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If you've ever played sports, sometimes you just know when your team comes out flat and it's going to be a very long struggle all night to make anything work. Tonight was that night for the Canadiens. Passes were weak and inaccurate. The skating was lethargic and unconvincing. And except for a few minutes in the third, this was a team that did not deserve to win.
The Canadiens lost just about every one-on-one situation, were second to the puck most of the night, and looked like a team that wanted to be anywhere but where it was. And while yes, they did come out with the victory, it seems that over the last couple of games, they've hit something of a skid and are just not playing the same hockey they were earlier on.
Danis: A very solid game. The guy looks like he has ice in his veins. Also, he can play the puck outside his crease and it doesn't make me crazy. Great base position, efficient moves, and he kept his eye on the puck well all night. B+
Komisarek: I'm beginning to wonder if half Komi's troubles start with his playing partner. More times than I can count he'd get a suicide pass from Souray and no wonder he struggles with confidence when he can't make those plays perfectly every time. Otherwise, he was smart and efficient with the puck, and he shows much less hesitation than he has in recent weeks. B
Bouillon: A very strong game. I think the message for he, Markov, and Dandenault was to support the attack far more than they had been, and Cube was right in there. He was the direct reason Montreal scored the tying goal, as he kept the puck in at the blueline repeatedly. He was excellent at the back as well, and had a much easier time of things against the somewhat smaller and quicker Sabre attackers. A-
Dandenault: Good game, but nothing special. He's concentrating on defence and is doing well back there. It was he who kept the puck in the Sabres zone on the winning goal. B+
Souray: From suicide plays to his partner to giveaways at his own blueline, this was some of the worst we've seen from Souray. His concentration was brutal and he looked like he really should not have been out there. While his positioning was generally good, that was the only good thing about his game. C-
Rivet: Typical solid game from Rivet. Nothing splashy, but he gets things done. He's protecting his goalie very well these days, not letting anyone muscle in. B
Markov: His defensive game was good as usual, but tonight he really pushed the offensive. He was jumping in and his great passing made a lot of things happen out there. While he only got one assist out of it, the simple fact is that, without him, there would have been negligable offence from the Habs. A-
Higgins: Excellent game. I love watching him with the puck in traffic. Somehow he's quite often able to move it around two and three defenders and make something happen. Tonight he and his linemates were the best the Canadiens had, and because of their work, they benefitted from plenty of scoring chances. Higgins had at least three on his own. A-
Perezhogin: He used his speed to score that goal in the first. When he gets going and gets to the right spaces, he is a strong component out there. In all probablility, he should have replaced Dags on the second line after the first period. B
Plekanec: Much better from him as he showed what he could do in multiple situations. He worked really hard and his successes tonight should give him more confidence going into tomorrow night. B
Begin: Two relatively quiet periods followed by one extremely good period. I think, when the final buzzer went, he was jumping for joy at beating his former team - the team that put him on waivers. We'll just not ask what they were thinking. B-
Sundstrom: Defensively solid and offensively... Okay, he scored the goal, and that was great. He even had one other half chance which was somewhat remarkable. However that goal was almost despite himself. I think Begin hit his stick more than he got his stick to the puck. That said, he was one of the most consistent Habs on this night. B+
Bulis: Disappointing game, honestly. He didn't seem to be putting as much into the game as he usually does. I found his passing to be quite lacking at times. Now, that's not to say that he didn't make the occasional incursion with his speed, but it wasn't nearly as consistent as usual. B-
Dagenais: I guess we all knew it would come, but man he was lousy tonight. He wasn't getting in any kind of position and he was useless in his own end. I suppose we've seen the best of him, though I'm sure we'll see more of him. F
Ryder: The one person on this line who was really moving all night. Though his first and second were somewhat quiet, he at least looked like he was trying. That goal in the third capped off a brilliant shift where he'd used his body and his skills incredibly. B+
Ribeiro:He made a couple of really nice plays, including the pass to Ryder for the tying goal where he showed patience while his mates got open. Unfortunately, for the rest of the game he was either invisible or losing the puck. A second line centre can't look that bad that often and have us hoping to compete. C-
Zednik: Suffered from a serious lack of concentration tonight. Pucks were hopping off his stick, he couldn't pass, and eventually he was taken off the first line in favour of the hard working Ryder. Typically, he had a couple of chances to score and completely whiffed on the puck. He was a serious weak point out there. C
Kovalev: A totally uni-directional game. He looked brilliant controlling the puck and attacking the Buffalo net. Some of the plays he made were unreal, and at times he tried to pick the team onto his back to help out. Yes, it was too much, but when virtually everyone else was being lethargic, I appreciated it. However defensively he was nothing more than a cancer. On one play, Koivu just missed him with a pass at the Buffalo net, he then proceeded to waltz back to his own end - fortunately no goal was scored. B-
Koivu: Decent evening, at the least. He wasn't dominant, but he made his plays and created chances. He seemed to be fighting the puck as well, at times, tonight, though he dealt with it better than most because, when he saw he was having problems, he worked harder. The team could also take lessons from him on line changes. When he needs to go off, he rockets to the bench. B+
Julien: Lindy Ruff is a good coach, but he was out-coached at the end of this game. Ruff was trying to keep Briere away from Begin's line, so at the end of the game, Julien put out that line and kept the Sabre number one line glued to the bench. It's the little things that win games...
PP and PK: Honestly, no matter the numbers, both units lacked energy tonight. The PK looked like a whimpy box that barely kept up with the puck, and the PP could barely gain the zone to make anything happen. Tomorrow had better see us with better energy.
Fan's Game Puck: I'm going a little out of the box tonight, probably, in giving this to Ryder. While he may have seemed invisible for two periods, I believe it was entirely because of his linemates who let him down. If you watched his game, he was working hard and trying to make things happen every time he was out there.
There will be some harsh words from the coaching staff tonight and tomorrow in preparation for the rematch. Certainly, we cannot come out and play as poorly as we did for a second night. We were lucky on this one, and we've used a lot of luck this year. It's going to run out soon.
Now, having said that, we're 10-3-1. The attribute that everyone is going to start associating with the Canadiens is resilience. We're showing that, no matter the odds, we can make things happen - that we have the guns to make things happen. And *that* is what keeps the good teams winning.