Yann Danis made his NHL debut tonight and shut out the Atlanta Thrashers thus backstopping the Canadiens to a 2-0 victory in Atlanta. Make no mistake, his shutout was worth every penny as his confident play enabled him to turn away shot after shot.
In easily the best team effort of the year, the Canadiens dominated both ends of the rink, stifiling the Atlanta attack and creating numberous chances to score as well. On this night, coach Claude Julien will sleep well knowing his team pulled together and offered a performance that would have given fits to any team in the league.
From the defensive zone out, this was the kind of victory that will leave broad smiles on the faces of the players on up through management. It’s particularly sweet coming of the first loss of the season to the Ottawa Senators only 24 hours previous.
The game opened quickly for the Habs as Jan Bulis scored early to give the team the only goal it would need on this night. It wasn’t a pretty goal, by any stretch, as a Thrasher defender actually kicked it in his own net while trying desperately to gain control, but it was a goal earned through second effort and strong play down low. Niklas Sundstrom in particular was efficient in creating the play and dishing the puck to Bulis.
There seemed to be no end of positive points for the Canadiens. Mike Komisarek, upon being reinserted in the lineup, played a strong game, dishing out hits, but more importantly, playing a strong position game. Also of not were the plays he made when he had his stick in the right position and was able to cut the puck out.
Francis Bouillon had another strong encounter as well. He was superb in his own end and played the one-on-one game extremely well, halting any opportunity as it came close.
Up front, it was another stellar game for Thomas Plekanec and Chris Higgins and, of course, their linemate Steve Begin. While Thrasher coach Bob Hartley tried all night to match the line with Ilya Kovalchuk against either them, or the Mike Riberio line, the kids has absolutely no trouble shutting them down. The three are combining to form one of the better fourth lines in the game – so good in fact that Julien has no worried about putting them out at the end of periods.
Also at his best was Bulis who was everywhere on this night. Using his speed to advantage, he created havok with the Thrasher defence and continually harried opposing defenders. As usual his defensive game was stellar and his work on the PK created chances to score.
Danis, though, stole the show on this night. His lateral movement was impeccable and he retained a calm that was incredible considering it was his first game. Positioning himself well in the crease, he was always ready to block any shot that was taken, and he was even smart out of the net.
Saku Koivu scored his second of the season in the third to lift the Canadiens to the final margin with a wonderful wrap-around effort. It was another typical night for the Habs captain, as he continued his strong play at both ends of the rink. Of note, it was pleasing to see him take Danis aside after the shutout and have a moment with the victorious goaltender.
The Canadiens earn themselves a few nights off now, as they don’t play again until Saturday night against the Maple Leafs. Certainly, if this team continues to play as it did tonight, those Leafs had better watch out.