Well, did that effort reek or what. I guess that three day layoff was just a little too much for the boys as they seemed much to used to relaxing out there against the Sabres. It’s a complete shame because that last few moments when we dominated was almost enough to net us a tie; imagine what could have been had we given full effort? On this night there were too many loosy-goosy plays and a complete lack of sharpness in their game which is something we haven’t seen in a while.
There were some positive points to take though, including the performances of Ryder and Komisarek. Ryder in particular was stellar and one begins to wonder if it’s only a matter of time before he takes over the team scoring lead. Komisarek, while still somewhat mistake prone, showed some serious confidence both on and off the puck on this night, just a couple more glimpses of what the future will hold.
And did anyone else out there get the distinct impression that the ice was crap? I mean, were they playing with a mini basketball at times? Guys seemed to have trouble with simply skating and Koivu fell on his posterior three times doing routine turns – something that rarely happens.
Garon: No over-sliding on this night – and that’s the indication that he’s on his game. He was also seeing the puck a little better than his last effort, instead of dropping to his knees and remaining completely still in hopes that he’d soon see it. His positioning was very good and he made the saves to keep us in the game. Shame he didn’t have much support. A-
Bouillon: He failed to maintain his man on the second
Souray: Shoulder injury? When he bent over like that it reminded me vaguely of how I felt when I separated my shoulder. Hopefully it’s minor – and it would seem it could very well be since he came back and played a shift later on. Perhaps missing the rest of the game was precautionary. B
Quintal: Again, beaten with speed a few times, and I don’t care how long his break was, I still prefer to see Komisarek out there. Yes, his positioning was good, yes he even added in with some offensive plays, but no, he’s not in need of the development like Komi. B-
Rivet: Talk about taking a hit for the team; he goes -2 on the night despite playing an extremely solid game. On the first goal he was hung out to dry by Komi’s chasing-the-hit play which threw him out of position. Then on the second goal he was stung because his partner of the time couldn’t handle his man. Shame in the stats department because other than that, Rivet was excellent. A-
Komisarek: Tried to do the Scott Stevens thing and chase the big hit, but not only did he miss-time it and miss the hit, but his partner had no clue what he was doing and therefore could not cover in time. On the other hand, the confidence he’s showing with the puck is incredible. No more do we see the panicking defender who either hangs on and loses it or ices it, now we see a guy who’s able to make a deft move or two to get out of trouble and then do something useful with the puck. I loved what I saw much of the night and was surprised he wasn’t used more. B+
Markov: Yeoman’s service on this night with almost half the game on the ice and the best part was that he was good. He was strong defensively and was pinching and creating well offensively. A-
Langdon: I do believe after his brush-up with Peters in the first that, on their way back down the other end of the ice, he tapped the Buffalo player on the buttock with his stick as a gesture of respect.
Dagenais: After managing to do virtually nothing for two periods, Julien finally gave up and benched the guy for much of the third. I’ve noticed something about his hits: he likes to brake, turn and then hit with his behind rather gently. Our big friendly giant. F
Ward: He did a fine job defensively, and I’m actually starting to see some improvement in his skating. There was a play along the boards tonight where, at any other point in the year he would have been on his tooshie, but tonight he maintained balance. B-
Sundstrom: Fairly typical game, and even a little more physical than usual at times. Unfortunately, whatever offensive talent he’s offered at points earlier this year seem to have completely fizzled into nothingness. C
Dowd: He made a couple of defensive plays tonight that, while not looking spectacular, were potential game-savers as he came back and deftly took pucks away or defensively angled his man out. He’s a very subtle defender, but he’s so effective. It’s also great that you can stick him out there with offensive players and he’s not lost at all. B+
Kovalev: I was expecting more tonight, but I guess he caught the lethargy virus that was going around. After his improvements over the last couple where he’s been moving and working far more, tonight he went back to the Country Club style of play that the Rangers love. Doesn’t work with this team. C
Bulis: Hard skating and hard working got him promoted to the second line with Ribs and Ryder and I thought he did fairly well there, using his speed to create and winning pucks to give to Ribs for eventual feeding to Ryder. B+
Ribeiro: Much better effort after his last few games. He was making things happen and wasn’t shying away from plays. It wasn’t his best game by any stretch, but at least he was involved – and as a bonus made it to the scoresheet. B
Ryder: Far and away the best Hab tonight, he almost single-handedly tied, and potentially even won the game for the Habs. His work in the offensive zone is stellar, and it’s always going to be difficult to defend. In fact, the reason he’s going to be a continued success in this league is because he knows how to get into position and to take odd shots that have goalies totally dumbfounded. When he starts receiving all those passes he misses and gets shots away, he’s doing to be a 40-goal man. A
Perreault: When Julien couldn’t stand it any longer, Perreault went back to the first line to see if there was any chemistry left. Didn’t really look like it, though there was one occasion where he had a nice shot from a Koivu feed. He started the game well, with a nice hit, and was slightly better than average to finish it, but there were long stretches in the middle where he was invisible. C
Zednik: Another inconsistent night for Zed. For the most part his rushes were contained to the outside, and when he did penetrate, he very rarely made anything of it. He had two chances two-on-one and both times he shot when he should have passed – which on the one hand is the sign of a guy with confidence, but on the other hand means he’s not playing as a team guy. C+
Koivu: Sharpen yer skates! I haven’t seen anyone fall that much since….well, since Ward last game, but you get the idea. Still, he was good and had the best chances of anyone not named Ryder. While it wasn’t his best game, at least he had some things going for him. B+
Julien: There’s a time to juggle, then there’s too much juggling which leaves players with no idea how to play with their linemates. We might have taken that extra step on this night. I’m also a little disappointed with Komi’s ice time and with Dags’ presence.
PP: Oh-fer and not a lot in the way of control either. DIdn’t seem to me like anyone was working hard enough to merit a spot on the PP – save Ryder, of course.
PK: On the other hand, everyone out there for the PK was stellar. There was great movement, lots of puck pressure, and rarely did Buffalo gain the zone for any amount of time.
Team: One of those nights when they played better as a team than as players but were not rewarded. The system was fine for the most part – there were only a couple of scrambly times. It was just a lack of effort in the offensive zone that cost. B
The good news is that they don’t lose any position overall and they still only need one point to clinch. The bad news is that it was a disquieting game to watch after all those great performances. Let’s hope it was nothing more than an aberration and they turn it around quickly.
Tomorrow right back at it against the Sens, and we’ll have to be a whole lot better. Shots, shots, shots are critical against goaltending that’s really having it’s struggles, and aside from that a strong adherence to the system to shut down the high-powered Ottawa offence will be essential. Theo’s back in the net, let’s hope the team gives him more support than they gave Garon.