Well, let’s be brutally honest about this one: the better team won. The Bruins had better goaltending on this night, they had better containment on the puck and they were infinitely better and making intelligent and crisp plays. The Habs looked nervous at times and played like a team that didn’t belong in the playoffs at other times.
Having said that, they were offered a few opportunities to stay close, but Zednik, in particular, couldn’t bury a puck to save his live. Raycroft certainly turned up big on this night, but the Habs helped him out by hitting him in the crest, missing the net, and just generally failing to make anything of the limited opportunities they created. You know there’s a problem when Zednik gets into the heart of the slot with no one in front of him then passes the puck to an open wing – as he did in the third.
For the Canadiens, this was a game of silly mistakes, poor execution, and most troublesome in some cases, a lack of intensity. That the power play actually looked like it was somewhat dangerous gets buried under the lack of ability on the penalty kill and the complete failure to create any kind of sustained offence whatsoever. If the Habs are to compete they have to attack the Bruins rather than try and skirt around them, avoiding hits. This is the playoffs where sacrificing the body to make a play is expected – and someone should have told Breezer that on the Bruins second goal.
Most importantly, we have to have some discipline next game. That’s critical.
Theo: Outplayed by the rookie at the other end, and by a wide margin. Not only was he beaten by a terrible shot in the first period – the kind that a playoff goalie has to save if he’s to keep his team in the game – but he was also beaten twice at the side of his net, once between the legs and another time by a deft deke. Neither left him looking good and one resulted in a goal while the other was cleared off the line by Begin. If every goalie gets one gimme in the playoffs (and I’m looking for excuses with this statement) this is his, he cannot fail the team anymore if the Habs are to make any noise whatsoever. D+
Bouillon: He had some trouble dealing with the big men as was expected, but in all honesty, he acquitted himself fairly well. At least he never shies away from the physical game, and how come it’s the 5’8 guy that, when he gets hammered into the boards, just gets up and plays while the massive Quintal decides to go for retribution? He had some solid work with the puck and probably made the fewest mistakes of any of our defenders. For those that don’t want to see him in the playoffs I suggest closing your eyes, because as of tonight, he’s the best we have. B+
Brisebois: The second goal is proof positive of why Breezer has to learn to be better with that physical game. Instead of wildly swiping at the puck when he saw the Bruin attacker, he should have pulled it in close, accepted the hit, and then tried to make something happen. Instead, he does that hacking swipe and Nylander scores on a brilliant Gonchar set up. It didn’t end there either as Breezer made some trademark through the zone passes that probably had many a heart skipping a beat. It is absolutely critical that he take a deep breath, gather himself, then get back to the basics. C-
Rivet: A quiet night, and that’s a good thing. He made a few silly mistakes and sometimes lost containment and positioning, but overall he was the consistent Rivet rather than the Traffic Cone 52 of the early part of the season. As a number four or five defender, he did virtually everything we needed from him. B
Markov: He had a really discreet game tonight, though at least he is willing to take a hit to make a play. In fact, while he wasn’t our best defender, he didn’t make any high risk plays that could have cost seriously. I’m disappointed that he didn’t show more of what he can really do, however I think part of that is a function of how the Bruins were playing. B-
Quintal: It has become clear to me that Quintal should not be playing, despite all the experience he has acquired over the years. I see very little difference in the mistakes that Komisarek plays and at least in our young defender’s case, we can say that playing now would be a huge benefit to the future. I mean, it’s not like Q played 22 minutes or something, he was only over 16 minutes – which is right where Komisarek was finishing the year. Right off the top of this game Quintal gave up the puck to Samsonov, and that’s no way to start a game. And while he didn’t play horribly the rest of the night, I’d rather give Komi the experience this year and slowly phase out Quintal. I love his heart, but at this point it’s time to start looking to the future. C
Souray: Quite honestly, he had a terrible game. He made error after error with the puck and made a couple of really poor choices defensively, not the least of which was the cross check to the face of Axelsson to end the game. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen him play so poorly and one can only hope that he pulls up his socks and puts together the game he should play for the next time around. D+
Perreault: He didn’t play much, and I got the impression that a significant chunk of his time came when he was taking faceoffs and couldn’t get off immediately. When you’re a fourth line player, especially on a fourth line with two other players that have some good talent (or in the case of Kovalev, workd-class talent) you absolutely have to make something happen. Perreault might as well have been invisible. D-
Dowd: He takes a minus on the night and yet, of the three on his line, he was by far the most effective and even made a few things happen in the offensive zone – more so that his more offensively talented linemates. Defensively he was good, and tonight offensively he was better. I wish we had more room on a higher line for him. B+
Kovalev: I’m not going to say it was his worst game as a Hab, but that was a complete Ranger performance out there. He threw two really good hits and other than that failed utterly to do anything at all five-on-five. He was okay on the power play, but even then his choices were poor and ill-conceived. The clock is starting to tick on the Kovalev experiment and I wonder if he might get one last gasp at a top-two line before he watches a game from the press box. C-
The trio: Poor overall with the one bright spot in the middle. A fourth line is supposed to bring energy at the least, and in the case of this line, they should be more than capable of bringing offence against the opposition fourth line. Sadly, it was Dowd who brought his game and the other two brought cushy seats for their time on the bench.
Begin: If it isn’t blatantly obvious to every Hab fan watching that his shoulder is really bothering him, then I wonder if perhaps some might need glasses. How many times tonight did we see him curl away from a situation where he would have hammered a player? He was feisty, for sure, he made things happen, absolutely, but that physical aspect was almost invisible from his game. Did he do a good job on Thornton? Sure, but in reality, after the Bruins had gone up by two, Thornton started to get a nice rest. In fact, Sullivan deserves good credit for not having the Thornton line against Begin’s line as much as Julien would have liked. B-
Juneau: For someone with tired legs, he still did an excellent job defensively. The entire line managed precious few shots and were held completely off the score sheet (Knuble’s goal was on the PP with different linemates). I find it amusing that those who say Dagenais has his place on the team despite being a one-dimensional player feel that Juneau doesn’t have a similar spot. At least when Juneau goes on a goal-scoring slump he can still shut down the game’s best. B
Ward: Good hustle tonight and he even made a few things happen offensively. At least he had his physical game in high gear and he punished the Bruins every chance he got. B+
The trio: They did the job they were supposed to do. Yes, Thornton is still hurting, but he has effective linemates and this trio shut them all down. There weren’t even long periods of Bruin control for the most part.
Dagenais: A pretty good game for his first playoff encounter. He threw a couple of hits, made a few nice plays and even got off a couple of nice shots. He was actually a more complete player tonight than he’s been much of the season and it was pleasant to see. I didn’t feel like there was a giant hole on that line. When you compare what he did tonight to what he can potentially bring to the table on his best nights, this was really good. A-
Ribeiro: He had his moments, but I’ve noticed in recent weeks that more and more frustration is creeping into his game, and I think that’s because the opposition is getting used to him and is starting to rub him out more. He never gave up on anything tonight, made some things happen, and was at least competent defensively. For a first playoff test, he gets a passing mark, though he has to really step it up offensively for the rest of the time. B-
Ryder: Another player who was decent, but not good tonight. I didn’t notice the usual edge that he has to his game; he wasn’t hitting like he normally does. Perhaps, of all the players who were first-timers, the pressure got to him more than anyone else. Or perhaps this just wasn’t his game – that’s entirely possible as well. On this night he didn’t get into those great positions to make things happen, and when he had the puck he didn’t make things happen on his own. When he does those things, he’s on his game; tonight he wasn’t. C+
The trio: For a first playoff game, they were okay. Okay, however, doesn’t cut it in the playoffs. They have to seriously step it up and not create only two or three chances a game, but at least one every second shift. I’m not unhappy with their performance tonight in light of the circumstances, however neither am I pleased. They’ve a ways to go before they get close to where they were in the regular season.
Bulis: This was just one of those nights when Bulis barely used that speed at all. I’m not sure I noticed him more than a few times all night, and a couple of those had to have been on the penalty kill. He has the ability to bring more, but I feel that each passing day leaves me more and more convinced that his spot should be taken by Kovalev so we can at least attempt to generate more. C+
Zednik: Our sniper skated into the slot, had a clear shot, then passed the puck. What’s wrong with this picture. On the other hand, he did make things happen, was in the right places to receive passes and had numerous chances to put the biscuit in the basket, however he failed on all to even make Raycroft make a huge save. He’s stepped up his game from the regular season, but he has to bring it up even more. B
Koivu: For someone who played against Thornton quite a lot tonight, he played a pretty good game. Sullivan was very eager to get this match up and Koivu was, on this night, equal to the task despite his smaller stature. Koivu was feisty tonight, made a series of nice plays to Zed, and even created a chance or two for himself to score. It wasn’t his best night, but he was the best Hab out there offensively. Again, though, he has to bring it up even another notch. He was, however, used like the best player and was put out in critical situations. B+
The trio: They were good, not great and I feel Bulis let them down somewhat. The other two were the bulk of the offence for the Habs, so that was great, and at least the didn’t get pinned tonight. However, goals are needed and these three are on the hook.
Julien: I’m not going to say he was out-coached because Sullivan had the last change, however there were a couple of times where he could have pulled Koivu’s line off on a quick change to get out his checking line and didn’t. Now, Koivu did well defensively so it turned out okay, but it’s something to watch. As to the lineup itself, I’m a little worried. In some ways I’d prefer to see Langon over Perreault, the faceoffs be damned, and I’m not convinced he’s doing the right thing with either Kovalev or Komisarek. However, time will tell, and this was only the first game.
PP: No goals but a ton of control and some fantastic chances that were barely missed. I liked what I saw despite not scoring and with that effort, it’s only a matter of time. B-
PK: 2/6 is miserable, though one was clearly a goaltending error. The other, though, was a panic play that failed completely, and it’s something that I think the coaches have desperately tried to get out of the game. D+
Team: Quite simply, they were the second best team out there. The transition game was good, therefore the system was adequate, and while they were better as a team than they were as individuals, there’s still a lot to be done and they could have been much better. B-
That’s it, game one is done, the jitters are gone, the excuses have been used. Time to buckle down and get to work and try and earn a split in Boston. At the very least we have to show up and play a full 60 minutes of hard-nosed hockey, finishing checks and generating offence. Theo has to be on his game and everyone else has to work together – that’s the only way we’ll ever beat this team. As a first game it wasn’t encouraging at all, but then again, it’s only the first game and these can be long series.
On to game two, let’s pray for better.