Fresh off of a comforting 5-1 slashing of the Bruins on Thursday, the Habs look to even up what has been a truly thrilling series tonight. As fans, we have every reason to believe that this is a winnable game. Saku Koivu is among the NHL scoring leaders, Alex Kovalev has been brilliant, Jose Theodore shone, and Richard Zednik finally broke out. The Bruins would love nothing more than to send us packing at home, but as far as most of us are concerned, it isn’t even an option.
It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves trailing a series in which we have controlled the play on the ice, but that’s life and there is enough talent, character, and desire on our behalf to put that behind us and win this hockey game. Unfortunately, there is a possibility that two very important players may find themselves on the outs tonight.
Steve Begin and Jason Ward, both of whom have been dealing with pain delivered by a pair of Dan McGillis “hits”, currently have injury tags attached to them. In Begin’s case, there’s no questioning he’d love to play — and he will yet again take part in the typical game day routine and the team’s pregame warm-up, but it will be up to the men in suits to decide if he dresses.
Fast forward to Jason Ward, now, and you’ll learn that he won’t be in the lineup tonight, or so they say. He’s listed as doubtful, very doubtful, and is suffering from a neck injury. Ward has been excellent in the series, picking up a couple of points and effectively using his size and grit both in five-on-five situations and during the penalty kill. He will be missed.
However, scroll through the Habs lineup and you’ll find plenty of guys willing to play their guts out tonight, and a handful of others who’s penalty killing capabilites are more than satisfactory.
With Ward on the sidelines, it’s likely that the only roster move would see Begin join the third line. The fiery forward could join Jan Bulis and Jim Dowd on the third trio and suit up in Ward’s right wing spot. And, while that would be slightly out of position for the #22, I’m sure he could make it work.
Whie he dressed on the fourth line previously, Yanic Perreault could find himself on the second unit tonight beside Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder. Perreault didn’t have a particularily good game, but he scored a beautiful and timely goal and could always slide in and take a faceoff here and there.
Of course, Pierre Dagenais has played some good hockey for a guy that many of us love to rag on, and you’d have a hard time saying he’s looked out of place. On the other hand, Perreault certainly is capable of flying at home in front of a Cup-Crazy crowd, and it would appear that he strikes a bit more fear into the hearts of the Bruins than young #26.
Mike Komisarek is a guy that a lot of people had questions about, and these were not necessarily positive questions being asked. However, it appears he’s all but quieted any doubters with his strong play in the victory, in what was his first ever playoff game. Komisarek sent a pair of Bruins soaring like eagles with thundering checks, and aside from a slip-up on Glen Murray’s goal, looks very effective.
Komisarek is a guy who must seem like a very big wild card. As long as the confidence is there, he can make a very big difference from here on in. He is big, he is smart, and he is learning. If he keeps up the NHL pace, a few of those remarks about us being smaller and less physical could be erased. All in all, kudos to the young blueliner for a strong first effort, and let’s hope he can build on that solid game tonight.
In nets, Jose Theodore was much bigger than his 5’11 frame. He came to play, he was focused, and he was intense. And, of course, all of this happened in the oppositions very own barn. The “Théo” chants should be in full force tonight at the Bell Centre, and for all the right reasons.
But playing in front of Theodore, the rest defence has done their job, too. Andrei Markov has played one helluva series, and Patrice Brisebois has been solid, which has been extremely important with Sheldon Souray not quite playing up to par.
However, take a step down from the bigger names and you’ll find Francis Bouillon and Craig Rivet. Bouillon’s heart is so big that his wee body can’t handle it, and that has forced him to wear it full out on his sleeve. This guy bleeds Habs, and winning the series would surely make things all the more sweeter for these unsung heros.
In Rivet’s case, he seems to have discovered an offensive side, too. The sturdy, oft-underrated, and constantly critized blueliner has put up three points for us, has put his body on the line, and come to the defence of his teammates in a smart, controlled manner. He’s always been a vocal guy that people have associated with the phrase, “If you talk the talk, you walk the walk”, and at finally, he’s seems to be walking that walk.
And at last, what can be said about Captain Koivu and the rest of the top line. The threesome has been so good that they deserve a nickname, so put your thinking caps on. Koivu is in a tie for second in the league when it comes to points after a three point effort in Boston, and that look on his face after banging home the fourth goal pretty much said it all — he’s a winner. He has shown us time and time again that he will be there for the team, and his reported chat with Kovalev after the Game Four gaffe shows that he’s what you want in a captain.
Winger Richard Zednik finally got the break he needed, and his Zednifying goal on Andrew Raycroft will hopefully crack open the door a bit more. His celebration was a classic, as he raised his arms and yelled at the roof. For Michael Ryder‘s sake, I hope the hard-working rookie finally is rewarded. Nothing would be a better fit #73 than a huge goal tonight in front of the home crowd. They say Raycroft is not easily rattled, but neither is Ryder. He will work his way through this.