It was a good news / bad news game against the Wild in Minnesota when the Canadiens lost 4-3 in overtime. The good news was that, with Koivu back in the lineup, every other player put in twice the effort. The bad news, besides the loss, was that Plekanec hurt his knee early and didn’t return, and Koivu, after a rush midway through the third, barely played again – presumably aggravating his groin injury. He managed to continue to win faceoffs, but he was unable to remain on the ice for long periods, except in penalty kill situations. While I feel it was the groin acting up, it may just have been exhaustion from being sick. Fingers crossed.
That Plekanec was hurt was good news for Ribeiro who was slid down the depth chart to the third centreman. And when Koivu was injured, he found himself playing tons of minutes again late. His efforts were better on this night, however, and he and his linemates created a few chances.
Huet: I found it most amusing that the RDS broadcast team (Pedneault) felt the need to lay harsh blame on Huet for the first goal against the Habs because Huet was on his knees before the shot was taken. One has to wonder if they ever watch Theodore play the game. Huet played a very solid game, he made some fantastic saves, and other than the first goal, he was solid. He played a controlled game, his movements were good, and I felt his communication with his defenders seemed quite good for a first game on the ice. B+
Bouillon: Solid game where he did what he had to do. I have to be honest, I didn’t much notice him tonight. B
Dandenault: Inconsistent night. On some plays he looked fabulous, but there were too many times when he made small mental errors that hurt the team. A couple of times those errors were glaring and deep in the Montreal zone. C+
Komisarek: Aside from one horrible pass through the middle which was picked up inside the Montreal blueline and led to a scoring chance, he was very solid and played a fine game. He still gets beaten with speed around the outside, but at least he is keeping those players wide. Better than being beaten down the middle. A slightly quicker step is still needed. B-
Souray: Another solid game, and it looks like he’s getting himself into a comfort zone. When he can make the big play, he gives it a try, but when he doesn’t see it, it’s particularly pleasing to see him make the simple play and chip the puck off the glass as necessary. His decisions are much better. B+
Rivet: Solid game. Nothing special, just hard work and good play. B+
Markov: A couple of scrambly moments, but if you watch his game closely and compare it even to earlier this year, you’ll notice that he doesn’t get into troublesome situations where he has to win the puck as often since he’s smart and talented enough now to avoid them altogether by re-routing the play. B+
Perezhogin: To sleep, perchance to dream. My advice to him? Bring a pillow to the games. Started on the “3rd” line with Ribeiro and Ryder. I guess Dagenais is a better player.
Begin: Tossed out of the game for intent to injure when he legally hit a player who was off-balance after being slighly whacked by Sundstrom. Walz (the Wild player) hit the boards awkwardly and lay motionless for a few moments. The refs, realizing that something needed to be done, decided to remove him from the game because anyone lying on the ice must have been mugged. If you can see my eyes rolling….. Begin did get into a fight immediately after that where he exchanged a few good rights with his dancing partner. I didn’t catch the name, I left when the fisticuffs began to get a drink.
Plekanec: Very early he collided with a Wild player and, while it wasn’t knee to knee, apparently there was enough of a jolt to the joint that he had to miss the rest of the game.
Murray: Excellent effort once again, he’s yet another Begin. If Julien would give him half a chance he’d become yet another fan favourite. A
Sundstrom: He had a penalty shot when he was hooked on a breakaway; he hit the post. His game was typical: he was solid defensively, and was decent enough in the offensive zone in terms of containment and the occasional attack. B+
Higgins: More excellent effort. He started the game with Plekanec and Ryder as the new second line, and of course when Plekanec went down with injury, he kept his spot on the second line… oh wait, Julien decided that the dynamic trio of Ribeiro, Dagenais, and Ryder were better. My bad, Higgins, despite playing really well, was demoted. A-
Dagenais: TUrning point of the game was when Julien decided to reunite these three bozos instead of continue to work with the lines he’s started the game with. Unsurprisingly, these turkeys were negative in numbers and, despite Ryder scoring one, they were largely ineffective again. Why Dags was given his spot over Higgins, I’ll never know. I guess he’s just that good. C
Ryder: At least Ryder worked his butt off tonight. Message heard and assimilated, he was moving hard, making things happen, and going to the net. It’s about time. B+
Ribeiro: All his fans will wax poetic that he was wonderful and his play on the Ryder goal was sheer brilliance. Yes, it certainly was. He gained the zone, was defended easily and had no other option but to take a shot at the net after making a 360 degree turn. Lucky for him, Bulis was there to corral the puck, and the goal resulted after this latter did the same. Sure, Ribeiro was better than usual tonight, but I think that’s the most you’re going to see out of him in this NHL. B (I’ll give him marks for effort tonight – he too heard the message loud and clear)
Bulis: After being publically chewed out by the coach yesterday, Bulis came out and was on fire tonight, finally looking more like the player that everyone has come to admire. He worked, hit, and made some strong plays. It’ll take a little longer to get rid of all the slime he’s accumulated (read: bad habits) but tonight was a great start. B
Zednik: Well, all it took was Koivu back in the lineup to make Zed look like a hockey player again. He went to the net, finished plays, made strong decisions with the puck, and looked like his old self. Unfortunately, his play today is as clear an indictment as any that he’s in trouble in Montreal. You have to perform always, not just when you’re playing with a guy you want to play with. B+
Koivu: First, his leadership. He steps in the lineup and every single player ups their game. ‘Nuff said. First shift, wins the faceoff (against his brother), then hammers a defender which directly leads to the goal by Markov. Even if he was injured at the end, he still came out and worked his butt off to help the team. If there’s a guy in the NHL with bigger heart, I’d love to watch him. A
Julien: Instead of leaving Higgins with Ryder and Ribeiro after Plekanec’s injury, Julien dumps him to the third line and brings up Dagenais. That line goes down the ice, gets caught deep, and on the ensuing three-on-two when none of the three could come even close to catching up with the play, the Wild score. After starting hard, the team fell into the same routine it had found in Edmonton when it threw away the game – coincidentally right after that useless line was reunited. When things get sticky in Montreal, go with what doesn’t work and bench the kids. That’s what I read from all this.
PP: An oh-fer night. Not much in the way of movement,
PK: It was great until late. Dandenault missed the puck and that led to him being slightly behind his man for the tying goal late in the game. In overtime, it was just a matter of time before the Wild scored. They were all over the place, and with Montreal penned in their zone with only three men, it was tiring.
Fan’s Game Puck: Koivu, no question. He makes everyone a better player. It’s as simple as that. That’s the first time I’ve enjoyed watching a Montreal game since, hm, he was injured. A Ribeiro-led Habs team is atrocious.
Well, fingers crossed that Koivu was tired and not hurt, but by the way he was lagging, I’d say we won’t see him again until at least next Friday. Kovalev, on the other hand, is once again slated to come back on Tuesday. In an interview with him, he expressed his frustration at not being on the ice. We could sure use another player who can bury the puck.
There are a lot of rumours swirling around the Canadiens concerning trades. The reality is that, in all likelihood, if there is a move, it will be a small one. I’m not sure Gainey feels this is the season to really go out there and make a drastic move – that might have to wait until the draft and the offseason. We’ve taken giant leaps this year, but there’s still quite a ways to go, for sure, so those out there dreaming of Sykora’s, and Bertuzzi’s in the lineup will probably have to content yourselves with dreams. I have a feeling only minor moves are in the offing.
A Concerned Fan