Despite a great start to the game, the Habs fell into bad habits and complacency against a team they probably thought wouldn’t offer much resistance. When Dags, Ward, and Begin started the game with a bang, or more literally a BANG BANG BANG, it looked like the Habs were ready for anything. However after that they fell apart, barely able to complete a pass for the rest of the first.
Rather unfortunate to have Kovalev go down with an injury, though Julien indicated that it was only a mild separation and he would only be day-to-day. Dowd, on the other hand, had himself a sweet debut, scoring and being extremely useful in many situations. Suddenly Gainey’s indication that a right handed centre could be useful was borne out completely as Dowd won numerous faceoffs on the right hand side of the rink that were vital.
Theo: I’m concerned these last two or three games with his rebound control. He’s not tossing them into corners or smothering them anymore, instead putting them into the slot for his defenders to struggle with. At least, on this night, he didn’t let in any dog’s, though I always hate seeing any goalie getting beaten through the wickets – that’s where the stick should be. B+
Bouillon: Thankfully he somewhat recovered from the last game where he was out to lunch. He was effective on and off the puck tonight, though he did take that atrocious slashing penalty in the third. While he was a -2 in the game, the first was completely not his fault, but the second had him missing his assignment. One of his only errors, but a costly one. C+
Brisebois: On the first goal, he was whipped one-on-one behind the net. Fortunately Bouillon was there to help him, but if he’d won that battle, the puck would have gone up the other boards instead of heading up to Perreault (who eventually miss-handled it). Other than that he was steady, but not sparkling. B-
Quintal: Much better game as he wasn’t beaten horribly by speed anywhere and maintained strong position virtually all night. He came out a plus in the game, and it was well deserved. B+
Komisarek: Not much to say, as he didn’t play much – and this despite playing against a team where his mistakes probably would have cost less. I begin to wonder if he shouldn’t be put back in Hamilton at this rate. N/A
Rivet: He was one of the guys on during the four-on-four where a everyone seemed to take a nap. Other than that, he played a strong game, and I felt won a good number of one-on-one battles. B
Markov: The replay was somewhat inconclusive, but judging from Koivu’s reaction, I’d say that the hit on Markov which had him on the ice for a while was, in fact, an illegal flying elbow; at least that’s what it looked like. Brilliant game, and not only is he continuing his improvement on the defensive side of the puck where he’s not only regained his abilities from last year, but I believe has surpassed them in a couple of ways (through experience, no doubt), but he’s also added in that offensive element that’s sweet to see. I hate to sound like Don Cherry, but kids out there, look at the Dags goal and see what Markov did: he didn’t wind up and blast it, he put an accurate wrister in there on the net. And his second assist on the Zedder goal? Sweet. A
Pairings: Not worth doing again because we’re playing with five rotating defenders for most of the game.
Langdon: He scored!!!!!! Okay, it was just him losing his balance and flying into the net himself, but you take ‘em where you can get ‘em. Good hustle nonetheless. B
Dowd: Hard not to be impressed with that first game. He plays quite like Begin in that he’s a feisty guy who hits consistently and dogs well on defence. He’s also great on the PK, which we sorely needed – and what a way to score your first goal in a Hab uniform. A-
Dackell: Put down to the fourth line, and I’m not surprised with the efforts he’s given in the last two games. Tonight he seemed to be playing much more like he should, and the short handed goal was all second effort by him at the point – well, and a sweet move at the end to make the pass. B-
Ward: Good game tonight. He was finishing his checks, and was playing a defensively responsible game. He also managed a few good offensive chances, though again showed that his finish isn’t quite NHL-quality. B
Dagenais: He started on the third line? While I hate to see anyone go down injured, it might have been a blessing in disguise after this coaching blunder. At least he was put back on the second line for the rest of the game where he showed some spunk (driven by anger and fear, no doubt). Good goal, solid positioning, don’t use him on the defensive line again. B-
Begin: 3rd line centre, which is nice to see, though that line was changed about two dozen times all night so there was no continuity in the play on the ice. Having to get used to new linemates from one game to the next is one thing, but from one shift to the next is quite something else. Still, he was banging and played a solid defensive 16 minutes. B
Perreault: From the second line to the first, and if anyone is going to be the worse for wear when things are all over the place, it’s Perreault. He looked lost on Ribs’ line, then back on Sax’s line it looked like it took him quite a few shifts to get back to his game. By the mid-third he seemed to be playing a little better again. C+
Ryder: He was finishing his checks and making things happen, as usual, but he did it at a slightly lower key tonight. I’m not going to say I was disappointed, but neither was I super impressed. As a rookie, he’s allowed to fall into this trap once or twice, but I fully expect him to come out flying tomorrow night. B-
Ribeiro: Steady game, and while he didn’t get a point, he was mostly on the ball. That one play on the four-on-four where he was out of the zone and everyone was behind him looked rather sad, but on the whole, I thought he was a solid performer. I was pleased to see the game sheets afterwards and notice that his average shift time was WELL below the minute mark – where it’s been hovering for a while. B
Zednik: Great positioning and first-time shot on that goal, but here was another night where he was quiet for much of the time. In fact, his lethargy in the last couple of games has taken him off the first powerplay unit, which is sad to see. Then again, for whatever reason, the unit that was producing so much has been separated into two shifts of about a minute each. B-
Kovalev: He’s incredibly slick with the puck, has a patient air about him that’s of superstar quality in traffic, and yet he’s still got a lot of Ranger in him. I know his style of play is less aggressive, but I’m not sure he broke much of a sweat in his period of play – the lazy Rag tendencies coming through. Hopefully he’ll learn quickly that the Habs aren’t a Country Club. N/A
Koivu: Tough start to the game for he and Ribs on the powerplays as they both couldn’t pass the puck to save lives, however Sax recovered and got stronger as the game went on. He showed real leadership qualities defending Markov when he positively hammered his mark. Still, there was just not enough razzle dazzle from him to make me feel completely comfortable. I sense a little fatigue, and the compressed Montreal sked is probably taking a toll. The end of the season has a lighter sked, and I look to see El Capitain in much better form then. B
Julien: Dags on the third line? He did a good job rallying the troops after that dismal first period, though somehow they fell apart again in the third. I’m concerned as well with his usage of Komi at this point.
PP: I think everyone can be happy with a 33% rating. After the first there was good puck movement and good control…and as a result, goals. B+
PK: Dowd sure makes a difference. He’s high intensity, which is what you need on the PK. Then again, the rest of the team was also much higher in intensity as well. The only goal scored against was a 3v5 situation. B+
Team: Two period of this game showed a team that didn’t deserve to make the playoffs. The second was solid, and against a weak team, enough to get them to the brink of the win. The team just doesn’t seem sharp the last couple, and with two more still left on this road run, it’s probably a justifiable concern. C+
I’m guessing Kovalev will probably just head back to Montreal tomorrow and see if he can’t be back and ready once the team meets Florida on the 11th. I suppose there’s a minor possibility he’ll be ready for the final game on the road trip, but I’m not holding my breath.
On to the Kings who have beaten Montreal’s record for most injury games lost in one season – and beaten it handily. And if Andy Murray doesn’t get coach of the year, there’s something very, very wrong with the voters. This is going to be one tough game as these kids don’t quit – ever. We’re going to have to play infinitely better if we don’t want to leave LA after having been shelled.
A Concerned Fan