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Article written by Tristan Tapscott.

Happy New
Year? It was the night of the Bulldogs in New Jersey, as all of the latest
callups (that dressed) made a positive mark on the game. The Canadiens’ six game
point streak was a bit of a blessing considering the injuries the team has
suffered of late. Now with Alex Tanguay hopping on the injury bus, the extended
absence Chris Higgins and Saku Koivu, and with 3 Hamilton Bulldogs in the
lineup… well, this loss against New Jersey wasn’t entirely unexpected. But
that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some uneasy play by the Habs. Specifically,
Jaroslav Halak had a game no one wants to remember (did he owe a favour to
someone on the Devils?) but he wasn’t the only problem on the ice. At least the
callups showed up to play, with Max Pacioretty, Kyle Chipchura and Marc Denis
all proving they deserve another look on the ice. In the end, after a game like
this, we may not want to "
a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne,"
but we will take the alcohol.            


Marc Denis:
That ringing
post at the top of the 3rd had me thinking the period would be a long one, but
Denis actually pulled out a key save and kept the Habs in it for awhile. Marc
can hardly be blamed for his lone goal allowed in the game, and might even get a
start on Sunday against Florida unless Carbonneau decides to let Halak try to
redeem himself on home ice.

Jaroslav Halak:
Gee, thanks for coming out! 3
weak goals and scary moments for a full 2 periods. Halak killed any momentum the
Habs were developing, sending them back to square 1 far too often. Even his
saves looked shaky, like he was fighting the puck all night. Poor show, Jaro.
Poor show. 


Patrice Brisebois:

 Yes, it was his
pinch that led to a NJ goal. However, the fault there is on Andrei Kostitsyn’s
lazy jaunt to the bench when he should have been backchecking. Also, his
defensive game was alright and he’s still the only defenseman who consistently
puts pucks on the net.

Francis Bouillon:

Bouillon brought the hits tonight!
The knockdown near the start of the game gave some energy to the building, and
isn’t it always fun to see the small guy play big? Frustratingly, I am starting
to suspect that he leads the Habs defensemen with most shots that don’t make it
to the net. 

Josh Gorges:

Solid, if forgettable work
all night. Gorges work on the New Jersey’s 2 on 1 opportunity saved Denis. I’m
using the philosophy that "If you don’t notice the D man, he’s doing his job"
and applauding Gorges for fading into the artwork of a generally poor defensive
game from the entire team.

Roman Hamrlik:

Hamrlik looked off all
game. There were poor pinching choices and his offensive game went nowhere. His
defensive play was okay and he never quit after his screwups, but it wasn’t his
usual game and hopefully it’s just a quick aberration.

Mike Komisarek:

Maybe this grade is too
harsh considering how his partner played, but I generally found that when both
Komisarek and Markov were on the ice, nothing happened (for the Habs, that is.)
Mind you, he had to take a bad penalty to bail out a struggling goaltender, but
I found it uncharacteristic of his play. Don’t move the net, move the players! 

Andrei Markov:

Terrible game from Markov.
Absolutely awful! A lazy passing attempt cost him badly, and then on the Devils’
4th goal he was caught watching the puck with his back turned to the eventual
goal scorer. He needs to be better.


Max Pacioretty:
scores a goal…then gets the least amount of ice time in the game (that’s
including both teams, folks.) For the icetime he got, I sure noticed him. A goal
scorer’s goal and a physical game. What more can be asked? (About six more
minutes, Guy.) 

Tomas Plekanec:

Pleks had grit and hustle, and
it’s always great when you
draw a penalty while killing a penalty. He created a bit of offense and didn’t
stop skating all night. No complaints, aside from no finish.

Alex Kovalev:

He skated hard, played
tough along the boards and drew a penalty. The chances were being created, but
there wasn’t much luck in the bounces for any of the Habs tonight. 

Kyle Chipchura:

Forgive the 2 on 1 effort
whilst shorthanded. Yes, it was a noticeable slip of the stick but the rest of
his game was effective. It was his bounce pass off the boards that sprung Max
for the goal, his puck protection rivals Georges Laraque for effectiveness down
low (anyone else want to see him and Laraque matchup together and cycle the
puck?), and he showed he’ll cause some scrums in front of the net.

Maxim Lapierre:

This grade isn’t because
his offense dried up (we all knew it would). The lower than lately grade is
because Maxim didn’t quite bring the hardened play that’s made him so dangerous
in recent games. There wasn’t as much aggression in his game, and his never-quit
forecheck was apparently left in Tampa.

Guillaume Latendresse:

I’ll give him a bit of a
free pass after taking a slapshot to the side of the head (he wasn’t very
noticeable after coming back from the dressing room). Up till then, his blocked
shots at the point continued to work out well, and he’s still using his size to
cut to the inside. He’ll get no grades leeway on Sunday, so I hope his head is
clear to face Florida.

Steve Begin:

Ran around and caused a
bit of trouble, but was fairly tame most of the night.      

Tom Kostopoulos:

I’m not sure being punched a lot in the head is a good strategy
in a fight. I’m also pretty sure that if you’re being punched a lot, you
probably shouldn’t try to keep the fight going. Good on him for the effort, but
it just got painful to watch. Aside from taking a beating, Tom threw the body a
bit, but ultimately didn’t change the outcome of the game positively or

Sergei Kostitsyn:

I am going to try to be
nice to Sergei because recently I haven’t been. However, his passes weren’t all
that accurate, and carrying the puck in the opposite direction of the net is
pretty darn useless with 3 seconds remaining in the period. Outside of that, his
play wasn’t noticeable. Oh yeah, try to be nice… well, maybe next time.

Matt D’Agostini:

In case D’Agostini hasn’t noticed, he needs to be told that forechecking = good
things happening! And
there is his game summed up.
 When he skates into the corners, works
the body and never quits, the scoring opportunities arise. When he doesn’t,
quite simply, there’s little point to his time on the ice. 

Andrei Kostitsyn:

Made Brisebois look quite
the fool by not covering his pinch. On top of that, of the 4:15 of PP time he
got, I sure didn’t notice him. Andrei seemed the odd man out on his line, and
probably should have seen his icetime reduced.

Robert Lang:

His "lay in the reeds" technique
may be fine when you can leech off talented linemates, but with two top 6
forwards in the pressbox it’s time for Lang to step up and carry the team for a
shift or two. Far too often he’s been a non-factor
 when it’s time to
rise to the occasion.



Same old story. When Tom
Kostopoulos is getting powerplay time, you’re sending a message to your players.
Whether that message is that the players need to shape up, or that you’re
ridiculously desperate is a whole other debate.

Penalty Kill:

Having better offensive chances on the PK
instead of the PP is sad, but speaks toward the confidence of the killers.
played a little more frantic than usual, but considering the goalie behind them
I can understand why.