No matter who you are, no matter what you do, if you pay the price and work to the best of your abilities, you can do anything.
Perhaps it was the return of Kovalev to the lineup. Perhaps Julien finally got through a few thick skulls. Doesn’t really matter when you see the results.
This was a game when everyone had to be at their best, when the stars had to step up and the pluggers had to keep on plugging. The goalie had to make all the important stops and no one, but no one could give up. That’s the only way to beat the far-and-away best team in the league. Tonight, Montreal did all that and came away with the win. It took penalty shots to secure the two points, but the Canadiens played the role of Santa Claus to perfection giving their fans a going away present as they head off on a multi-game road trip.
Huet: I like his style. He stands a little longer than Theo, and he somehow seems more in control of his motions at times. These comments don’t take anything away from Theo’s ability, but Huet’s calm instills me with confidence. He made some great saves and had less than zero chance on all three goals. A-
Bouillon: I’m not going to say he was superb, because he had a couple of cross-ice doozies that almost cost the team, however he was still solid, and laid on one of the best hits all year, imitating Larry Robinson when he put Neil into the boards in the third period. B+
Dandenault: A couple of mistakes that could have really cost, but in general he was strong at the back. Nice to see him jump into the attack as well. Note that all three goals, and most scoring chances, were as a result of a defender chipping into the attack? B
Komisarek: Somehow he’s only given 9 minutes and yet I felt he was strong the entire time he was out there. He was slow moving the puck once, that I saw, but that was no different than any other defender once or twice. B
Souray: Aside from when he handed the Sens their first goal on a platter, he played a very solid game. Good thing he wasn’t a rookie, though, because otherwise a mistake like that would have had him benched forever. Nice to see him jump in the attack a little more as well. B+
Rivet: Stupid penalty when he took the technical for clapping at the ref then telling him off. Great play in every single other aspect of the game. He also jumped into the attack nicely. A-
Markov: Who says we need a power play quarterback? Lightning transition game which led to numerous chances, fantastic vision and tape-to-tape passing leading directly to two goals, and superlative defence. A+
Kostitsyn: Actually, some very solid play, and he even used his body well a couple of times. Shame he only got a couple of shifts. I would have enjoyed seeing him more in this one when he had hard-working teammates to help him out.
Streit: One-man wrecking crew! Okay, he was put in the lineup as an emergency. He should have been in bed, he’s so sick, apparently.
Perezhogin: This one I’ll never figure out. He looked fantastic in his few shifts. He danced around a couple of Sens defenders, was really getting his nose stuck in, and managed just over seven minutes of ice time. It’s hard to second guess a coach when you win a game, and certainly, since the rest of the players were doing so well, you can’t say he could have stepped in to take someone else’s spot, but still. What a perfect game to give time to a rookie. A-
Higgins: He was solid at both ends of the rink, and you can see his confidence coming back as he gets more ice time. Played a regular shift and minutes to reflect where I think he should probably be at this time in his career. He’s already a solid third line guy, and there’s some potential for more with continued work. B+
Sundstrom: Wonderful game. He did all the little things that were needed defensively, and somehow also managed to contribute offensively, which is a massive bonus. A-
Begin: Another great game from wonderboy. He was hitting, creating havok, and, best of all, being very strong defensively. Are there many other players who block pucks as well? A-
Dagenais: His best game in a long time. Forget that he scored in the shootout, he finished plenty of checks, and his work along the boards was passable. I was actually really impressed with his game tonight. A-
Murray: Someone will have lost a place to this guy, I’m sure. One of the rookies, when everyone gets healthy, is going to find himself in Hamilton. He’s got a Begin-like work ethic and does all the same things, except block shots. Another under-stated, and underrated acquisition by Gainey. A-
Ryder: Ah, the real Michael Ryder shows up tonight. He made, wait for it, Wade Redden looks silly once. Made him take a penalty on the play as well. Ryder was working the boards, and making things happen much more often. I know he’s playing well when I keep saying his name to my wife. A-
Bulis: A good game on the first line. At points, he almost looked like he belonged, though the reality is, when Koivu gets back from injury after Christmas (don’t hold yer collective breath for Friday), he should be moved back to the third line where he’ll be more at home. He worked the walls well, and gave his two linemates some good room. B
Ribeiro: Solid game filled with EFFORT. I love it when he gets angry and pumped by the crowd and finishes checks. ‘Bout time. While he’ll never be mistaken for a first line centre, he did passably well tonight. He really needs to work on strength to not get pushed around so much, though. Still, showed his excellent vision and made a couple of other fine plays as well. B+
Kovalev: He routinely made the Sens defense look silly. He was strong in the corners and very good defensively. Oh, and he so far and away the best attacker on the ice, he made all the rest look pedestrian. When he dangles with the puck and moves the way he can, it’s just art. Simple as that. And then there’s his shot. A+
Julien: If only he could get this team as pumped to play the lesser teams in the league, we’d be looking that strong all the time. Sure, having Kovalev’s offensive presence makes a huge difference, but it’s the effort of the players from start to finish that matters. Isn’t it much more satisfying to see a game where the players compete all the time, rather than lose pitifully? Honestly, the way we played tonight, I would have been okay with a loss against the best team in hockey. Julien *must* find a way to keep the team at or near this level to be successful.
PP: Well, add one superstar, mix in a great attacking defender to make the passes, and success.
PK: Speaking os superstars. That Sens PP is loaded and it’s a miracle they DON’T score on every occasion. I found our PK particularly sluggish in the first.
Fan’s Game Puck: You know, the obvious choice is Kovalev, for obvious reasons. But I honestly don’t find it that clear cut. Kovy was superior in almost every way, but take a moment to consider Markov’s game. He played 30+ minutes against the best attack in hockey and there was but a single even strength goal against the Habs, and not while he was on the ice. Add to that his great transition and passing game, and he was equally as instrumental in this victory. As much as Kovalev was a superstar tonight, so was Markov, and therefore I’ll give it to both players.
Oh, if only we could play with that intensity every night, hockey would be a lot of fun. I get so tired of watching half efforts from wannabe superstars that it’s like a breath of fresh air to watch a game like this one. I found myself on the edge of my seat and paying attention like I haven’t done in quite a while. The best news is that, even if it isn’t Friday, Koivu should be back to normal pretty soon, and then we go back to having an excellent first line.
Well, Washington on Friday, and then the holiday break. It’d be nice to go into that break on a bit of a win streak, no matter how modest, and it would surely do the players good mentally. Still, can’t go in with assumptions, the boys have to work, work, work.
A Concerned Fan