An infinitely better game from just about the entire club tonight as they put together almost a full 60 minutes of solid work. For the better part of two periods they played some inspired hockey, and even though the third was less impressive, it was still a period in which they respected the system and played within themselves. This result, particularly coming on the heels of so many poor games, should relieve everyone and serve notice that the Habs are not a fluke and that they can play with any team.
In particular on this night, the work of Ryder was simply awesome. If there are those in Habland who still doubt his abilities or his potential, they need only take a long look at the game tape to see how good this kid is. Then go find a tape of the first game of the year and use that as comparison and when you stop giggling with delirium at what the Habs have discovered you can be pleased that he wasn’t traded to the Flyers for any reason.
Concerning for me is the continued absence of Begin. Illness is the reason that keeps being trotted out there, but considering the shoulder injury he sustained on the play that knocked
Theo: I’m not completely sure what happened on the second goal, I only know that it was scored from a terrible angle. If that went off Sax’s stick and in, then no fault to Theo, but if that was a direct shot that was misplayed then owie, that hurts. Ignoring that play for now, Theo had himself a solid game making the saves required. I love that he’s positioning himself well and seems to be controlling his rebounds better than in recent games. A-
Bouillon: A well-deserved trophy for the little big man. And another solid night of work to go with the new hardware. He supported his strong defence with some well-timed hits and intelligent passes – as we’ve become used to seeing. B+
Brisebois: A much better effort on this night, winning board battles and positioning himself pretty well most of the night. Unfortunately he capped off his evening with one of the plays that used to drive me nuts about him: a lazy piece of work on the PP – and this time it cost a penalty and hurt the team significantly. B-
Markov: Rested, I’d say after seeing his mere 16 plus minutes of work. He was solid, if not great for that time, and while he takes a minus on the night, it was hardly his fault as he was hassling his man while in the position he was required to be. There were, however, a couple of times when he was behind plays, and that’s not usual for him. Interesting that he got himself worked up pretty well and started throwing the body rather than playing his usual defence. B-
Quintal: I’m not sure where he was on the first goal as the defenders are both supposed to be in front of the net on the PK. That tells me he went chasing and left Souray all alone. However, other than that, he was strong on the puck and especially on the body tonight, and his positioning was a success. Personally, I’d rather see Komisarek out there as I feel, especially in a game such as this, he would have been a large asset, emphasis on large, but I can understand using a rotation. C+
Souray: By the end of the first I was expecting him to throw his gloves and stick in the air and go home. He’d been hit by a shot in the hand, been hit in the face by a stick, been hammered repeatedly and was slow to get up quite often. He hung in there and used the rest of the game as solid tune-up for the playoffs. While he wasn’t stellar, he was good, and when he made a mistake, he took responsibility and made people pay. B
Langdon: I was pleased to see him back in the lineup – right up until he elbowed Amonte to the head for seemingly no reason. No need for that in the game. N/A
Dowd: Tough to have a good game when you spend most of it in the box. After a great night last night, this was a mild let-down, though in all fairness, he did play hard, unfortunately his stick got up a couple of times. B
Ward: Two excellent games in a row. Tonight he was everywhere again and reminded me more of the energizer bunny than a hockey player – okay partially because it’s funny to watch him skate. Then again, he made things happen out there, caused turnovers and made runs at the net. A-
Sundstrom: Solid defensive work as usual – the kind that goes unappreciated by those who only want to see goals and don’t realize what it takes to keep them out. B+
Juneau: I’m surprised he was allowed to play after the Tomahawk Chop at the head of Steve Webb yesterday, but he was good nonetheless. A typically understated defensive game. B
Kovalev: For those who are frustrated with him, rewind the game tape and pay special attention to his play on this night. Yes, he’s not producing yet. Yes, he’s struggling with play selection at times. However if you watch carefully you’ll see how’s he’s almost adapted to our style of play (remember it took the entire team 20 games to figure it out this year) and is starting to dominate some shifts out there. He’s winning his battles along the boards more often than not, and (this is key) he’s throwing the body – something he may not have done his entire tenure in New York. There are subtle changes in his game that are more conducive to the Habs style of play and I think it’s only a matter of time now before he finds himself. If he can dominate periods of play while on a line with two players who seem to fear the offensive zone, I believe he’s turning it around. I don’t see him on this line long, just long enough for Juneau to change his attitude and more importantly his work ethic. There are lapses, yes, but he’s almost there…almost. B-
Dagenais: I think the coach game him a ‘one more chance’ speech. He played hard, made hits, got in position, fought for the puck, and played the only way that will keep him in the NHL long-term. B+
Ribeiro: Infinitely better night tonight as he was hard on the puck, hard on the opposition and making things happen offensively. On another night, he gets three or four points for his effort, on this night Burke has the Habs number. B+
Ryder: Let us pause for a moment, after watching the Flyers with John LeClair, and look back on that player’s career as he nears it’s end. After being traded from the Habs he turned into a goal-scoring phenom and played an incredibly tough game. Take a look now at young Ryder and how, with each passing game, he gains more confidence. Yes, that was him that, on a line change, took on four Flyers and almost beat them all. Yes, that was him that went up against three shortly thereafter and then dished a pretty pass to Ribeiro trailing on the play after maintaining puck control with one hand. Yes, that was the kid who was not in the least afraid to take on the opposition, who almost scored about five times, and who sent more than a couple of Flyers flying from solid checks. With the way the league is played today, he might never score 50 goals, however I think he’s going to be better than LeClair. A
Zednik: Was that extra padding on his buttock from being whipped into shape by the coach? He was flying and on fire tonight, making all those plays he should make every night. B+
Bulis: If he only had half the finish of Zed or Ryder… Speed kills, and his should have done over and over again. He made the plays and got himself into the positions necessary. B+
Koivu: See Ribeiro. Should have had a pile of points but the snipers were robbed. Second and third efforts drew penalties. B+
Julien: Dunno what he said, but whatever it was worked out just well, thank you very much. This is exactly the kind of game the Habs needed, to heck with the win. This one was all about putting together a solid effort and they did.
PP/PK: As usual the PP was in the tank, though at least they created a few more chances than usual. The PK, on the other hand was good, despite letting in a goal. For the rest of the seven chances they were both perfect and dominant at times. A D to the PP, a B+ to the PK.
Team: If last night was the anti-team performance, tonight was the opposite. The forwards came back allowing the team to counter-attack quickly and efficiently. The defence pinched in on the attack appropriately allowing the Habs to maintain puck possession in the Flyer zone for longer stretches, and they were accountable for each others actions. It’s not always noticeable in the play, also, but when Theo grabs the puck and holds it for a faceoff, the two defenders surround him and turn, lightening quick, to take out any forwards attacking – it looks amusing when none attack, but that shows a great team spirit and willingness to go the extra mile for your teammate. B+
Well, one game to go against the Sabres and then off to the playoffs. It will be interesting to see what the lineup is on Saturday night, and we could make a team very angry if we rest too many players. It could be a very tough match if the Sabres are still playing for that last spot, and if not, we have to be careful and avoid injury. Look to a reduced lineup if the Isles have clinched so everyone can get healthy.
A Concerned Fan