For the second night running we were offered a three-part serial on The Trap starring the Devils and the Canadiens. On this night the Habs came out on top and in the process came to a rest at equal footing with those same Devils. It was a continuation of what we saw last night, and while the ultimate heroes on this night had different names for the Canadiens, the fact that they continued to both play, and in this case beat, New Jersey augers well for the future.
Make no mistake, this Hab team is continuing to improve on every aspect of its game, and at this rate, they should be considered strong opposition for the playoffs. Time will tell if that comes true, of course, but in the last few weeks they’ve played many of the best teams very tough.
Theo: The first goal was weak – any shot from that angle with nothing blocking his view should always be saved. However he certainly did a good job of trying to make up for that, particularly on the save off Elias on the break. B+
Bouillon: I do believe he got one of the three stars. Wouldn’t have been one of my choices at all. He was okay, but there were a couple of times earlier in the contest that I though he made poor decisions. It seemed to me tonight that he was playing like a #6 guy rather than above his station as he’s been doing much of the season. C+
Dykhuis: He also played like a #6/7 guy, but for him it’s expected. He struggles at times with his decision making and despite being a bigger guy he also tends to get beaten physically, particularly on the boards. Still, for him, you don’t expect much more. B-
Rivet: Another very strong game where he played completely within his means. After all those struggles early this season, the fact his game has come together this well is not only impressive, but it’s extremely pleasing. B+
Markov: Steady play and he’s started in recent weeks to incorporate an offensive tough to his game. If he can continue to solidify his game and gain as much consistency as possible, we’re looking at an extremely strong defence corps leader for the playoffs. B+
Souray: His timing is still off, but he’s starting to look a little better. It’s a perfect time for him to get back since it gives him a couple of weeks to round his game into form heading into the playoffs. He was good, not great tonight, but pretty much what you’d expect. B
Komisarek: What a difference confidence makes. A week ago some were wondering if he’d be worthy of getting a spot in the playoffs and today he looks to be rapidly climbing up the depth chart as he continues his punishing play at the back. But it’s not just the hits, for the second night in a row he was smart both on and off the puck. It’s taken a while, but I think we’ve finally seen his full emergence. A-
Ward: Good hard work and a couple of nice plays in the offensive zone, along with typically strong play defensively giving us just what we need from the fourth line. B
Begin: I love the fact that he levelled Niedermeyer – sometimes it’s that kind of play that can completely turn a game on its ear. B
Sundstrom: Except for the penalty at the end of the game I thought he did a pretty good job. He was strong at both ends and was better than usual on the walls. B+
Bulis: His timing is starting to come back and tonight he showed why he’s a particularly strong two-way player. His offensive zone work was good enough that he was put on the top line towards the end of the game as reward for his efforts. B+
Dowd: If Begin is the transaction of the year for the Habs, this one is right in behind. While he doesn’t play a flashy game, his constant hustle and strong defensive game, as shown tonight, give us a wonderful new element for the defensive trio. B+
Ryder: I hinted at it earlier this year, but the more I see this kid the more I think of a young John Leclair. He’s not the best skater in the world but he’s got incredible hands and a nose for the net. I can’t wait to see where his future lies. He’s gone from ECHLer to, as far as I’m concerned, a very legitimate second line winger with a pile of potential still above him. A
Dagenais: At least Julien noticed what most of the rest of the hockey world already knew as he dropped Dags late in the game. As NHL filler he’s been wonderful, and he’s one of the first guys you call up in a pinch, but from now on I believe you’ll see less and less of him to the point where he fades into obscurity and people asking about Ribs’ early linemate receive blank stares. F
Kovalev: Hardly the best way to score your first goal, but just about the best way to celebrate it. High fives to the crowd! Tells me that, at least for now, he’s having fun in Montreal, though that’s not hard to believe considering where he came from. He had another good night and I still see steady improvement. He’s starting to add in some hard work on the boards to the flash and dazzle. B
Ribeiro: The last couple of games has seen Ribs in a bit of a funk but that’s probably as much to do with the Devil’s style of game as it is to do with Ribs’ actual play. I’d like to see more out of him as we move to the playoffs, though, as he’s got to take the pressure off the first line. C+
Zednik: I can’t remember the last time he played this little, but when you look at the game recap you’ll note that Julien rolled four lines pretty equally – which says perhaps even more about the team play and the quality of the win against the Devils. Zed was good, not great tonight, though as usual, at least recently, he made some fine offensive plays. He was a little better along the boards in his own end as well. B
Perreault: Definitely not his strongest game, I just hope he can pick it up again. He was pushed off the first line for Bulis by the end of this one, hopefully more to give Bulis a reward than to punish Perreault. I still felt he was far more involved than at any point early this season. B-
Koivu: Despite having to play against Madden he created a few things and again had a couple of strong chances. Again, he didn’t play nearly as much as usual, but that’s a good thing – saving your strong players for the playoffs. B
Julien: I think we’re moving into the experiment phase as well as the resting phase so things will be interesting from here on in. Hopefully he doesn’t do too much to turn the team upside down, though, as they’ve got a lot of confidence right now.
Team: What can you say? They rolled four lines and still beat the Devils. This is the best Hab *team* since 93 as far as I’m concerned. A-
Apologies to everyone for the shorter write-ups recently. The planning for my grandmothers 80th was underway and I can tell you her party this night was a lot of fun. Even better, perhaps, was being able to look at the Leaf, Bruin, and of course Senator fans in the eye and grin very mischievously. Where the last handful of years they’ve had their laughs, now none of them want to face us in the playoffs.
Time to shuffle off to Buffalo after a suitable break and clinch that playoff spot once and for all against the Sabres. It’ll be an interesting game particularly since Julien will probably take the opportunity to rest some players again, but it’s one that we can’t let up for, since Buffalo still has a decent club.