We may be down, but we’re definitely not out. From where we’re standing right now, we’re looking at a fairly big hole, but two games does not make a series, and with that this game is one that we must win. The boys came to play in Game Two, playing their butts off in the latter half of the game and giving it their all, but they lost and that can’t be changed. Tonight, another solid performance needs to be delivered in front of the home crowd, and while there out there skating and hustling, we the fans need to be all over giving our team the support they need, because this is our game to win.
The attitudes of the players indicate that not much has changed between now and early last week, seemingly meaning that the guys are looking at this as a whole new series. After dropping both games in that hell-hole known as Boston, the Bruins come to our rink, and I hope they are afraid.
The fans will be into the game, the players will be roaring, and the magic will be there. At last, we have playoff hockey back in Montreal. Unfortunately, we are currently on the wrong side of the series score, but that can change through many things.
First off, how will Alex Kovalev perform? He seemed dominant at times last night and, although he picked up only his fourth point as a Hab, his assist was timely and important.
Unfortunately, he did not have the oppurtunity we hoped for in overtime to bury the game, as the extra frame was notably shorter than we hoped, but you have to figure that the man will use the last game as a serious confidence builder.
It is important for Coach Claude to leave the team’s top line, consisting of Kovalev, Saku Koivu, and Richard Zednik, together in order for them to rekindle the offence that they can all create. Behind them, if Mike Ribeiro and Mike Ryder continue to work hard and Pierre Dagenais buries whatever comes his way, than the top six should be working well.
Tonight will be a make-it-or-break-it kind of night for Zednik. Fans and media alike are expecting a huge game, not just huge shifts spread evenly apart throughout the game. Here is a player capable of mass Bruin destruction, yet he has not yet reached the score sheet. We all know he is a streaky player, so let’s hope that a new streak kicks off tonight in front of the fans that love him.
Behind Zednik on the right side of the depth chart is Jason Ward. Ward, along with Steve Begin and Jim Dowd, was working and banging all night on Friday in an effort to earn the win for his team. There’s no doubt that the those three skaters will be yet again wearing their hearts on their sleeves, Begin, especially.
Number 22 on the Habs side showed why he is our favourite shi — err, crap disturber on Friday when smoked a stalled Michael Nylander in what was an enormous hit. More of the same is needed tonight. As well, if Dagenais starts to slide at any point, or the coach feels some energy needs to be inserted up front, don’t be surprised to see Begin take a few shifts beside Ribeiro.
Perhaps one of the keys to tonight’s game is Jan Bulis. The speedy winger, who now finds himself as an important piece of the third trio, failed to capitalize on two glorious chances. As good as Andrew Raycroft was in Game Two, Bulis made him look much better than he actually was. His speed and strength can cause havoc for the Bruins big defence, but he needs to capitalize on those oppurtunities of his in order to not let the team down. A missed chance here and there is no problem, but when it’s every third shift…
Obviously, the powerplay will be a huge factor tonight. Sheldon Souray is playing better as the series grows on, and his big shot and presence on the blueline will be key. It’s my own personal opinion that one of Koivu or Andrei Markov should be playing the left point, but if the Coach feels Kovalev is his best fit, so be it.
One scenario would have Souray and Markov man the points, while Koivu would handle behind the net, and Kovalev and Zednik would man the halfboards. Perhaps the inclusion of a fellow countryman in Markov could help generate something with Kovalev. As well, if played on the boards, particularily the left side, Kovalev’s strong, right-handed shot becomes much more dangerous.
By throwing this line out, you have the nice option of going with a very nice second unit that includes Ribeiro and Ryder, and of course the option to double shift one of Souray or Koivu on the backend.
Speaking of the backend, we’ll yet again be looking for a big game from Jose Theodore. He played well last game, but his gaffe in overtime was costly and heartbreaking. It is a shot that he needed to save, but regardless, he’s a great goaltender and those calling for Mathieu Garon are silly. Garon is a great goalie, and may some day soon become an incredible netminder, but it’s all the way for Jose right now.
We’ll live or die as a team, and it will be our best players leading the way — at least we hope.