Unbelievably, they’ve done it again. More late-game heroics by Begin and Ryder have us winning and Montreal fans in rapture. For two periods we were the better team, but unfortunately, that third period was a dog until the very end when Montreal finally put on their skates and started working again. Without a doubt this will be the victory that has Julien the most angry so far this season.
Interestingly, Markov ended the night as a -1 despite being the most dominant presence on the ice once again for the Canadiens. In fact, his pin-point passing was a direct contributor to much of this success. Of course, his defensive play was stellar, but when people look for Norris candidates, they inevitably look for points. Markov could have a bevy more if they noted the guy with the third assist.
Theodore: A decent game, for sure. There was once that I saw him overslide badly, but other than that he was square to the shooters and did a good job at keeping the puck in front of him. Perhaps he dropped to his knees too early for one of the Weiss goals, but that was a tough situation. The only issue I really have with his game tonight was his rebound control which put his defence, and himself of course, in difficulty repeatedly. B
Komisarek: Here’s the mark of confidence – or lack thereof in this case – that you can see in a defender: on one particular play Komi had the option of stepping up and cutting out a play or of backing off and relinquishing the puck but maintaining defensive position. He chose the latter, where he probably should have chosen the former. That will come as he gets more and more ice time. B
Bouillon: Another silid game for Cube. That goal he scored was a solid wrist shot, and since it was on net, good things happen. Other than that, it was a typical affair for the Habs little big man. B+
Dandenault: He’s using his body far more efficiently these days. Watch him when he angles someone out on the boards; he’s not looking for a huge hit, only to remove the puck from the player by stopping the player’s momentum. That’s smart hockey. B
Souray: Basically removed from the power play unless the Habs are up by two because he’s so wild with his shot. Defensively, though, he was much better, taking up strong positions and maintaining them. Rick Green has obviously been working hard with Souray’s stick control and he’s starting to get much better at that form of checking. B
Rivet: Suddenly his salary doesn’t look so much like he’s being overpaid. As well as being incredibly solid in his own end, he scored tonight and has taken a strong place on the power play. Still, it’s his robust and efficient play in his own end that makes him what he is. B+
Markov: After a sub-par game last night, Markov came out and dominated all over the ice again. Even when he makes mistakes he gets back and covers up for himself, as he did when a Panther went by him to go in alone on Theo, but was unable to get a shot away because of the stick check. Want to know just how good his hand-eye is? He regularly plucks pucks out of mid-air. Anyone see the one in his own zone at waist height? A
Perezhogin: I’m not sure why he’s doing this, but Julien is suddenly giving less and less time to his kids. It’s a shame because they can hack it at this level, but it also hurts the rest of the team who get more tired. Prez, though, on the few shifts he had, looked back to his high tempo self he was before getting sick. N/A
Higgins: He had a couple of wonderful moments with the puck, and made himself a wall defensively, however again I find that he wasn’t used nearly enough. N/A
Plekanec: Yeah, he gets spot duty here and there, but it’s interesting how the kid who got used the most is the one who is struggling most on the ice. Plex’s confidence is not the greatest right now and he’s making mental mistakes that were not there at the beginning of the season. Mostly it’s his decisions with the puck that are harmful. C+
BUlis: Solid defensively, but we didn’t see nearly as much of his offensive game tonight. B
Sundstrom: A typical defensive game from Sundstrom with little to no errors in his own end. Also typical in that there was little to no incursion into the opposition end. B
Begin: Used on the power play to get in front of the goalie and cause havok, Begin proved himself again by scoring that late goal. Has there ever been a waiver wire pick-up that has been more useful to the Habs? A-
Dagenais: We’re slowly sinking into the morass again. He still had a few shifts that were very good, but there were far too many ordinary shifts for him – and his ordinary hurts us. That entire line, while explosive at times, tends to also be the one that kills our momentum quite often. The opposition gets it in our when while these three are on the ice, and for a minute we just can’t get it out. B-
Ryder: Tough call on him tonight. While he had a decent enough game at times and scored the winner, he also made some really stupid plays – like the flying elbow – and was poor defensively. B
Ribeiro: His line had a brilliant start to the game and really set the tone for the first period. Then, for the rest of the game, they were hit and miss and, as I said before, they were much of the reason for the Panther comeback by allowing Florida to regain some control of the match. I hate when Ribs and company get dominated in their own end, yet in games like this it seems to happen so often. B
Zednik: He scored one and should have had a pile more. For a goal scorer, I’m a little disappointed. Twice he was alone and had Luongo at his mercy and twice he blew it entirely. Quite honestly, I expect more from him. Now, having said that, he was dominant down low with the puck and his strength led to numerous chances. B
Kovalev: A couple of really stupid penalties counter a fairly decent performance. I absolutely love the way he uses his size to protect that puck, and there are times when it takes three opponents to get it back. When he was out there killing penalties he was stellar behind Florida’s net while controlling that puck. B
Koivu: He was muscled down low once or twice, but had the presence of mind to get himself back in position to reduce any scoring chance. With the puck he was typically good, and made a wonderful pass to Ryder for the winner, sending it through the Panther defence. B+
Julien: I don’t like the way he’s using (or not, as is the case) his kids. I also found it disappointing that the team seemed to start going easy when they really could have put this one out of reach early. Still, he used his timeout well in the third to rally the troops and allow us to come back and win this one.
PP: Movement equals goals. While the other night everyone was static, tonight everyone was moving far more, and with solid puck movement to go with player movement, goalies have a hard time tracking the puck. And that leads to goals.
PK: We’re really making it tough on ourselves. We’re a very solid PK team, however it’s tough to kill off so many two-man disadvantages, and we seem to be averaging two a game. Not good. Time to control ourselves and stay out of the box.
Fan’s Game Puck: With no Markov tonight, this game goes to the Panthers easily. You don’t need to score goals and get points to be the best defender in the league, and I challenge other writers out there to show me another defender who is *that* good at virtually every aspect of the game.
We only have a couple of days off before we start our next home-and-home series, this time against Buffalo. That’s not going to be easy since they have a young and very quick club. If we go easy for a period like we did tonight against the Panthers, we could find ourselves in a world of hurt.
And as much as I like those third jerseys, can someone make those numbers pop out more? When the only way to identify a player is skating style, it makes things much more difficult. My poor PVR is worn after going back and forth trying to figure out who was who out there!
A Concerned Fan