How many out there would have thought we’d be 6-2 after our first eight games? Yeah, put yer hands down!! This is an infinitely better team than most people ever considered possible. Not only is our first line a truly start line, but we can roll four solid ones, and have three kids who are not just fitting in, but are thriving in the NHL. And we’ve achieved this record despite our goalie not playing at his absolute best.
That’s not to say that there aren’t still issues to consider, of course. For instance, what in Heaven’s name is Souray thinking on the power play? Or much of the rest of the time, for that matter. Yes, he was better than he’s been recently, but he was a detriment to the powerplay, pure and simple. More importantly, though, we seem to have this thing where we can’t play out a full period: we lose our legs in the final minute or two, thus giving way too many chances to the opposition. That has to stop.
Theodore: A solid performance, honestly. While there are those who will look at just the stats, the reality is his game looked MUCH better tonight than it has in a while. He was squared to the shooter far more, and he cut down his angles well. The third goal, however, is the one that he has to cut out of his game. Letting in those easy ones will sooner or later deflate the team a little. However, at least that one was the exception and not the rule tonight. Much better positioning. B
Komisarek: Didn’t get a lot of time, which is a shame, in my opinion, however he did well with what he had. He was effective along the boards and smart in front of his net. He still hesitates with the puck, but at least he doesn’t give it away – though he does frequently have to rely on a chip off the boards rather than a crisp pass. B-
Streit: The more I see of him on the power play, the more I like him. He’s got a decent eye for the game and he has strong offensive instincts. He can, though, be a little hesitant at keeping the puck in at the blueline, and while I like what he brings, I’d rather see Markov out there much more often. B
Dandenault: Boy, has he improved his defensive work. Down low he’s angling his man much better and he’s putting his stick in all the right places. Now, the downfall to all his work back there is his lack of jumping into the rush, but I think that will fall once his confidence comes. B
Bouillon: For the first time that I can remember he didn’t completely wipe someone out on a hit. Bates, that speedy fella, actually managed to get half way by the Cube. Still lost the puck, but he has to be fast to make Frankie miss. Typical game from Bouillon. He was very combative in the corners tonight. B+
Souray: I think I yell at him more than I do at anyone else. My wife actually wonders why I have to yell at “the hunky one”. Well, here’s why: bonehead plays on the power play for starters, and he’s still doing too much otherwise. Now, at least his defensive game looks a little cleaner, though there as well he could be smarter with positioning. Fortunately, he didn’t take himself out of position more than twice looking for the hit. C+
Rivet: Next time you watch the Habs, look at his game closely. No, he’s not fast; no, he’s not the best passer in teh business, but… he has anticipation. Watch closely how fast he gets on his toes and gets moving. As a defensive defender – one who finally doesn’t have to live above his means and jump into the attack all the time, as he was doing for the last few years, he’s becoming a real rock. A-
Markov: Well, no miracles tonight, but that’s not to say he didn’t play a typically strong game. One thing that he did show tonight was his wonderful passing ability. He dissected the Islander defence a couple of times with very long and very accurate passes. B+
Dagenais: He has a shift where he threw a hit. I should just leave it at that and move on. N/A
Higgins: Personally, I don’t think he’s getting enough ice time. There was a period in the game where he won the puck in his own end, moved it up the boards through three Islanders and then maintained possession while his team changed and caught up to him. I’d love to see him getting a more regular shift on the third line – but who does he replace, is the question… B
Bulis: He was flying tonight – all over the ice. He created chance after chance, and while his finish is about as good as a Milli Vanilli song is well sung, he’s still getting those opportunities and putting the opposition on their back feet. He also draws penalties all the time with his constant effort. B+
Bonk: He’s getting better and better. Tonight he took on a few Islanders one-on-one, and while he wasn’t successful, you can see he’s starting to get confidence. Add that to his very strong defensive game, and there can be very few complaints. B
Begin: Next time we’re riddled with injuries, I’m going to start a campain to have him on the first line with Koivu and Kovalev. Is this guy becoming a sniper or what? Hopefully for his family and friends, though, he lays off the quadruple espressos after the game. THE perfect energy guy – because he brings so, so, so much more. A
Ryder: Invisible for some shifts, but far fewer than before. He’s starting to dig in the corners and is finally getting into position in front of the net. Now that I’ve seen the first few games, I can honestly say that I think a lot of his problem was Dagenais. He probably felt he had to do too much to make up for the nothing that Dags was doing, and that paralyzed him a little. B
Plekanec: He really fits on that line. He’s constantly moving, knows how to make things happen, and is the digger that line really needs. And that, boys and girls, is a fantastic combination. B+
Ribeiro: Ah ha!!! We’ve found him! He controlled the puck better with body position, his vision for the ice was the best it’s been all year, and he went to the net to make things happen. Yes, there were lazy shifts, but quite honestly this was one of his better games ever. Yeah, I know he had some last year where he scored more points and therefore looked better on the scoresheet, but he was implicating himself far more. He even looked better on defence. A-
Perezhogin: More and more he’s becoming a spark plug on the first line. I think, at this point, that Zednik might have lost his place, actually. The fact that Prez will dig the puck out and win those battles is very impressive. That he’ll pass the puck to an open man rather than always trying to make the play himself is even bigger – especially for that line. B
Kovalev: He didn’t take many on tonight, which from a spectacle point of view was a little disappointing. However he did make strong plays at both ends of the rink and seems to be playing a far more consistent game. This is a motivated Kovalev that we have here in Montreal, not the disenchanted one we’ve seen in the NHL for the past couple of years. Watch his skating stride and compare it to early in the season or to any game before he came to Montreal last year. If he doesn’t have the puck, he moves for it, rather than coasts in the general direction. B+
Koivu: One goal, one assist, one post, a few other very close calls. While he’s not getting the “superstar” time on the ice like others in the league might, he’s playing the same role. Even strength, power play, and a fairly regular shift on the penalty kill as well. If you didn’t think he was all that and more before, perhaps realize it now, as Julien surely does – placing him in every situation there is. He received the first star tonight, and was full marks for it. A
Julien: I’m disappointed in two things: one is his lack of use of Komisarek who, I believe, can handle a lot more, and two it’s the lack of adjustment in the PP for long stretches tonight. I realize that it’s perhaps tough to do on the fly, but that was painful to watch at times. Now, on the other hand, if there aren’t whispers about him for coach of the year if the season continues like this, then there’s something wrong.
PP: Once they gained the zone they were dynamic and dangerous. However gaining the zone was a huge problem. That really needs to be addressed. If one method doesn’t work, there has to be something else that can be tried.
PK: First of all, when we’re down by two men, we have an awesome unit. Placing Koivu out attacking the point guys is amazing to watch as he somehow manages to shut them both down regularly. Our regular penalty kill struggled a little tonight – and I think most of it was a little bit of a lack of aggression, which isn’t the norm. Then again, the Isles have a pretty good unit.
There have been rumblings about the faceoff circle and how poorly we’ve done in the last couple of games. I’d like to point out that how we do will change each and every night because it really depends largely on who the opposing guys are. Koivu and Plekanec are above average centres, as far as I can tell, but there are nights when they might not win any; that’s just par for the course in the NHL. Sure, we might miss Perreault once in a blue moon, but the reality is that this team is much better without him and we really aren’t that bad in the circle.
Tough game against Philly on Tuesday at the Bell Centre. The key will be to attack that molasses defence of theirs with our huge speed. A lot of people picked Philly to be one of the best in the league, but I think that defence is a real weakness, and one that the Canadiens have the ability to exploit. With continued good work use of that speed, they have every chance of giving those Flyers a very tough game.
A Concerned Fan