Sorry for the delay. Technical issues on my end! Would you believe the problem was Plekanec? What is the computer saying??
You have to wonder if the refs are ever going to be able to find some consistency. On the one hand, they call Ribeiro when the opponent skates over his stick. Then you get a flying elbow to the head of Sundstrom when he wasn’t even near the puck, and somehow that’s left alone. You know, when they said this season it was going to be different, I really wanted to believe them. WIth each passing game, it’s getting harder to believe.
It was nice to see the second line produce something, though I still feel they struggled most of the night and were penned in their own end too much. On the other hand, it was most special to watch Kovalev make half the Bruins look like pond hockey players as he dangled. Despite not scoring on a breakaway, this was easily his best performance as a Hab. Consider that, along with numerous chances, two assists and a chance for plenty more, he also had one absolutely crushing blow to Hal Gill – one of the buggest guys in the game.
It was doubly sweet to come from behind and beat the Bruins; extra tasty to watch the first line dominate almost every shift; and positively priceless to see Andre Dawson and Gary Carter out there on Expo night.
Theodore: He started the game in typically shaky fashion and didn’t really look comfortable in the net. However, after about the mid-point in the game, suddenly he looked more and more like the Theo we need to have. Some absolutely mind-blowing saves kept us in the game, including one with only a few seconds left that surely preserved the win. He still needs work on a few things, but the improvement is coming. As is the confidence. B+
Streit: He played a solid game, and was particularly good on the power play tonight. In scratching Dagenais (yay) and going with seven defenders, Streit was given the opportunity to be the power play specialist. He’s got a lot of potential there, I feel. B
Rivet: Typically solid, workman-like performance from Rivet. I’m pleased that he’s using his strength to do his best to clear the crease, even though the rules make it tough. Nice to see that he’s starting to use his stick much better as well. The teacher learns from the student now. B
Bouillon: When the games are faster, like this one was, he excels. He knows how to neutralize players, and he moves the puck quickly. He still gets bowled over occasionally down low, but since he’s smart, he makes up for it with good positioning. B
Dandenault: Played on the wing for half the game, which was interesting. First it was on the fourth line, then he moved up to the second line when Plekanec was demoted for his error – more on that later. He also played a few shifts on the blueline, and props to him for moving all over the rink and not looking out of place. B
Komisarek: Started the game with a bang – literally – as he smashed Fitzgerald legally behind the net. He played another smart and calm game. He’s using his size more and more efficiently, and combined with good stick positioning, he’s coming along nicely. Now, with seven defenders dressed he didn’t get much time, but it will come. B
Souray: I think it’s about time he spent a night watching from the press box. He’s trying to do too much and it throws him out of position constantly. Add to that his nervousness with the puck and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Yes, he brings great size to our back end, but the fact of the matter is that the NHL isn’t as reliant on size anymore. It’s about positioning and the ability to get your stick in the right place. Tonight again Souray should have been in the box a lot more than he was. C-
Markov: Well, except for the last play of the game where he pinched and tried to keep the puck in rather than play conservatively while on the power play, he had another fantastic night. Pretty soon they’re going to be using his stick checks in instructional videos, he’s that good at them. Unfortunately, that one gaffe will stick in everyone’s mind, and I’m sure I’ll hear a chorus of whining about it. What worries me is that he’s going to get a lot of flack from the coaches, and he’s not one with the thickest skin. Hopefully this doesn’t affect his game. B+
Higgins: A relatively quiet night, though if you watch him closely you’ll see that, when he goes for a hit, it’s not to actually nail a guy, it’s more to cut off that player from the puck – and that’s just intelligent hockey. B-
Begin: A particularly quiet game for him – but that’s not to say that when he was out there he didn’t run into everything that moved. He also did his usual on the PK. B+
Plekanec: While obviously causing lots of computer errors, Plex made the one mistake, but otherwise played a good game. Shame Julien benched him and took him off the second line. I think rookies with his work ethic and brains deserve immediate second chances. B-
Sundstrom: It’s the way he wins pucks along the boards in his own end that really appeals to those who watch the game closely. He’ll never give you fancy plays or stunning goals, but he will dig in the dirt and get you the puck. B+
Bulis: He was flying all night, and if he could finish the Habs would probably have scored ten. His defensive positioning was particularly good as he was able to pick off more than a few passes; and he also got hit by a few shots. B+
Bonk: Easily his best game as a Hab. He had numerous chances to score, and while he failed, the fact that he and his linemates kept control of the puck for so long was really beneficial to the team. He worked the puck on the boards well, as usual, but this time added a little flair to his offensive game, which was great. B+
Ryder: Invisible for stretches, but also scored a fine goal. I feel his play is slowly improving, and while he’s not at the level he was last year, I’m seeing him digging in the corners more and making the hits that make things happen. B
Ribeiro: I think what strikes me most about Ribsy is that he doesn’t always think out there. Yes, he’s super-talented, but he makes rookie mistakes a lot. Consider when he had the puck in the Bruins zone and, instead of doing the cycle like the team always does, he spins and whips a no-look pass into the slot – where a Bruin calmly gobbled it up and skated the other way on a counter. One might think that, had he been a defender, Ribs would be a bit of a Breezy clone. Having said that, he scored one and assisted on another, and while it wasn’t his best game overall, it was probably his best this year. B+
Perezhogin: Man is he fast. He’s very quickly becoming a real force out there. He’s playing with more maturity, is making smarter plays, and even digs the puck out in the defensive end. I particularly like that he drives the net whenever he can. B+
Kovalev: If I left this comment as “Wow” I’d be depriving those who didn’t see the game of some wonderful information. Like when he danced through the defence and just about beat Raycroft. Or when he danced through the defence and fed Koivu. Or when he dance… you get the picture. How about his massive hit on Gill? Or his calm collection of the puck and pass to Perezhogin to launch an attack that led to a goal. Or the way he was skating as well as he ever has in Montreal. Or the way he danced… Shame he missed that goal on the breakaway, it probably would have made his night perfect. A
Koivu: For the first time, probably in his career, Koivu has a real talent on his wings. That’s not to say that some of the other guys weren’t superb themselves, but Kovalev is a cut above. And *that* leaves Koivu with space to do his thing, and boy oh boy does he do it. He controls the play. When I say that, I can’t put enough emphasis on it. When he gets the puck in the offensive zone, he controls it so such an extent that others are bound to get open. It’s like a great offensive line for a quarterback. The longer they keep the dogs off, the longer the receivers have of getting open. The fact that Koivu is an excellent passer only helps. A
Julien: I think you see what I thought about his decision with Plex. On the other hand, I can’t help but give a standing ovation for his decision with Dags. I pray that one is permanent.
PP: Obviously a lot of work has been done. The shots were on the net, and two forwards went to crash it and screen the keeper. The success was tangible.
PK: On the other hand, we were victimized here, but it’s easy to see why: the units weren’t half as aggressive as they had been. Still, despite that, it wasn’t the worst outing by any stretch.
A quick word here on something I’ve noticed the Habs doing more this year than ever before: body positioning. You may notice when they get the puck many will very quickly turn their backs and use their entire frame to protect the puck. That’s a direct result of the new rules. No more can opponents reach out and grab you, so when it’s protected like that, it’s very hard to be taken off your stick. In particular, Bonk, Bulis, Perezhogin, and Koivu do it extremely well. Higgins is another who does it well.
Next it’s the Islanders who have had a significant makeover since the last time we’ve seen them. There’s little doubt, though, that if Montreal plays the way it did for the bulk of this game, they should put in a very good showing Saturday night. Consistency is the key now, since we seem to have many of the pieces to the puzzle in place.