I don’t think there’ll be too many who disagree with me when I say that, if we continue to play much as we did tonight against the Senators, we’re going to put ourselves in good position to make it to the playoffs. The kind of intensity shown tonight was impressive, though it was equalled with the commitment the players gave to the system.
I think that’s the key to this game, and to our chances for the rest of the year. When we play a solid defence, like we did tonight, and supplement that with an effective counter-attack type game, then we’re probably going to be more successful than not. We don’t have the elements to play a more offensive style game, so the patience we displayed tonight is critical.
Something else that people need to consider: the Habs had the 7th man completely on their side tonight. As the game wore on, the crowd was louder and louder and it gave one the impression that it was a playoff encounter. *This* is where Hab fans are above and beyond in a lot of respects; not when we’re in-fighting over nonsense like that which the media trotted out to us over the last few weeks. I’ve no doubt that the passion of the crowd inspired the team as much as the team spurred the crowd. Keep that in mind when you feel like booing…
Theo: Stand-up game. He could do nothing about the two goals against him; the first came off of Quintal’s skate and the second had Quintal acting like a door in front of him. Poor Theo still hasn’t seen that second enter the net, I don’t think. His rebound control was excellent (critical against a team like the Sens) and his lateral movements (also critical with a puck moving team like
Bouillon: I think they were generous when they gave the Cube first star, quite honestly. He made a few errors with the puck tonight, and coughed one up deep in the zone that almost cost the team, if not for a great play by his partner of the moment (Rivet). This was one of those game, and he has them now and again, where he over-handles the puck and gets himself in all sorts of trouble. The lightning fast Sens almost made him pay a few times. B-
Brisebois: I’ll not complain about his defensive game since it was, as has become standard this year, very solid. He was particularly good positionally down low and stopped a lot of plays not with a big hit, but by putting his body in the way of movement. His big problem was his decision-making with the puck. Numerous time he had passes picked off, and that’s something he’s got to be very aware of. The chip off the boards should be his safety net in games like this. B
The pair: Tough to mark any defensive pairings tonight because there was a lot of mix and match, however when these two were paired, I felt there were a few communication gaffes. The “you take it” “No, you take it” syndrome. Perhaps a lot of the problem had to do with the fact neither was great with the puck tonight, but they can’t let the other team take over, they still have to take charge. C+
Quintal: Despite being mentioned in the two goals against, I felt he played his second excellent game in a row. As I’ve mentioned before, if you attack him with speed, he’s dead in the water, but Ottawa only managed to do that on one occasion (Havlat winging one off the post). Positionally he was sound and he used his body very well down low to limit movement and angle plays out. B+
Dykhuis: Certainly there’s going to be a lot of up-in-arms after his two giveaways, one resulting in a goal. However, we have to remember that this is an AHL-quality defender who’s up here to cover in an injury situation, and if you consider that usually he took his man out well and did the correct things with the puck, I don’t think anyone should be too disappointed. I honestly don’t think we can expect that much more from him. B-
The pair: Here, more than anywhere, we had problems. These two seemed to avoid talking together tonight and there were a couple of times I was thinking the Ottawa boys were just going to attack between these two and go for goal. That kind of play should never be allowed. C
Komisarek: The learning curve continues, though tonight it was another difficult night. His first couple of shifts were not great, and after that he didn’t see a lot of ice. However, and this is key for Hab fans, what you should know about those later shifts is that he was barely noticeable – and for a defender that’s a pretty good thing. When you notice a defender it means they’re either making a brilliant play, or screwing up. Since we don’t expect the former from him much yet, then it’s good it wasn’t the latter. Something else I’ve noticed, particularly down low, when he hits, he hits to knock people on their butts. While ostensibly this seems a good idea, in reality it means he’s throwing too much of himself into the hit and is therefore knocking himself off balance and taking himself out of the play. Physicality is required from him, but it must be controlled. C-
Rivet: Saved Bouillon’s bacon a couple of times, which was good. Tonight, though, I felt he was doing a little of the Cube thing and hanging onto the puck for much too long. It was getting him, and by extension the team, into trouble far too often. Positionally he was good, and in front of the net I feel he’s getting better and better, but like Cube (and Komi for that matter) he’s got to get rid of that puck quicker. B
The pair: Interestingly, I don’t think Komi had much time with anyone but Rivet, which should tell you a lot about what they think of Rivet’s play these days. I’m very satisfied with the way Rivet is bringing along his second protégé (Markov being the first) and over time, I think this could become a pretty good pairing. Tonight they were good, but they weren’t out there much. N/A
Langdon: Please suh, may I play a little more? N/A
Begin: I’d like to start seeing a platoon situation develop with him and Juneau. I’m no longer convinced that Joe deserves to have entire games on that third line, but neither am I convinced that he should be edited out of the play. Begin is such an energy guy that he makes things happen no matter where he is, and he’s defensively responsible enough to play that third line effectively. Tonight he scored his seventh because he worked his butt off, went to the net, paid the price, and whacked it home. B+
Ward: There’s no doubt that his defensive game has come a long, long way. He no longer over-pursues pucks thus throwing himself out of position, instead he’s usually in just the right place and has a knack for cutting out passes. His offensive game, however, rankles. Perhaps it’s good in the AHL, but not up here. B-
The trio: Obviously with Langdon playing just over four minutes the three didn’t get to play much, so there’s not a whole lot to say. In fact, I think the other two go more of their time on special teams than they did at five on five. N/A
Sundstrom: All those wonderful hip checks from yesterday were right out the window; I guess that’s too much physical activity in 24 hours. No question his defence was up to snuff tonight: he worked the Hossa line, but other than the final moments, he didn’t have a great offensive game. B-
Dackell: Let’s just talk about his intelligence for a moment. 99 times out of a hundred when a player gets a shot, they rifle it. Not Dax. Very often, he keeps his head up, waits until someone is there, or a screen is about to fly by, then puts it on net with precision. It’s this kind of thinking that I love. Now, take a look at the empty net goal and the work he did there. Instead of rushing things, he took his time, made a few deft moves, then…..continued to be patient. Instead of throwing the puck away, he killed the clock and was brilliant. These are the types of plays he does consistently. Now, add to that the fact that Hossa was specifically his man and managed a grand total of 0 shots…. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, he’s totally underrated and underappreciated. A-
Juneau: Oh it pains me to watch him offensively. He dumps it in and stays at the blueline half the time. Than again, there’s no doubting his defensive play. B
The trio: They didn’t create much offensively until the empty net goal, however defensively they shut down one of the better lines in the game today. ‘Nuff said. B+
Dagenais: I hate to say he’s going on a bit of a downward slide, but…. he’s going on a bit of a downward slide. The first game back after the benching was great, but since then he’s shown less and less each game. Not to say that he played particularly poorly, because he didn’t, but he didn’t throw himself into it like he had. That’s disappointing. C+
Ryder: My best friend is an Isles fan (no snickering) and he and I talk quite a bit about Hunter and Ryder. I know, through him, that Hunter has been pretty much the go-to guy on that club. He’s not entirely convinced when I tell him that Ryder’s been bordering on incredible here. Seems when we need a goal, or a timely play, or a timely hit, Ryder’s been there. Now, I still agree that Hunter or Raycroft should win that Calder, but I feel the gap is closing constantly. The kid is just an all-round player. Who’d have thought we’d have a rookie with 18!!! goals at this point – or even at all? A-
Ribeiro: Sometimes, those dipsy-doodle moves are great. Sometimes they almost cost us. Fortunately, Ribs has learned to play harder and harder and tonight when he blundered against Redden, he was the one who made it back to make that wonderful defensive play. *This* is the kind of two-way hard work I want to see from him. He may not have got any points tonight, but it’s this kind of hard work that will, in the end, net him far more in the future. Now, it wasn’t all roses tonight, because I thought he was a little worse for wear in the second, however he came back strong to finish the game, and that’s a very positive sign. Especially in a playoff intensity game! B+
The trio: More and more, despite all Ribeiro’s natural talents, I feel that Ryder is making this line his own and is carrying it. He’s the one who makes those hustle plays and works the puck out in the corners. He makes great passes to start things, and he makes great rushes to create offence when needed. And you know what, that’s perfect for Ribs because it’ll give him far more room to work. B
Perreault: You’d think being put on the first line would be incentive to put together a great game. If you thought that, you thought wrong. He was as invisible as ever and his errant passes were a source of constant aggravation. If Gainey can find a way to get this guy out, the sooner the better. F
Zednik: He’s got an open net on the backhand, yet switches it over to his forehand and has the puck saved. He’s got an open net because of a great cross-ice pass, yet fires it off the face of the moon because he’s holding his stick like it’s a lifeline. Confidence. He’s not scoring for lack of effort or being in the right place, or even of getting the chances. He not scoring because he’s thinking about it, instead of playing the game. He played really well tonight, created an abundant number of plays, was strong on and off the puck, and was robbed. B+
Koivu: He set the tone for the rest of the game when he came out on the first shift and hit everything that moved. He was all over the ice and got the crowd into it early with his feisty play, and that’s the sign of a great on-ice leader. (I’m not interested in the captain debate, only pointing out how he leads on the ice.) He played an very good offensive game, and his work on the point in the powerplay was extremely important on this night. Even better, and probably much overlooked, is that his line was matched with Alfredsson’s line, and the only goal scored against them was the Dykhuis blunder. Since the nonsense last week, I feel he’s put together some really solid outings and has elevated his game. A-
The trio: Well, call it a duo since Perreault wasn’t much more than a space holder. Zed and Sax created multiple chances, played an effective and strong defensive game, and carried the play most of the time while they were on the ice. Can’t ask too much more than that when you’re playing the Sens. B+
Julien: *Key* for the night was when he subbed in Begin for Dagenais at the end of the night to give that line a little more defensive responsibility. Suddenly, I doubt that many mind seeing Ribs in the final minute, and even better, the substitution resulted in the winning goal – and who can argue with that. His matchups worked well on this night, and I think he can be satisfied with the preparedness of the team.
You could tell this game meant a pile to the players when, on the winning goal, Ribeiro and Begin both started shouting like crazy men and running to the point to congratulate Bouillon. Fun that Begin did it when he knew he was the one that scored the goal anyhow – that’s good team play. It’s all in the little things….
Oh, and Ribby? Can you wipe that dirt off the bottom of your bottom lip? There’s just a little, right in the middle…… (Great granny on a trampoline can someone tell me why THAT’S the facial hair he’s chosen? I’m not sure if I should laugh or tie him down and shave him!)
Next up against the Bruins who, tonight, got to play on concrete instead of ice. We’ll see how well they come out of it, but I think it’s safe to assume that, since the game is in Boston, we’re in for another tough match. If we can play like we did tonight, then we give ourselves a fighting chance. The key against those Bruins, other than playing solidly, is getting Raycroft moving side-to-side. When a goalie is on his game, you have to make him move to score the goals. Last time against them we didn’t, and they won.
A Concerned Fan