John Leclair is one scary, scary man – to a Habs fan. Time and time again he has taken joy in lighting up his former mates, even when his Flyers teammates were undeserving of a victory. Tonight, Saku Koivu, Mike Ribeiro, and the Montreal Canadiens will visit Leclair and the Flyers in Philly, in hopes of leaving their opponents with enough bumps and bruises to compensate for Leclair’s 30 goals in 32 games against the CH.
The Habs will enter Philly relying heavily on Jose Theodore, who will be the starter tonight against Robert Esche, to backstop them through the widespread Philadelphia attack. Captain Koivu however, would like to see the team perform without putting all the weight on their allstar goalie’s shoulders, “It was an overall bad game from us,” said Saku in response to a lacklustre team effort in Saturday’s 2-2 with New York. Koivu didn’t have a particularily great game, as he seemed to enter stetches of hot and cold, yet an off game from the fiery Finn usually means he’ll be back throwing his wee body around and creating as much as he can offensively.
Koivu, though, won’t be the only man that the Flyers defence, which is expected to be aided by newly acquired Dany Markov tonight, will be keying on. Mike Ribeiro is one of three Habs, the others being sturdy Slovak RIchard Zednik, and hard-shooting Pierre Dagenais, that are riding lengthy point-streaks. Dagenais’ knack for the net, chemistry with Ribeiro, and hand-breaking shot have been the three things he has relied upon to build up a six game streak, in which the 6’5 winger has five goals. Zednik and Ribeiro, meanwhile, currently sail along on pretty little four game streaks, with four and nine points, respectively. Ribeiro’s plus-10 rating sits him second in the team in that catergory, behind vet Patty Brisebois. Brisebois has yet to record a goal thus far in 2003-04, something he’ll be looking to accomplish yet again.
On the topic of not scoring goals, look no further than Simon Gagne. The 23-year-old speedster from Ste-Foy is making a strong case to be one of the year’s premier disappointments, going pointless in his last eight contests and posting just 22 points on the season. Not even the brilliantly talented Mike Comrie could wake Gagne up. At the other end of the line, Robert Esche has played great for the Flyers, back stopping the team to a pair of wins over the first place in the east Maple Leafs, and is being rewarded by Coach Ken Hitchcock with the start in place of former Hab Jeff Hackett. Esche has allowed just one goal in his past two starts, all the while posting an impressive .982 save percentage. If the numbers of both Theodore and Esche of late are any indication, this could be one heck of a goaltenders duo.
Post your thoughts all night long on the HW Forum, and GO HABS.