An unsurprising loss considering the Canadiens completely failed to show for the second period and weren’t at their best in the first. Additionally, the defense was porous, made continually poor choices, and couldn’t move the puck with any kind of consistency whatsoever. It didn’t help matters that Halak was poor on the first two goals – the first two he’s not looked his best on since he first started for the habs – and therefore had the team down early and always struggling to come back.
Credit, however, has to be given to the Islanders who were in the face of the Canadiens for the entire night. They had an effective trap working for them and Montreal had trouble getting the puck through the neutral zone with any kind of control. Combine that with the fact that there was always an orange shirt in the face of any Canadien with the puck, and it makes for a very difficult game in terms of maintaining any kind of puck possession. The only line that continually put on any kind of pressure was the Habs first line.
Halak: B He was weak on the first two goals – on his knees on the first one, and a low, weak blocker shot from a fairly steep angle on the other – which, as mentioned, put the Habs behind the eight ball. After that, there’s no question he really found his game and he made scintillating save one after the other for much of the rest of the night.
Bouillon: C- He made more than a few giveaways and was outclassed along the boards for a lot of the time tonight. Rather than him moving the puck quickly which we’ve come to expect, he was fighting the puck and losing it too much.
Dandenault: C+ Another highly inconsistent game. There were a few outstanding defensive plays, but overall he was weak on the boards and gave up the puck far too often. Furthermore, his decisions with the puck were generally poor.
Komisarek: C- His game is rapidly deteriorating lately. TOnight he fought the puck every time he was near it, he couldn’t complete a pass to save his life, and when he chose to make a hit, it was ill-timed and threw the whole defense out of whack. On the second Isles goal, he made a horrible pinch leaving Markov in a tough spot, and later on he threw himself at a marked man, allowing his to move to the net.
Markov: B- His struggles, unfortunately, seem to want to hang around for a little longer. I’m beginning to wonder if trade rumours might be affecting his game and, after the 27th, we might see the old Markov again. He wasn’t poor, per se, but he’s still making mistakes you’d never expect. Particularly in the passing department, which was significantly below his standard.
Souray: B- He fired a completely ridiculous pass late in the game which caused an icing and had the Habs hemmed in their own zone for far too long. There were a few turnovers and ill-adviced plays, as usual, but at least he’s chipping the glass more often. Yes, he has a howitzer from the point, and he scored again, but perhaps it’s better to use him, in general, as a #4 or 5 guy, rather than a #1 or two guy and lessen his ice time.
Streit: B+ By far the best defender on the night, he angled out his attacker, he played safe and smart at the back, and he’s the only defender who continually pinches in the attack – and no surprise that when he’s on the ice we get more scoring chances.
Bonk: B He and his entire line weren’t nearly as effective tonight as last game. He was average, at best, though at least you can rely on his defensive game.
Higgins: A- Another highly spirited game. His goal was the result of a second effort and his continual efforts all throughout the game caused no end of trouble to the Islanders. No longer does the first line struggle with board battles, Higgins wins far more than he loses.
Johnson: B+ As mentioned, his line was pretty average tonight, but at least he had was a little more creative in the attacking zone. I felt he was the leader of the checking line on this night.
Koivu: B+ A very good game from the captain, however he lost the puck on the side boards in the attacking zone more than he normally would. At least he was attacking all night, and his constant movement and intelligence with the puck created a good number of chances.
Kostitsyn: B- His first period wasn’t bad, he was horrid in the second, and in the third he was flying out there. The impression I get from him is that this is a typical game. Much like Kovalev, he’s not going to give you sixty minutes of flash and dazzle and hard work, rather he’ll give you a few flying shifts and another few which aren’t as great. Still, if he could match the intensity of his third period all the time, we’ve got a champion for certain. He was winning his battles, was beating men to the puck, and was even throwing his weight around. Not to mention, of course, his talent for shooting the puck.
Lapierre: B- His first two periods were disappointing to say the least, however at least he took it upon himself to up his work rate for the third. He was almost rewarded a couple of times as he went to the net but was just unable to bury his chances.
Milroy: B I really like this kid. He goes out and gives you an honest effort every game, works hard in the defensive zone to ensure few to no errors, and has enough talent offensively to make things happen in the attacking zone. Add his consistent work at finishing his checks, and you have what I’d call a prototypical fourth liner.
Murray: B- Two periods of poorer play followed by a third period of a much higher quality. Most disappointing was the fact that he turned away from finishing his check more than a couple of times. Not what you want to see from him. Couple of goals and suddenly the extra effort isn’t his bag anymore, it would seem.
Perezhogin: B Well, his confidence around the net certainly didn’t get any boosts today as he muffed an almost sure goal by hitting a defenders scrawny legs rather than the gaping cage behind. Still, he was pushing hard, using his speed more, and making things happen more than he has been.
Plekanec: B- When Bouillon gave away the puck for the third Islander goal while being under heavy pressure, instead of helping his teammate by supporting the puck, Plekanec was seemingly on his way out of the zone. ON the attacking side of the coin, he’s just not getting to the net as he should.
Ryder: B+ A very solid effort. He didn’t finish as many checks and his work rate wasn’t what it was last game, but it was certainly nothing to sneeze at. He was one of the few Canadiens who worked from the beginning of this game to the end, and as a result got a fair number of chances and helped his team a lot along the boards.
Samsonov: C+ He’s barely noticeable out there at times, and today didn’t even hold on to the puck for any length of time. He just has to be more proactive and go to the puck to get it, rather than wait for it to hit the tape on his stick.
PP: B+ Some good puck movement and some good chances led to a very good goal. Unfortunately, that isn’t consistent enough yet.
PK: A- Finally some relief on the penalty kill. They kept the puck to the outside and were ultra-aggressive. When you’re winning the races to the puck and winning your battles out there, it’s hard for the opposing team to get any scoring chances. A job well done tonight.
Carbonneau: B+ Very good decision in sitting out Latendresse tonight. He needed to take a break and watch the game from the stands. He also switched things up by putting Perezhogin on the second line from the fourth, swapping spots with Kostitsyn. While that may seem like a demotion to the latter, he got to play with two guys who played in Hamilton with him this season, and I believe that brought the best out of Kosty.
The loss comes down to two elements, quite simply. First of all, when you don’t play a full sixty minutes of hockey, you’re bound to put yourself in a hole unless you get really lucky. Secondly, if you can’t move the puck from your own end onwards, you’re always going to struggle to maintain control and to get anything going offensively. When the defense is that putrid with the puck, Montreal will have little to no chance of winning games. Of course, it doesn’t help when two bad goals get past your goalie – and in fact without those, Montreal wins – however it’s still a team sport, and the rest of the team can’t rely on the stopper.
To make things worse, the Canadiens have to face a Leaf team that’s fighting hard for the playoffs on Monday. Skip a beat in this one, and they could find themselves down by a bunch rather quickly. As it’ll be Monday evening, one has to wonder if that might be the last game for a player or two in a Canadiens jersey. Heck, maybe we witnessed a last game here today. The deadline is here, hopefully the Canadiens can ignore it and play a full sixty to beat the Leafs.
A Concerned Fan