Well, they certainly made it exciting. After crushing the Rangers in the second for five unanswered goals, the Canadiens made sure every fan’s ticket was well worth the price by allowing said Rangers back in the game before icing it late. While full marks cannot be giving to the team’s confidence nor it’s abilities under pressure, they can at least get high grades for resilience.
Most pleasing was the Canadiens’ attack. No long are they satisfied with dumping and praying, now the retain possession and attack the net with speed and skill – and a defender to help out. Isn’t it nice to see the pinches at the proper times to contain the puck in the opposition end. Combine that with a nasty forecheck and some endless hitting from what appear to be extremely enthusiastic players, and it’s no wonder the Habs have battled back into what stands as the final playoff position.
While mental gaffes still sting defensively, the attack has a multi-faceted bite not seen in, perhaps, years. With as many as three lines that can create chances and give the opposition headaches, it’s becoming downright fun to watch.
Could Gainey be moulding the new version of firewagon hockey?
Halak: B+ Poise. This kid has it in spades. That and the ability to stop, drop, and roll with the puck: in other words, he smothers those rebounds.
Bouillon: B He looks better all the time now and is doing those small things – like hitting – which he needs to do. Still made a few mental mistakes, though, that we shouldn’t see.
Dandenault: B Jumped in the rush a few times, though was still muscled down low.
Komisarek: B- Some difficulties with the Rangers who attacked with speed, but let’s be honest here, most teams attack him over Markov anyday, so he’s going to be well worked by evening’s end.
Markov: A No one wants to go near him, which is quite obvious. His one-on-one ability won most situations tonight. And suddenly, he’s blocking shots.
Niinimaa: B A passable game. He moved the puck effectively enough and didn’t get caught out defensively too much.
Souray: B- Prone as ever to defensive blunders. Hit and miss all night tonight; one moment he looked brilliant, the next looked the goat.
Begin: A- Charlie Hustle all night, banging and crashing and even potting a goal for good measure. Agitator extraordinaire, when he’s on his game like tonight, he adds a whole other dimension.
Bonk: B+ Shut his mouth and knew his role: laid the smackdown on Jagr limiting the superstar’s room on the ice all night.
Higgins: B A relatively quiet night, though penalties played a role in his lack of ice time five-on-five. The whole line didn’t seem to get into the game until the second period.
Johnson: B+ Smart, strong defensive game and a little flair on attack. While helping to shut down the Rags’ best, he also spend some time teasing the opposition goal.
Koivu: B+ It’ll never be called one of his best games, yet he was extremely effective in moving the puck in the attacking third – and tonight the shooters put on the finishing touch.
Kostitsyn: B A couple of extremely splashy plays, there’s no doubt this kid has learned how to show up most nights. Best thing is that he’s becoming a bull out there and even when he loses the puck, he works to get it back.
Kovalev: B+ He’s scoring the goals which is great. Better than that, though, he worked hard off the puck, won some battles he wouldn’t normally, and was moving at high intensity for the bulk of the affair. Could do with less mental mistakes in his own zone, though.
Lapierre: B A relatively quiet night, but that was due in large part to the penalty parade. That said, his PK work was exceptional.
Latendresse: B- A victim of the numbers game on special teams, his ice time is necessarily diminished. When he was on, he was good and not great. I’d like to see more banging.
Plekanec: B+ From the second period on, he was an extremely agile attacker. The best part to his whole game, though, is the fact that when his line loses the puck, he’s more than able to get back and reclaim it for the next attack.
Ryder: A- Super hustle all night – exactly what got him to the NHL. HIts, second and third efforts, and he was rewarded with a goal.
Streit: A- Is there anything he can’t do? One wonders if he might actually pitch a shutout if he was stuck in net for a game. He’s so strong on the boards for a forward, he works his butt off at both ends, and he always makes things happen.
PP: B It started out great and then petered out. By the time the five-on-three came around, it fell absolutely flat and they managed not only to look horrible and not retain possession, but to actually lose the advantage because of a penalty.
PK: B+ Aggressive, smart and contained, the multiple units gave the Habs the opportunity to win. Early on, in particular, they shifted the momentum for long periods.
Carbonneau: B+ Suddenly his system has been bought into heart and soul. I’m not sure when the message was heard or how he managed to finally get it across, but this team is working again. Can’t argue that at all.
If you have a tape of the game, I urge you to watch the Habs because they played as a unit tonight. The gap control between forwards and defenders was good, they had confidence in each other’s abilities – passing the puck to a partially covered man knowing he could do the job – and they supported player movement all over the ice. I really enjoy seeing a pinch to maintain an attack which is only possible because the defender knows someone is temporarily doubling back.
Two big games late this week with efforts against the Sabres and Senators. At least the team will be competitive in any game it plays with consistent effort like the one they put forth this evening.
A Concerned Fan