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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
I can only hope that those of you who were watching this game got smart after a period and a half and went to do something useful. In front of the 17 Sabre fans in an arena that should be renamed The Big Snooze, Montreal failed to show leaving the Sabres to play against a bunch of kids taken off the street.
Seriously, though, there are some significant problems in Montreal. The days of living dangerously are finally catching up with this crew, and instead of getting a few lucky bounces for wins, they're getting only what they deserve. Except for a handful of players, this was yet another dismal effort. One would think that a single player being out of the lineup would have less impact than this, but Kovalev's injury has this team spiralling into the Abyss.
The simple fact is this: without another player with exceptional talent, the opponents can simply concentrate on marking Koivu, and since Ribeiro, huge skills and all, is completely failing to do anything useful out there, Montreal finds itself unable to generate virtually any offence at all. Despite the plethora of shots, this was a highly inoffensive match for the Habs. Most shots were from the outsides or the point, and Biron had to do little to stop the puck. Other than Koivu and Markov, there doesn't seem to be a creative instinct amongst the rest of the team - at least not tonight.
Danis: He was okay, but was slow to recover his position particularly on rebounds off the boards behind the net. Further, he let out rebounds that reminded me of Luongo in his first year - almost back to the point. B-
Streit: Aside from a good pass or two, he was weak. He was beaten down low fairly often, and he made some awful giveaways. C-
Dandenault: Solid game. Nothing flashy, but was strong defensively. He may not be the offensive threat we thought he'd be, but I'll take steady over flashy and dangerous - to us. B
Bouillon: A little less consistent tonight than he usually is. He made a few questionable plays, but at least his effort was good, which can't be said for the bulk of the rest. B-
Komisarek: He made a couple of dangerous giveaways along the boards, but in front of the net he was very strong. He is starting to use his body more, and is learning to pick his spots well. When everyone else looks this bad, he is a breath of fresh air because his effort from game to game is very consistent. B
Rivet: I feel in the last couple of games that he's trying to do too much. It's all very subtle, like an extra step or a pass that he wouldn't have normally done, but I think it's introduced just a little error into his game. On the other hand, he's one of the few you can count on to bring it all every night. Funny, I think our defence, though somewhat weaker overall, is more consistent with effort overall. B-
Markov: With the utter lack of offence, Markov really is trying to take a lot more on his shoulders. Fortunately, he has the talent to do it. While continuing strong defensive play, he's managed to join, and even lead, the attack quite often. Now, tonight he was beaten a few times in his own end on plays he would normally have stopped. B+
Dagenais: You have to love the RDS commentators. When Dags makes a good play, they gush for the next five minutes. It's a shame they don't see the overall picture - that he really can't contribute anymore with a slower game. Even after graduating to the second line, he contributed pretty much nothing. D+
Plekanec: Ah to be a rookie in Montreal. Aside from a flurry or two from Koivu's line, the only good offensive play in the first period and a half came from Plex who skated around three defenders and got a shot on goal while drawing a penalty. His hard work and solid play earned him less than 10 minutes on the ice, while others, who were worthless, earned a whole lot more. B
Perezhogin: The honest truth is that he looks like he's struggling out there. With confidence. After being taken off the first line for a mistake. Way to bring the rookies along. C
Sundstrom: I just love watching him get in the way of passes and clearing attempts and plays to try and get the puck deep. His positioning is top notch and he breaks up so much. B
Bonk: Talk about your frustrated players. He misses open nets and tonight couldn't win a faceoff to save his life. Yeah, he's still making strong defensive plays, but with Koivu covered with a blanket and Ribeiro not doing a thing, we need to look elsewhere for some help. Hey Radek, HELP! B-
Begin: I'm not sure if he's injured or what, but we only got flashes of Begin tonight. A few shifts we saw him flying out there, and then there would be a couple where there was utterly nothing, not even a token hit. That was a little disappointing. C+
Higgins: He left the game a couple of times, though there was never any indication of a reason that I heard. Shame, because he looked okay on the shifts he managed. B-
Ryder: This is a hard one to consider. He looked like he was working hard the few times the puck was in the opposing end, however he never had any real chances, and, quite honestly, there didn't look like there was much opportunity for him to make much on his own. Part of this has to be a lack of effort, for sure, but the other part... B-
Ribeiro: ...the other part is here. When you're struggling and the only thing that you really have been doing fairly well - passing the puck - is also horrible? Not so good. Ribs sent out a pile of horrid passes tonight, and followed that up with half effort and weak play. At least he realizes it: at one point he yelled at himself so loudly you could hear him at home. Can I just point out that he played three less shifts than Koivu and still managed some three minutes more on the ice? See a problem there? C-
Bulis: He's totally lost on that first line. He seems to be working hard, but he doesn't know where to go, is having trouble dealing with the puck, and can't finish - or even come close to finishing - at all. The first line, at this point, seems to be over his head, and I wonder whether he would be better served, with Higgins, on the second line with Ribeiro, pushing Ryder to the first. B-
Zednik: Lovely goal. Now, what about the time where you had the open net and hit the glass? And the partial break where you hit Biron square in the logo. If you want to point fingers at someone to be the leader of those who looked weak and uninspired? Look no further. His play is going downhill very quickly. He's not a good passer, and when his shooting game gets this bad, it's painful to watch. Heck, he can't even keep control of the puck anymore. C-
Koivu: There's only so much you can do when everyone around you is faltering. The first period was a struggle, and the second not much better. He looked to have his usual jump in the third, but had no one but Markov who could help him generate anything. I'm not saying he had a bad game, because he still worked his butt off, but now that he's the focus of the opposition, and because there's no other real offensive threat on the team, he's getting bottled. It's not as bad as last year because there's no hook and grab going on, but he needs help. B+
Julien: You can always tell when Julien is getting frustrated because that's when you can't tell who is going to be on what line next. And of course we all know that playing a 35 second shift with someone once or twice a game is a GREAT way to find and generate chemistry. Oy. And I guess I'll refrain from anymore rookie comments.
PP: Static and the only reason they got the one goal is because Koivu and Markov were brilliant. Other than that, they barely even maintained the puck in the opponent zone.
PK: Slow, sluggish, and weak. While last game saw a great effort, this one was completely the opposite.
Fan's Game Puck: I could give it to any fan that actually watched that entire game. I'll tell you one thing, it's games like that that make me want to go to the HabsWorld admin and demand a raise. There should be awards for being able to make it through those games. On the ice we'll choose Koivu who managed to find ways to create offence on a semi-regular basis despite being behind the eight-ball.
You'll never guess the three forwards who were the only forwards to stay on the ice for longer than an average of 50 seconds a shift. If you guessed Ribs, Dags, and Ryder, you still don't get anything. How they manage the ice time they got while being as utterly useless as they were boggles the mind. I feel bad for Ryder, actually, since I think he deserves better.
Somehow, now, we, as Habs fans, have to find a way to get up for another game tomorrow night. It's against Toronto so that could be really good, or really bad. Good because, hopefully, the team can manage to get motivated to play - after all, it IS the Leafs. Bad because, if they don't, we'll not hear the end of it from the fans who live in The Centre of the Universe.
A Concerned Fan