This is one of those nights where you watch the game and you just don’t know what to think at the end. We were up, were the better of the two teams, then we sunk into oblivion for the third. Goals late in periods will kill you, and the one by Alfredsson stuck a dagger into the heart of the Habs. So on the one hand, fans might be excited thinking that we’ve got a team that could really go somewhere this year. They’d be right. On the other hand, we have a team that looked abominidable and really struggled at times. That’s correct as well.
At least one very positive seems to be cementing itself: the duo of Koivu and Kovalev is fast gelling into a scary tandem. They dominated the game completely at times, and Julien is completely correct when he says that our first line is one of the best in hockey. If you feel the need to question that, look across the boards at the Sens first line with Spezza and Heatley who were virtually invisible all night. Fortunate for the Sens they can send wave after wave at you.
Theodore: Dearie me, The-open-door struggled at times tonight. He wasn’t bad, by any stretch, but nor was he stellar like he was last season. This is a very ordinary goaltender at this point. He blew the first goal completely, and the next one was arguable as well. Those are the saves that kept us alive last season. Fortunately, he has a better team in front of him – up to them to wake up and support him when he has off nights. C+
Streit: Solid if not spectacular night. As he gets more comfortable I see him taking more chances passing the puck. He absolutely belongs and it was the right choice to put him in the lineup rather than the slower footed Komisarek. B
Rivet: Far more combative in front of his own net, which was nice to see. I think he got the message after the final goal against from last game was attributable to him. Again, nothing fancy, chip the puck out when in doubt and don’t take chances. B
Bouillon: Up and down night. While he played extremely well, particularly on one-on-ones, most of the night, he also made some really bad passes, uncharacteristic, that caused me a lot of angst. Yes, angst. B+
Dandenault: Showing his speed more as well, and making things happen with a very quick transition game. He reads this aspect of the game extremely well. Still having some problems down low here and there, but I see some improvements in terms of stick work. B
Souray: Too many times he throws himself out of position to bash someone into the boards where all he needs to do is play his man properly to erase attacks. Having said that, his defensive game is improving as he’s adapting to the rules. I would have expected him to struggle against a very fast Sens team, but he didn’t. B
Markov: When he was out there defensively on the five-on-three, he made two goal-saving plays. At the moment, I think his save percentage is better than Theo’s, he playing so well back there. Again, he does all the little things so well: poke checks, one-on-one plays… Now his offensive game is starting to pick up as well. Oh, and he draws penalties in the most cunning fashion. A-
Ivanans: Well, we finally got to see our first tilt of the season, and what a waste of time it was. Not to say that he didn’t acquit himself well, however it was a three punch fight, two for his dancing partner Chara. A four punch fight if you consider the one that Chara took as the refs were separating the two pugilists. Ivanans is a strong boy, pulled Chara off his feet. N/A
Plekanec: In the limited time he gets he’s making as much as possible happen. I’m extremely impressed with his work habits – he was one of the few who ‘brought it’ in the third. His saucer pass to Begin was gorgeous as well. B+
Begin: Except for that one play where he failed to clear the puck on the penalty kill late in the game, he was almost flawless. He dished out numerous hits, made plays at both ends of the rink, and contributed on the scoreboard again. What more can one ask? A
Sundstrom: His usual calm, cool, and collected self. With each passing game I’m more and more pleased he’s here. Surrounding him with higher quality players allows him to play his game and not worry about doing more than he can. That makes him a better player. B+
Bulis: He used his speed tonight and created a few chances. And, as usual, his two-way game was very solid. B
Bonk: Finally played a better game – but you’d hope as much playing for his old team. He concentrated on the defensive side of the game and he did a very good job. He uses his body well on the boards, positioning himself in such a fashion so as to get between the puck and his opponent and then using his strength to win. B
Ryder: Horrible game. There was a distinct lack of effort except on a few shifts and he was terrible defensively. It seems like most of the lessons he learnt last season have deserted him. Yes, he’s scored three already this year, but he’s reminding me of Dagena….. okay, let’s not go that far, he’s still way better. C-
Higgins: A solid if not splashy game. One play in the first period should tell you what kind of player this will be. He knew he was going to get plastered by Volchenkov, one of the better hitters in the game, and yet continued with the puck and managed to get it into the Sens zone. And while he struggled at times with decision making tonight, he still left it all out on the ice. This was a rookie game, for sure, however it wasn’t nearly as bad as one might expect for a kid. C
Ribeiro: I’m not sure what to tell you. At times he can really control the puck and make strong plays. However he’s small, gets knocked off the puck easily, and defensively is berift of virtually all talent. Tonight he was even more exposed as the speed of the Sens left him routinely in the dust. The toughest part about writing this this time is that he actually seemed to be giving a solid, if not spectacular effort. An off game perhaps? I hope so. C+
Perezhogin: Another who made a couple of rookie mistakes including his usual – holding on to the puck too long. He was still flashy and quick, though. I really like when he attacks the defence through the neutral zone, flips it over their heads, then races in and collects the puck again to begin a sustained attack. He needs to learn a little more discipline defensively, though. B-
Kovalev: He’s starting to get comfortable. Let those words sink in and the smile to cross your face. Starting to get comfortable. The way he’s moving with the puck, the way he controls the play. It’s impressive. He’s lousy defensively, of that there’s no doubt. And if he doesn’t have the puck on the boards, he’ll rarely come out with it. But give him the puck and allow him to work? Magic. A-
Koivu: There aren’t enough words to describe the heart this guy has – and that’s before geting to his talent. When the team needs a pick-me-up, he delivers. He’s constantly out-working the opposition, is an underrated bodychecker, and is making things happen on almost every shift. The goal he scored was brilliance – the whole shift was complete dominance in every facet. A
Julien: I’m not sure I agreed with him shuffling the lines for a few shifts in the third, though perhaps it was because things got out of sequence when players stayed out too long. I love his move of keeping Streit in over Komisarek. Had Komi been in the lineup, he would have been attacked with speed, and the kid just isn’t fast enough transitioning from back to front or vice versa.
PP: We pulled an oh-fer, however it was only 0/3. There was decent movement when we got set up, but let’s be honest here, three times is not a lot in a game. A goal against, however, hurts…
PK: No complaints here again; in fact with Ottawa going only 1/8 and with us actually scoring on the PK, I think we managed to balance it all out. If only every regular shift could be as aggressive as we are on the PK.
I felt the refs let a lot more go tonight, and I worry that the game is going to go to the obstruction dogs again. It’s early to panic, for sure, and the game was extremely fast flowing for the first two periods, however there were more than a few times where someone was hooked or held and a call was made. That has to stop again or the untalented players are going to flood the ice again.
Now, having said that, I’ll again put emphasis on those first two periods, and this time jump up and down while telling you that I’m extremely excited that hockey is back after its decade long hiatus in favour of the sport of Obstruction. The end-to-end action and flow of the game was wonderful and surely excited fans for long stretches of time. I pray the NHL puts its foot down and ensures that we get to see this kind of hockey from here on in.
The player introductions were short, sweet, and well done. Koivu, Kovalev, and Theodore received the largest applause, with Ribeiro getting a smart ovation as well. (When Dagenais was introduced I swear I heard crickets.) It seems that, ever since Bob Gainey took over, everything this club has done has been classy and simple. Nothing gaudy, no silliness. Just simplicity and class.
We get to be the first to meet up with Kovalchuk tomorrow night. His contract is signed, sealed, and delivered and he’s ready to suit up for an already powerful offensive club. Tomorrow will be a real test for the Canadiens: a second game in 24 hours and a determination on how well they respond to their first defeat of the season.
A Concerned Fan