What a difference a year and a half makes – or, for Montreal fans, quite the opposite as they continue to beat the Boston Bruins. It wasn’t pretty and we certainly tried to toss the game away on a few occasions, particularly late when a certain Pierre Dagenais tried everything in his power to hand the win to the home side, but in the end, somehow, the Habs prevailed. I certainly hope the team comes out better tomorrow because, even though the Rangers aren’t supposed to be as good as the Bruins, they’re still going to be tough, and we’re not going to win a lot when we’re just mailing it in.
There were some really strong performances tonight, and some absolutely horrid ones. Leader of the pack is Bouillon, who played out of his mind and made those who thought he should have been odd man out look rather silly. On the other hand, the aforementioned Dagenais might find himself watching as Perezhogin takes his spot on the worst line for both teams on this night.
Theodore: Despite that absolute whiff of a goal that he allowed from Bergeron, he played himself a really solid game. Unfortunately, allowing one soft goal every game is just not going to cut it in this NHL. He’s got to strive for the consistency of a Brodeur these days. Still, 29 out of 30 ain’t bad at all. B+
Rivet: The thing you have to like about Rivet on this night is that you barely noticed him at all. For a stay at home defender, that means he did his job pretty darn well. B+
Dandenault: He sometimes puts himself in difficulty when he wanders, but boy oh boy can you see Scotty Bowman whipping him from behind to get his butt back into position. Nice positional play down low and good use of the body. B+
Komisarek: Poor Axelsson just about died when Komi just missed his check. I found our boy to be exceptionally good tonight, particularly with his stick, and THAT augers very well for the future. It’s one thing to be able to hammer people when needed, but it’s another to cut out plays with your stick and turn things up ice quickly. He needs work on his outlet passes, but overall, a very good start. B
Souray: Ouch. Yes, he was wonderfully physical at times, but he was also chasing players instead of cutting them out. He also made more boneheaded passes than I’ve seen him make in a very long time. Perhaps it’s just the ghost of Brisebois giving its last gasp, but let’s hope his play turns around quickly. C-
Bouillon: Easily the star of the game for the Habs. Not only is he really intelligent defensively, using his small frame and momentum to great benefit, but tonight he also played well on the power play. For all the nay-sayers, I hope they took a long, hard look at his game. Sure, he’s smaller, but he knows how to use every inch and pound to advantage. A
Markov: Not a whole lot to say here. He did his job and he did it well. Another intelligent defender who may not be as strong as some, but knows how to use his strength intelligently. Still one of the best one-on-one. He needs to work on his long-bomb outlet passes, though. B+
Begin: You have to just love the way this guy never gives up. He puts Energizer to shame. Exceptional on the PK as well. B+
Thomas Plekanec: Comes into the game as a rookie and played like someone who’s been there a while. Sure, he didn’t dominate like he’d been doing during the preseason, but things are different now. What he did do was play extremely intelligently, limiting any chance for errors. His work on the PK was also wonderful. B+
Chris Higgins: Hooboy have we got a keeper here. Take Begin’s work ethic and put it in a bigger frame with more skills and that’s what you’ve got with Higgs. He knows how to protect the puck and use his frame, and he never, ever stops working. Truly a delight to watch. A-
Bulis: A fairly typical game by the speedster. He used that speed to advantage to score his goal, and was sound defensively. The first was his best period, though. After that his line seemed to struggle more with flow. B
Sundstrom: Oh how quietly he goes about his business. He has very little flair offensively, or at least, showed nothing tonight, however he was always in the right spot defensively. B
Bonk: Montreal fans get a glimps of why the Sens found him so infuriating. On some shifts he looked great offensively, and on others it was painful to watch. At least he’s consistent defensively, and was taught well in Ottawa. Another who uses his body well. (Gee, wonder what management has been looking for…) B-
Dagenais: He had a good shift. Must have. On the other hand, his efforts to give away the game will surely please Bruins fans mightily. I particularly like the way he’s completely invisible in his own end. Dags mailed this one in. Hope postage was cheap for him. F
Ryder: Disappointing game for sure. Despite scoring the winner he looked to have little jump at all. Perhaps his (lack of) speed was exposed by the Bruins a little more than we’d all like to see. One thing that I got used to saying last season was that he always worked hard. I didn’t feel that tonight except on the rare opportunity where he didn’t have to play with Ribeiro. C+
Ribeiro: I could not be more disappointed with a player. His lack of speed was horrifying and he created virtually nothing. He had one play on a two-on-one and tried to get way too fancy with it rather than shoot the puck. I felt his effort was significantly lacking – witness the way he seemed to slow down while tracking back to his own end – and his creativity was not what it usually is. D+
Zednik: You could tell he was injured from the beginning. Perhaps the biggest thing here is the questionable call in letting him play. N/A
Kovalev: There were times when he looked like a men amongst boys while dangling with the puck. Then there were the times when he kept it too long and lost it. And then there were the times when he took exceptionally long shifts. I expected more. B-
Koivu: He had one complete bonehead pass right in front of his own net, but aside from that he looked fairly good. At least he, and the rest of his line, was creating on this night. The effort was there, but I thought he looked almost tentative until early in the second when he started to relax and just play. Still, even while only playing together in the first, this line looks like it can challenge almost anyone. B
Julien: Again, I question the Zednik move, though I don’t know if that was his decision or not. I like his idea of pitting our best against there’s. Obviously it was working because the opposing coach did everything he could to get Thornton on someone else.
PP: Disorganized. There were a few moments of control, but I don’t think they moved the puck around quickly enough, nor do I feel they got enough shots in.
PK: Stellar. There was no running around like chickens sans heads, this was a controlled effort all night. I felt there was great communication amongst the players and the effort by everyone was extremely high.
And so another season has started and now there are only 81 games left. There were some very promising things to be seen out there, but also some that will certainly have the coaches and management scratching their heads. The fact that Ribeiro’s line looked so bad must surely be disquieting. However, it is only one game, though you would expect everyone to come out flying after missing an entire season.
Off to meet the Rag$ – who are suddenly not flu$h, but are on the same playing field with everyone else. Sather, in my opinion, has done a much better job this time around of putting together a ‘team’. That said, the evidence will only come tomorrow. For their part, the Habs had better put up a much better effort. Tonight they got lucky.
Then again, a win is a win. Undefeated so far!!
A Concerned Fan