Let’s start with the bright spots first. Ribeiro, ostensibly posted to the fourth line actually played a solid enough game. It’s sad to say, but I think the spot really is where he belongs on this team. Secondly, after the horrid game last night, they Habs came out and, at least for the final two periods, were the best team on the ice, playing with passion all over the rink. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the rookies were put where they belong.
Then there’s the reffing.
First of all, Markov’s non-goal should have counted since it was a Leaf player that caused Markov to fall. And where was the penalty for the hook on the play? I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because the Leafs are the biggest whiners in pro sport – led by that gem of a coach – but they seem to get away with a whole lot. Personally, especially on Saturday nights, and particularly against the Canadiens (or so it seems), I feel they get away with murder far too often. Perhaps the refs were worried about last night when the Leafs were robbed of a goal, so they figured the next day against the Habs was the perfect place to make it up.
Theodore: Certainly no fault on any of the goals tonight. That’s two games in a row where he’s looked like he should. A-
Streit: Mistake prone again, and despite the fact that we got him for his offence, he’s rather poor on the power play. C-
Dandenault: There were a couple of times when there were one-on-one races for the puck where he completely out-distanced the opposition. His skating is fun to watch. Oh, his game was good too. B
Bouillon: Another up and down game for the Cube. He made a couple of nasty mistakes in our end, but he also made some brilliant plays. I feel he needs to step it up a notch. B-
Komisarek: An absolutely wonderful game. He’s getting better and better in his own end, he’s winning his battles, he’s using his stick infinitely better than he was, and now he’s jumping in on the attack. I dread the return of Souray if only because it could negatively affect Komi’s game. B+
Rivet: He was caught out of position rather badly on the first goal, I believe he was chasing the puck a little. However, he played a really solid game the rest of the night, and with the RDS microphone on him, we heard just how much of a leader he really is. Interesting that, after having an argument on the ice with Dags, we never saw the latter play another shift. B
Markov: He alledgedly shoved a linesman after the game, which doesn’t look good at all. I suspect we’ll hear about a suspension of a couple of games or so. His game itself was good and he was his usual combative self everywhere. I love when he plays against the big names, like Sundin, and frustrates them. B+
Dagenais: Even with his buddy dropped to the fourth line with him, he was still useless. F
Bulis: He finally used his speed a little better than he has, and even got in position to make a few things happen. As usual his PK work was great, though I think he was overwhelmed at times playing on a regular shift with Ribs and Dags. I noticed him in the spot where Ribeiro should have been more than a few times. B
Ribeiro: Full marks for his goal and the effort he put in for most of the night. Unfortunately, he’s really not as high-tempo as Plex, and that second line finally looked good now that Ribs is gone. B
Sundstrom: He struggled tonight. He made quite a few giveaways and didn’t look half himself. C
Bonk: I think I can sum it up by saying this: he was benched. And when yer $2 million man is benched, that’s never good news. D+
Begin: They were saying on RDS that his sickness really affected his game, and I’m thinking they were bang on. He’s just not been himself lately, though the effort is still there. B
Ryder: It will take time to get used to new linemates (though I’m guessing that Julien will demote the kids when next they make a single mistake) and tonight he struggled a little with Plex and Higgs. That said, he was still making things happen. He needs to keep moving, though, to be effective. B-
Higgins: A breath of fresh air when combined with Plekanec on the second line. He knows how to make things happen, and he competes every shift. Add to that some defensive responsibility, and you have the makings of a real second line. B
Plekanec: It took a pile of games after his single boo-boo so very long ago to get him back on the top two lines for a regular shift, but he gave Julien every reason to keep him there. He reminds me a little of Koivu in that he gives his all every shift. Not quite as skilled, for sure, but his work ethic more than makes up the difference between him and Ribeiro. A-
Perezhogin: He made some incredible moves tonight as he finally relaxed knowing that all the rookies were being given a legitimate shot. He was flying all over the place, and continually made things happen. When Kovalev gets back, it’s Zed who should have to give up his spot. A-
Zednik: And after having just said that about him, I’m going to come back by saying he really looked like he belonged on the top line tonight. He finally worked his butt off, and controlled the play far more than he usually did. With him and Perez playing as they did, it left Koivu with far more room to maneuver. B+
Koivu: Easily the best Canadien tonight, he was all over the ice and controlled the play. He had a few chances, and on one partial break couldn’t corral the puck properly to get off a good shot (he almost broke his stick on the glass in frustration), but even so, he was spectacular at times. A
Julien: It took him time, but he finally gave the rookies the proper placement and dropped those who weren’t performing and, while we lost the game, we were the better team.
PP: They managed to call three penalties on Toronto, I was pleased to see. There was some control on the power play and a couple of chances, but nothing overly convincing.
PK: After stopping Atlanta 0-12, we’ve gone back to a passive box with half efforts at times. You don’t win games if you aren’t winning the special teams contests.
You know, even over the last 13 games where Ribeiro had no goals and eight assists, there have been numerous emails telling me I was blind and that I was overrating Koivu and underrating Ribeiro badly. Seems to me that the coach saw the same thing as I did, so I guess I’m not quite as blind as all that. There have also been plenty of comments about Ribeiro’s talent being more important than a work ethic, but after watching a second line that actually maintained pressure in the *offensive* zone more often than not, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that talent isn’t the only thing necessary. Plekanec works constantly, and as a bonus, he has speed to keep up with the game. I’m not denying that Ribs has talent, because he has tons, but the Canadiens are better served with someone else in that 2nd line centre role, and there’s no way he should ever be centering the first line.
Well, just to make things interesting, we head to Ottawa to try and break out of our slump. No pressure, boys. Just bottle up Heatley, Spezza and that Alfredsson fellow and the game is yours. Well, at least there were plenty of positives tonight. Hopefully we can build on them heading into the Corel Centre.
A Concerned Fan