The game had about as much rhythm as a spastic drummer and as much action for two periods as a pimply 14-year old adolescent, but in the end a win is a win. This game was all about the power play, and Montreal beat Atlanta hands down. That’s pretty important, since at five-on-five we were anemic. Other than the PK, two things struck me: Bouillon was particularly physical in the face of a very aggresive Thrasher club, and Ribeiro was slow and easily removed from the puck thus rendering his line, at five-on-five, utterly useless.
I have to say that, while I like the penalty shots in terms of getting people out of their seats, the attempts themselves are pathetic, to say the least. Only one of the five shooters attempted to deke the goaltender, and that seems to be the case around the league. Is it really exciting to watch a player come in and fire a point blank shot from the deep slot? While the shootout will probably stay, it has been, in my opinion, a disappointment in terms of showcasing anything other than goaltending.
Theodore: Best game of the season by a country mile. Not only was he square to the puck, not only was he agile while making tough saves look good, but he covered a large percentage of his rebounds. Now *that* is quality goaltending. His save on Bondra in the shootout was, thank you Danny Gallivan, scintillating. A
Streit: Well, he didn’t make any mistakes. N/A
Komisarek: He played well, was strong on the puck and on his man, and while he still hesitates at times, he looks so much better without Souray. Funny how the team did well without Souray, eh? B
Dandenault: He’s continuing his simple game and isn’t making defensive errors. In fact, under Montreal tutelage, I think he’s improved his defence from his Detroit days. Sure, we don’t see him stepping up as much, but he’s so much more consistent. B
Bouillon: Feisty. Someone hit him early on and after that it seemed like open season on any Thrasher silly enough to come close to him. He played angry and mean and it was fun to watch. He even had more ice time than Markov, evidence of how important he was tonight. A-
Rivet: A few uncharacteristic giveaways tonight that had me gulping. He was steady, but not spectacular. B-
Markov: Except for the one time that he failed to slow Kovalchuk who attacked with speed and scored, he was excellent at both ends of the rink. I still laugh when he goes in against two or three opponents and comes out with the puck. A-
Dagenais: RDS, in all its wisdom, gave him the third star. I missed the first two because I was still laughing. Nice goal on the shootout, but star material? N/A
Higgins: Started on the second line, perhaps played a shift or two more after that, then was relegated to the fourth. Obviously a rookie with his lowly calibre of play couldn’t possibly handle a game like this one. Okay, when he was on the ice he was hustling hard, playing positionally well, and controlling the puck when he had the chance, but I see what coach means. Edit out the rookies. N/A
Perezhogin: After a long stint on the first line early this season, his 9 point in only a few more games has earned him just shy of two minutes in playing time. We are officially a three line team. N/A
Begin: Quiet game in terms of banging people, but he played his position well and did all the little things that make him so important to the team. B
Sundstrom: He was particularly good on the PK tonight – as were all the forwards – especially in neutralizing Kovalchuk. B+
Bonk: He had a great game… right up until he passed the puck to Bondra in the Habs slot for the tying goal. Whoopsie, indeed. Still, that can’t possibly erase the yeoman’s job he did on the PK. B
Plekanec: Poor kid had no idea which line he was playing on for half the night. He was shuttled from through all four. Still, testament to him especially considering Julien’s obvious distaste with our kids, he managed over 10 minutes. Kudos for sticking it out not knowing who was going to be on the ice with you at any given time. B
Ryder: A good game where he worked hard, used his body well, and was in the right place at the right time. He’s playing just like he did last year when he was stellar, and the results are coming. In fact, if it weren’t for him, that second line would be a complete mess what with the unknown on the other wing and the pushover in the middle. B+
Ribeiro: First the good news: He’s playing much better in terms of effort lately. Now the bad news: Tonight he was absolutely useless as a second line centre at five-on-five. He lost virtually every battle he had and was pushed off the puck with hardly any effort. Don’t get me wrong, when he did manage to maintain control, he did a good job of looking and finding an open man, but he just can’t carry the play. B-
Zednik: Horrible. He made two or three good plays all night, and from someone who’s supposed to be our big goal scorer when Kovalev is away? Zed is a trade waiting to happen, at this point. He’s terribly selfish, and can’t score goals even when he takes the play himself. D+
Bulis: Out of place on the first line. If the puck wasn’t hopping off his stick, he was losing it in the corner, or failing to make the plays entering the zone. Sure, he brought more defensive responsibility to the first line, and of course he worked his butt off all night, but as a first line candidate, he didn’t have it at all tonight. B
Koivu: Left wingerless, but one might suppose he’d be used to that. He made his typical plays, but had no one to get the puck to most of the time. Then again, at times he seemed to struggle with the puck as well, but I got the feeling that the bulk of the team were gripping their sticks way too tightly. B+
Julien: I say we save on our cap costs and send all the kids back to the AHL because we really aren’t using them anyhow. I’m just not sure why it’s come to this when they were performing so well, and didn’t seem to lose much of anything from game to game. Perhaps it’s something at practice, or maybe we’ve just had a stretch of games against teams where rookies would get murdered, but somehow I don’t think so. Players aren’t going to get better unless you give them the chance. We’re not a Cup competing team this year, so why not get these kids out on the ice and gaining valuable experience.
PP: Decent, although there wasn’t enough movement. I would suggest that our goals came more from a defensive and goaltending disability on the other end rather than anything spectacular that we did.
PK: Stellar, no doubt. It’s about time, as well. Finally they were far more aggressive and combative with the opposition rather than letting he Thrashers play with the puck at will.
Fan’s Game Puck: No doubt in my mind this is a group award to the penalty killers. We were shorthanded 13 times and they didn’t score a single goal.
Thank you to those who sent in notes and get well’s over the last couple of weeks. For those that didn’t know, I’ve suffered from carpal tunnel which has been quite difficult. The last few games I did were typed with almost numb hands. It’s still not perfect yet, but I’m well on the way to recovery.
Even better, I get a few more days off since Montreal doesn’t play until Friday night against the Sabres in Buffalo. If you’re watching on TV, bring a pillow – that rink has about as much ambiance as a graveyard.
A Concerned Fan