It wasn’t pretty, but the Habs got the job done in Nashville thanks to some determined work despite going down by two goals three times. In the end it was Koivu roofing one from his backhand over Vokoun during the shootout and Halak stopping a stumbling Forsberg that assured the victory. It was another night where the power play was excellent, yet another night where the penalty kill struggled badly. Of course, there’s always the argument that the Habs won in regulation, but they still count scoring on your own net as goals for the opposition.
What was most pleasing was the sustained effort despite the fact that the Habs were plagued with bad bounces and had to struggle from behind all night. Where two weeks ago this team would have rolled over to play dead, tonight the intensity was maintained from start to finish. There were, of course, some poorer performances amongst the troops, but by and large the team showed the same spirit to surge forward that they’ve displayed in the last few games.
Halak: B+ I’m sure there’ll be plenty out there who’ll believe that Aebischer will absolutely get the next start based on the fact that Halak allowed five goals tonight. Well, the first was scored by Dandenault and the last was scored by Souray. There was a deflection and also two power play goals for which Halak had zero chance. Add to that his brilliant stop early in the game on Forsberg which surely kept the heads up on the bench, and it’s this writer’s opinion that Halak did everything right to deserve another start.
Bouillon: B A no-nonsense, nothing special game from the Cube. He was solid in his own end and contributed as he usually does on attack. His play was everything one would expect.
Dandenault: C+ Forget the fact that he scored on his own net, at least he was in the right position in his coverage. The problem is that, for a lot of the rest of the night, he either was slightly behind the play, or else making very poor decisions. At least we got to see his great speed tonight as he hustled back to help break up a two-on-one. Still, it was not a game that inspired a lot of confidence.
Komisarek: C+ It was a bit of a struggle at times and, in fact, he sat out over half the third period. Once again, he had difficulties moving the puck, even when he had a little time. It looked like one of those nights where he just fought the puck all evening. He did, however, make a brilliant play to lift Legwand’s stick on a breakaway.
Markov: B- He looks like he’s closing in on his superior play. His passing has improved a lot and he’s not fighting the puck nearly as much. He did make some odd plays deep in his own zone and lost the puck more than he normally would, but the trend over the last few games would seem to indicate that he’s on his way back to normal.
Souray: B+ An extremely solid game from the most talked about trade candidate on the Canadiens. He was simple with the puck, his passes were crisp, and he played a very solid and mean defensive game.
Streit: A- Streit is like Markov in that he doesn’t go for any kind of big hit, rather he angles his man out on the boards and then uses very good hand-eye coordination to win the puck and move it along. He was very involved in the attack tonight, and he’s gaining in confidence game by game from the back end. His pinch was picture perfect for the goal he scored and his passing rivals Markov at times.
Bonk: A- Another excellent game. The Habs really need to study his case long and hard before his contract runs out. This is one player they really need in the future. It’s not just his defensive prowess that stands out, it’s the fact that he can control the puck for extended periods in the offensive zone – a tiring thing to deal with for defenders.
Johnson: B+ He looks about as strong on the puck as he was so long ago before he took the knee-on-knee hit that set him back. Now that his confidence seems to be back, it’ll be pleasing to see him continue to jump into the attack a little more. Tonight he got a few more chances than he normally would have.
Koivu: A Any lingering worries about the captain should have been laid to rest after tonight’s performance against a very good team. He made some exceptional plays with the puck and as a result his line had numerous chances. His confidence is most apparent now: there were a couple of extended attacking rushes which resulted in some exciting play and close encounters with the opposition goal.
Kostitsyn: N/A Not a disappointing game at all, though he made a few painful giveaways. At least he made up for it by working hard in the attacking zone. One thing I really like is that he always seems to be trying to move away from coverage, though in one instance that probably cost him a real chance at a goal. What he needs to do now is start taking occasional chances in the attacking zone and use his flair to make things happen.
Lapierre: A- High intensity game all around tonight. He was slamming bodies and was an excellent pest. Lapierre seems to me to be Begin with a little more skill as long as he stays consistent. While his line struggled in the defensive zone at times, he was doing his job.
Latendresse: C- He’s taking too many penalties and they seem to be a result of not taking that extra stride, but rather putting out his stick to get the dirty work done. This was a significantly sub-standard Latendresse we saw tonight, and even his first effort was lacking, forget second efforts.
Milroy: N/A Here’s a measure of how much he’s impressed his coach: Milroy is now taking fairly regular shifts on the penalty kill. He’s a fairly high intensity player who finishes his hits and, while not incredible around the net, certainly knows the way and is willing to get his nose dirty. He does, however, lose his defender if there’s a pinch sometimes – one of the big transition points from the AHL to the big league, I’m sure.
Murray: A If you watched him play and were convinced it was Begin wearing the 57 sweater, you would be forgiven. Murray was all over the place; he played extremely well on the defensive line and also chipped in a goal while he was falling after being hammered from behind.
Perezhogin: C+ I’ll give him points for getting to the net and scoring the power play goal – a zinger of a wrist shot. That said, he struggles at times and you just get the feeling he’s almost lost out there occasionally. One thing is for sure, his confidence is very low right now, though hopefully that goal will help. He too still struggles when his defender pinches.
Plekanec: C+ Not even close to the same player we saw last month. Plex is struggling with the puck, his passing is, at times, atrocious, and while his positional game defensively seems good, he’s being pushed around more than I’d like to see.
Ryder: A- Another dynamite game. Quite honestly, when he plays like this, he’s a power forward in every sense of the word. His finished checks leave players wondering what hit them, as evidenced in the first when he hammered Weber who literally picked himself up and stopped everything while he tried to figure out who hit him. One key to Ryder’s game is movement and positioning in the offensive zone. Right now, he’s got it going.
Samsonov: B+ Oh, if only we could find some consistency here, the Habs would have something great. One shift he lights it up, making some fine play, controlling the puck, going to the net, then on the next he gives away the puck and makes the effort to get back, but forgets to continue that effort in retrieving the puck from his man. Samsonov shies away from contact more than anyone else on this team, and it’s a shame. He’s solid on his skates and, if he chose to take those hits, could probably be extremely effective.
Carbonneau: B+ He’s not shy using his young talent, and I believe that’s a very good thing. Gainey made it very clear that this organization would be built primarily from within, so the coach had better use those kids when the opportunity arises. The penalty kill needs a few good, long workouts to get rid of some of the kinks, but other than that, the team is performing as well as it did before Christmas.
For an example of the different speeds of the AHL and the NHL, one need only watch Kostitsyn’s penalty shot. I’m quite sure that would have had a very good shot at going in at the minor league level, but up here, that was an easy save for Vokoun. It honestly looked like Kostitsyn was moving in slow motion for that shot. If he can find that next gear and step up his game, then he has all the talent in the world to succeed. Another example would be Halak’s blocker side, where the bulk of the non-deflected shots have gone in on him. In the AHL, I’m sure he’s more than fast enough to easily knock the shots out of the air, but here in the NHL where the shots are laser fast, it’s not quite so simple. Hopefully the adjustment period for these two is relatively short.
Set your clocks carefully, the Habs game on Long Island is in the early afternoon rather than at the usual starting time. This is another of those ‘must win’ games they’ll be playing from now until the end of the season.
Oh, and hold on to your hats, that deadline is fast approaching.
A Concerned Fan