really looking like it’ll do better with eve nfour extra guys on the ice.
Let’s hope and pray that Juneau finds his back overnight so we can stick him back on the third line and put Kilger back in the stands. I’d like to see Balej given more time on the second line as well, particularly against the Leafs who are not even half the defensive team that the Devils are. But more than anything, I want to see the Habs come out hungry and looking like they want to win. My goal for this tough stretch was three points against Philly, Jersey and the Buds. We have two…
The Leafs will be a tough game, for sure. They’ve got guys who might be coming off the infirmary list (of course others who might be landing there as well) and they’re in first place for a reason. We’ve got the opportunity to play them without Dive-Roll Tucker, so it might be a cleaner game anyhow. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long night for a lot of the boys tonight, though, as they contemplate the way they played. Hopefully Julien can purge their minds of it and have them rolling when the Centre Of The Universe comes to town.
A Concerned Fan.