With the Bell Centre filled to the rafters with playoff atmosphere, the Canadiens pulled out a playoff-style victory over the punchless Bruins led by captain Saku Koivu. It was a game where the Habs excelled at the small things, including some solid defensive zone coverage. That said, it was also a game that could potential boost confidence unreasonably, considering the opposition was a weak team with little real punch.
Perhaps the most unnerving thing about a victory like this one is how the team reacted in the third period. Besides Koivu’s second goal, the rest of the frame was spent backing up and attempting to defend a one-goal lead. Against better opposition, that may very well not have worked. Still, two points is the result regardless leaving two games left and a playoff position to earn, and not back into.
Halak: A- For stretches, he kept them in this one. He was cool, calm and collected and his lateral movements, especially, served him well. He still left out the occasional crazy rebound, but he’s becoming more adept as games go on at recovering.
Bouillon: B+ He made two heart-stopping errors in the slot which really sullied an otherwise wonderful performance. As wingers attack down the wings, he’s no longer giving them space, rather he moves in with intent and finished his checks with vigour. Nice to see him moving the puck really well too.
Dandenault: B I’m really unhappy with the way Dandy protects the puck along the walls. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to his attempts, he just turns his back and hopes the puck is there at his feet. Too many times he gets beaten because he’s just not properly positioned along the boards.
Komisarek: B- He was a little disappointing tonight. He went for a couple of hits that caused huge scoring chances and he didn’t move the puck as effectively as usual. Still, he did use the body effectively in his own zone to angle players off the puck.
Markov: A- A couple of uncharacteristic errors from Markov didn’t take too much away from the fact that he was still stellar. One play in particular saw him taking on two Bruin attackers during a penalty kill situation, and he won the puck and cleared it out on his own.
Niinimaa: B Nothing special from the Finn tonight, he just did the job that was expected of him. There were no major heart attacks, just solid play.
Souray: B Sad to say, but it was nothing out of the ordinary tonight – and that means that he made a few questionable plays and had a few mental moments to go along with some good play we well.
Begin: B I do believe I saw him finish a check – with authority. Solid work on his shift and on the PK – exactly what you’d expect from him.
Bonk: B+ I seriously don’t know what we’d do without him on the ice. He’s a big man who’s hard to knock off the puck, so when he gets it in the attacking zone, we control it for long stretches. Defensively, while he doesn’t go for the big hit, he neutralizes those attacks by getting in the way and by playing smart.
Higgins: B+ His puck pursuit was wonderful to watch. While he hasn’t been pointing in recent games, he’s at least been a force, particularly in the offensive zone. He’s making lots happen, just hasn’t seen any scoreboard results.
Johnson: B Typical game from JOhnson. He was strong defensively and chipped in with some good play in the attacking zone.
Koivu: A The captain at virtually his best. His first goal was highlight reel of the uppermost quality as he dangled through four Bruins before deking Toivanen. His second goal only saw him leave one Bruin in his dust, though it was Chara. Koivu was all over the ice tonight, getting into the corners, making the deft passes, and tonight also shooting plenty.
Kostitsyn: B He made a couple of plays that were AHL-quality, though they’re the kind of plays that you don’t realize are of that quality until you see how they flop in the NHL. Still, solid game: he showed great speed and was eager to make things happen. Especially nice to see was him taking the body – particularly in the defensive third.
Kovalev: B+ Kovy worked hard tonight, and while he didn’t get results, he caused a lot of havok in the Bruins zone. Add to that some good work in his own third and in the neutral zone, and you have a successful game.
Lapierre: B He was a good pest, particularly early on. He also used his speed effectively and was strong on the PK.
Latendresse: B+ I like the way he controlled the puck and the play in the attacking third. What was a bonus was seeing him getting back defensively to help out, particularly when his centre was caught up ice.
Plekanec: B Plex played a mostly discreet game, though did show a little flash and dazzle here and there. Mostly he was solid in his own zone, playing his man effectively, and in particular gaining position which allowed him to neutralize threats.
Ryder: B- Despite increased play time, I was a little disappointed by what he brought to the table tonight. There weren’t any real hits and he seemed to be somewhat aimless at times.
Streit: B Good, solid game with nothing special. He was positionally sound and played his game well. Not the puck pursuit we’ve seen recently, but I think that was more circumstance and less his play.
PP: C+ The PP has fallen into the same trap again where they find one spot each and decide that that’s where they’re going to stay. There’s no dynamic movement – no movement at all. If they’re going to take advantage of their hustle and the fact they’re drawing penalties these days, they’re going to have to put more intensity into the powerplay.
PK: B+ I found this too a little low on the aggressiveness, but Boston was rather pathetic attacking all night. Yes, they got a lot of shots, but they missed the net more times than I could count. I think we need to get on the puck carrier a little more here against the better PP’s in the league.
Carbonneau: A- The Koivu semi-benching obviously worked well as his captain came out tonight and was the best player on the ice. It was nice to see the team playing as a solid, cohesive unit as well tonight; there was great gap control. This team has started really pulling for each other late this season.
And now we come down to crunch time. The Rangers on Thursday and the Leafs on Saturday night. If the team continues to play as it has in recent games, they’ll give themselves every chance to win. However the powerplay must improve somewhat and the mental errors which still plague many of the players have to continue to diminish.
It’s nice to see, however, that Huet is back and will be ready when called upon. While going with Halak would seem to be a satisfying alternative, knowing the Habs had a legitimate number one with experience ready to play will hearten everyone on the team.
No time to relax now. Everyone needs to be on board for the Rags in two days.
A Concerned Fan