First game of
the season, playing against the team’s most hated rival, and the Habs come out
on top. Oh it feels so good, doesn’t it? The game started out fairly back and
forth with both sides getting good chances. Then the Leafs kind of took over. I
had to keep checking to make sure I wasn’t watching a tape of a game from last
season, what with all the time Montreal spent in it’s own zone chasing the puck.
For all of head coach Jacques Martin’s preaching of puck possession, the
Canadiens sure did spend a lot of time without it. Can we chalk that up to
players not quite knowing the new system? Or are we seeing the 08/09 Habs
defensive irresponsibility all over again? It’s hard to laud or lambaste a
player after only one regular season game, and it’s certainly impossible to find
any trends. Therefore, take these player grades for what they are worth: a look
at what we can hope will continue throughout the season, and what we can hope
will change quickly.
It should be noted that I missed the first 5
minutes of the 3rd period, so my apologies if I missed anything important. We’re
starting the season out simple with the themes for the player grades: here’s a
look at the "Positive" and the "Negative."
Representing the Lollipop Guild: Both Brian Gionta
and Mike Cammalleri made their presence known tonight. It was good to see the
two short guys out-muscling two of Toronto’s bigger defensemen and scoring the
blink-and-you-missed-it powerplay goal in the 1st period. Cammalleri also showed
his potentially game-breaking skill with his speedy, overtime rush that led to
Josh Gorges game-winning goal. The only question regarding these two is if
they’ll be able to keep this up over the long grind of the season.
Clang!: That sound of puck hitting post appeared to
wake up Carey Price. He looked a little shaky up until a Mike Komisarek shot hit
the iron bar to his left, but from there it was solid play the rest of the way.
He faced 46 shots, many with bodies blocking his view, but Price made the
calming saves when things got a bit scrambled in Montreal’s zone. This is a good
sign for the season (for goaltending, anyway. But more on the opposite side of
that later in the article).
Stepping Up: Andrei Markov, Montreal’s best
defensemen – offensive and defensive – is injured in the 3rd period. Last
season, the team would have been screwed and the game would have been over. This
season, there’s Josh Gorges smacking adversity in the face and saying, "Well
heck, I can do that!" After Markov was injured, he launched a shot that Glen
Metropolit tipped in for a goal on the powerplay, stood up Mikhail Grabovsky at
the blue line in the last few seconds of the 3rd period, and then followed up on
Mike Cammalleri’s rush and rifled in the rebound for the overtime win. He wasn’t
playing all that great before the Markov injury, but he boosted his game when it
The 4th Line: A grinder, an enforcer, and a two way
centerman. I couldn’t quite figure out the personality of the 4th line, but they
were awfully effective in their roles. Georges Laraque skated better than he
ever has in Habs uniform, and helped create energy any time I saw him on the
ice. Travis Moen, after a quiet pre-season, showed a bit of why he was signed.
He’s a crease crashin’, punch throwin’, body checkin’ beast. (Too bad he’s the
Tom Kostopoulos of fighting.) And Glen Metropolit … any time I think I have
this guy figured out, he throws me a curveball. Metropolit was effective in
every role he had. Kyle Chipchura looks like he could have a hard time finding a
spot on the roster coming back from injury.
Mike Komisarek: He went to the penalty box 5 times,
and Montreal capitalized on it twice with two powerplay goals, including the
game tying goal. Thanks Mikey! You look great in blue!
Thumbs Up: Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, Carey
Georges Laraque, Glen Metropolit, Maxim Lapierre, Josh Gorges.
This Looks Familiar…: Outshot 46 to 27. So last season’s team is
blown apart to bring in bigger defensemen who clear the front of the net,
forwards with defensive responsibility, and overall bring in players that will
fit into a puck possession system… and they get outshot 46 to 27. Thankfully
Price was on his game tonight, but he was hung out to dry too many times last
season by his teammates letting through 30-40 shots a night. Hopefully Martin’s
system starts to take hold sooner rather than later.
Too Cute, Too Early: I appreciate that Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta
and Mike Cammalleri are world class talents, and Gomez specifically is a wizard
with his playmaking, but the fancy passing plays didn’t really go anywhere
tonight. This early, I’d rather see some simple plays that work rather than
difficult plays that don’t. I understand the need to build chemistry, but the
extra passes were a bit much in a tight game.
Secondary Scoring: The 2nd line guys didn’t really instill much
confidence tonight in their ability to backup the 1st line. Sure, Tomas Plekanec
got 2 points, but he took low percentage shots all night and didn’t get dirty.
Andrei Kostitsyn got better as the night went on, but he was out of sync with
whoever he was on the ice with, and then tried to do it himself. Max Pacioretty
gave a spirited effort physically, but his offensive instincts were none
existent. More is needed from the 2nd tier.
Thumbs Down: Andrei Kostitsyn, Matt D’Agostini, Hal Gill, Defensive coverage.
|Kept the Habs in the game. The team owes him a steak dinner.|
|B-||Threw every hit
with meaning. Offensive game not existent.
Lost the puck in the neutral zone too often, but he looks poised to
|A||Went hard to the
net and buzzed on the ice every shift.
determination and speed to burn. Tied for most shots on net for the Habs.
for most shots on net for Habs. Backed off from the play too much.
clued in that the game started. Needs
to wakeup and fast!
uneventful game. I expected more from him.
|B-||69% in faceoffs.
Was hungry for the puck, but his linemates weren’t often with him.
|C||Took a lazy
penalty, disappeared after the first period.
A guy who runs the goalie, fights twice and scores a goal all in 1 game?
|A||Given PP, PK
and ES duty. 1G/1A. Pretty good for a waiver pickup!
Skated well, tried to be physical. Scored the takedown in his fight.
Same old Markov! Let’s hope the injury isn’t serious.
|B-||Didn’t look sharp,
but didn’t hurt the team with his play. 24:42 minutes played.
Lack of mobility is scary, but a strong presence on the blue line.
|A-||Started out weak,
ended strong. Hopefully it doesn’t take an injury for him to be dominate.
Soft plays all night long. 5 giveaways on the night.
|B||Strong with the
body, weak with the puck. Good start to the season for him though.
|Powerplay||A-||Proved they didn’t
need Markov to score with the man advantage.
The 5 on 3 goal was off a broken play, but players were left open every
This article was written by Tristan Tapscott.
Any spelling or grammatical errors are just offseason rustiness.