When all else fails, you’d think it would make sense to try out what was bound to work. At long last, Alex Kovalev will find himself on the first line, and let’s hope he’ll be staying there for a good period of time.
Kovalev has seen the ice from many different lines since he arrived, but it appears that the Coach will scrap the third-line experiment and send the forward back to a spot where he can truly contribute to the offence.
While he joined the rest of his teammates by not producing much of anything in Game 1, the team’s prized acquisition was giving and receiving plenty of hits. His one goal since arriving leaves plenty to be desired, but he’s been through as many playoff battles as anyone on the roster, and along with countryman Sergei Samsonov, you can call him the most talented player in the series.
The task will be to put that task to work. How will the Bruins react to the Habs throwing together a line with the potential to be this powerful? On the other hand, these three have played together before — albeit for very short stints where not much was at stake. There is still reason to believe that this is a line that can outduel the 700 pound line the Bruins will throw together.
On the other hand, throwing Kovalev onto the top line all but scraps the idea of three offensive lines — or does it? The proposed third trio of Bulis, Dowd, and Ward is an intriguing one; a line that can work either side of the redline. All three players live by the word hustle, and Dowd has enough of an offensive game to offset the playmaking shortcomings of Bulis and Ward. Both wingers will be working their red,white, and blue hearts off, and if the bounces start flying their respective ways, we may be looking at a very nice third unit.
The second line looks to remain untouched, and for good reason. All three players, Dagenais especially, had their moments in game one, and after garnering a match under their belts, the threesome should be a little bit more comfortable. Bruins’ netminder Andrew Raycroft has already stated he’s quite worried about Ryder and Ribeiro, and he should be. If the Bruins feel that the Koivu line will be the most dangerous, and chances are it will be, our so-called “kid line” could very well make them pay.
On the fourth line, expect to see Steve Begin leading the way again. He took a poor penalty on Wednesday, possibly a sign of inexperience, but he’ll continue to kill the penalties and, at the very least, stir some crap around the opposition. It will be another hard-working affair for him, and he should thrive on it. His hatred for the Bruins is clear, and it seems he has a knack for coming up with timely goals. On his wings, expect to find veter an Joe Juneau and tough-guy Darren Langdon.
Langdon is more than just a goon, though. While he adds security and delivers a no-nonsense message to the opposition, he can still play the game, too. While it’s likely he won’t see a whole lot of ice, a few hits could help sway things our way when times are tough. On the downside, there is always a chance that his reputation could lead to the zebras calling penalties when they may not be entirely deserved.
On the blueline, things should remain the same. Stephane Quintal, who’s playoff experience is something Claude Julien obviously values, could perhaps be replaced by a younger, more talented Mike Komisarek, but that will not happen.
Sheldon Souray will look to rebound after a poor game earlier in the week, and I would be very surprised if he wasn’t roaring and ready to go tonight. He is a huge part of the team and will no doubt return to the days of when he was playing like one.
Andrei Markov made a few solid plays in Wednesday’s affair, and while he is no Sergei Gonchar, if he could take a few leads from his countryman wearing the Pooh-Bear, we’d be set.
It’s understood that Niklas Sundstrom is still not entirely healthy, but he should be ready to go, if the coach requires his services, when the series returns to Montreal.
Richard Zednik – Saku Koivu – Alex Kovalev
Pierre Dagenais – Mike Ribeiro – Mike Ryder
Jan Bulis – Jimmy Dowd – Jason Ward
Darren Langdon – Steve Begin – Joe Juneau
Sheldon Souray – Stephane Quintal
Andrei Markov – Craig Rivet
Francis Bouillon – Patrice Brisebois
Jose Theodore – Mathieu Garon
Let’s show ’em a game. Go Habs.