Thank heavens for the Rangers.
There’s nothing like playing against the team with more internal and external troubles than your own. The Rangers were booed continually, their coach jeered, and their players showed a lack of passion even Canadiens fans rarely see. The Habs, while not at their most brilliant tonight, were nevertheless a significantly better hockey team.
Particularly pleasing was the contribution given by Quintal in both ends of the ice. He had quite possibly his best game this year and one of the best in his career. This kind of contribution when you’re to leading defenders are out of the lineup must be very gratifying for the coach. Equally impressive were the contributions from the top two centres who earned five points between them.
Theo: This is exactly the kind of game we need delete from our number one goaltender. Particularly in the second he saved our bacon when he stopped 16 out of the 17 shots fired on him. Most pleasing, at least for me, was the fact that his rebound control was infinitely better than it had been recently. Naturally, he made the critical saves when they were most needed. A-
Bouillon: The feisty little fellow played another really strong game. He was very effective against the ranger forwards in his own zone and used his stick and body position to neutralize opponent attacks. Of course, he also moved very well with the puck and his distribution was equal to the task. B+
Brisebois: He didn’t have the best game but neither was a horrible. At times he struggled down low, and occasionally made a bonehead pass, however he was never burned for a poor play. Against a team like Ottawa however, he has to minimize his scramble and stick to the simple play. B-
The pair: The two played well together, however I think it was Bouillon who was the leader out there. No longer can Cube be considered merely a replacement part as his game continues to show improvement and maturity. B
Quintal: Easily his best game in a very long time. He was stellar defensively and even made a few fairly decent offensive plays as well. His work two men down was unparalleled and the fact that the coach kept him out there on consecutive shifts would indicate he felt the same. It is, of course, fortuitous that the Rangers did not attack him with speed. A
Dykhuis: While he started the game with a couple of tough plays, his game improved continually and by the end he did not look out of place. Tonight should give solid evidence that keeping him in the organization is a smart thing. B
The pair: A much better game tonight between the two. Communication was much improved and each seems nowhere the other was going to be far more often. In order for this club to survive the next couple of games this trend must continue. B
Komisarek: His confidence took a hit in Saturday’s game and it showed tonight as he struggled once again. He’s fighting the puck, running around, and seems uncertain of where to go on the ice. After to strong games last week, his play has taken a turn for the worse. Tomorrow against Ottawa will be a big test. D+
Rivet: You’d almost think he was a natural on the left side. His play has been very strong and despite his partner struggling he’s been showing some fine hockey. No longer do we see the scrambling in his own zone, now we see in assertive defenseman who understand where to go and what to do. B+
The pair: Hopefully Komisarek can find himself soon. Tonight he did not get play much, and therefore marking the two is silly. N/A
Langdon: I think it’s a shame he didn’t get to play more. Tonight would’ve been a perfect opportunity to give him more ice time. N.A
Begin: While placing Juneau on the third line leaves are coach with more options, I believe Begin has legitimately earned a spot there. Tonight while playing just shy of 12 minutes, he was once again a whirlwind on the ice. His high intensity play caused turnovers and gave the Canadiens a couple of strong chances. B+
Ward: After the injury to Bulis, he was given time on Koivu’s line. While he certainly not a stunning offensive player, he acquitted himself fairly well. His goal was the result of excellent positioning and a direct reward to following instruction and going to the net. B
The line: With all the injuries that occurred this line did not play together very much. Ostensibly, they should be a very strong fourth line and give plenty of energy to the hockey club. When they barely get a chance to play together this obviously doesn’t happen. N/A
Sundstrom: The coaching staff has obviously noticed what we have, and has told him to start finishing his checks. More than once I saw him stick a hip out and actually bop someone. Added to his fine defensive play and solid offensive instincts, it makes him a more complete player. B
Dackell: I wonder how many others noticed the strong work he did on the boards in the Ranger zone on a continual basis. To call him a soft player, in my opinion, is just plain incorrect. He may not go for the hit, however he works the boards and is a strong grinder. B
Juneau: Oh how the legs fail him. I can only imagine how many more opportunities would be created if he was able to take that extra stride or make that extra move. That his defensive game is still exquisite is not in question. It is, however, a shame that he refuses to penetrate deeply into offensive territory for fear of being caught. C+
The line: On the one hand I love to see Begin centreing this line, however when you leave Juneau he wore at least assured of strong defensive responsibility. The drawback, of course, is that the offensive game suffers. Tonight, this line didn’t create anything. B-
Dagenais: While he didn’t score tonight and while he was not as good as he has been the last two games, I still feel he was better than he’d been before he was benched. He never hesitated to muck it out on the boards, and importantly did not stand still in the slot. In fact, he showed us a new aspect to his game when he *shock* made a brilliant pass to Ribeiro in the slot. B-
Ryder: This kid still continues to amaze me. When it seems his linemates just aren’t up to the task, he takes it upon himself to create something. One time in particular that I remember, he had no one to pass to while he had the puck in his own zone and he literally bulled his way to the Ranger zone to make something happen. B
Ribeiro: Another two points for the kid including a goal. There can be absolutely no questioning his contribution, however against a team like the Rangers, I hate to see him disappear. It did not happen often, but there a few shifts on this night where he was invisible. Still, overall a good game. B
The line: This line wasn’t quite as effective tonight as it has been, though they still managed some strong play. I found at times, each to be somewhat individualistic, however against a team like the Rangers occasionally this can be understood. It’s not a good habit to get into, however they mixed their play up well. B-
Bulis: I hope the injury is not major, however I’m very worried since it was his knee. Anytime a player goes down clutching their knee like that, I get the willies. His game to that point had been solid if not spectacular highlighted by his own entry and nice pass to Koivu. N/A
Zednik: Another inconsistent game tonight. One shift he was bulling his way through the opposition, the next he was avoiding all contact. He did go to the net well and was almost rewarded on a couple of occasions, however he’s still not doing it with enough consistency. At least his work in the corners seems to have improved. B-
Koivu: I’m not sure if it was his fine play with a lack of any quality opposition that was the main reason for his great game, however I’m sure not going to complain. The fact of the matter is that he did play well and it’s key for the opposition to realize that if they leave him room and time he’s going to make you pay. B+
The line: Impossible to give this line a mark tonight, at least in so far as working with Bulis goes. Koivu and his cohorts were, however, fairly dangerous on many occasions. They also didn’t get burned defensively. While this may not have been their best game, particularly with Zednik still struggling, the plethora of points they picked up will certainly help confidence. B
Julien: Well he didnt have to coach much tonight. Then again, he didn’t really have to work to hard at winning his game. The opposition probably barely broke a sweat.
I did notice one thing on the penalty kill that we have to be aware: we’re giving up the blueline much to easily. Routinely tonight, the two defenders backed in and allow the Rangers to gain his zone, and that allowed them to set up and create pressure. Of course, down two men this isn’t applicable, however when you’re only down one man you unique to create as much obstruction on the line as possible.
A quick turnaround to Montréal and the Habs get to play the Senators; a team that barely loses. From a slow start, the Sens have picked up their game and are now arguably the best team in hockey. For the Canadiens to win this game, we need to play extremely strong defensively, have patience and play the counterattack game, and limit unforced errors. It’ll be a struggle, but win this team plays will he can compete.
A Concerned Fan