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The Battle of the Slumpers!
One team was going to have their fortunes turned around, and it was the
Canadiens that came out on top. Looking more familiar in their red jerseys than
their striped pajamas, the Habs team that showed up against Pittsburgh looked
better than the team that played against the Bruins, and I’m not just referring
to the jerseys. A lot of positives were shown for a team that many feel will
fade fast without Robert Lang, who is now confirmed out for the season. The
Montreal forwards, perhaps feeling less stifled by the trap, busted out and got
scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity on an overworked Marc-Andre Fleury.
The defense put on a clinic with precise stickchecks and smothering coverage,
while the work by O’Byrne, Bouillon and Gorges suggests that they may be on the
waning side of their bad play. Hopefully this is a game that the team builds
around, and not just look back at wistfully.


Carey Price:
The Pittsburgh PP goal was
weak, but Price’s otherwise sturdy play was a nice complement to the Habs’
freewheeling in the neutral zone. If Price tends to look boring, it’s because A)
he’s such a well-positioned goaltender that he gives the other team nothing,
and/or B) his defensemen are doing their job and keeping the opposition to the


Roman Hamrlik:

Good on him to get the
shot off quickly instead of going for the big slapshot. Also, a well-timed pinch
led to the eventual game winner. Solid defensively AND his name on the
scoresheet? Yes, please!

Ryan O’Byrne:
couple of mistakes, and a couple of good plays. He went for a hit while his
forwards were changing, which led to a 2 on 1 that eventually led to the
Penguins first goal. Not a smart play, definitely, but one that Komisarek made
later in the game as well. I’d also like to point out that Penguins coach Michel
Therrien was trying to get Sidney Crosby out against O’Byrne as much as
possible, and O’Byrne held his own. Add a couple big hits into the mix, and Ryan
had a good game with a learning experience.

Andrei Markov:

He and Komisarek were
given the duty to shut down the top line. Success! He also took two bad
penalties and had another of his patented unpressured icings. Still, he was the
better of the pair.

Josh Gorges:

 I’d say he’s lost a step
after that nasty hit to head he took a couple games ago, but he was playing
fairly similarly just before then as well. So either the hit effected him but
his play will get better as he gets better, or the hit didn’t effect him and
he’s playing like he was. Either way, it’s a positive, as I expect he’ll round
back into "Top 4" form in the last 30 games.

Francis Bouillon:

His best play was deadweighting Cooke to force a late offside.
Clever! One of his quieter games, and that’s welcomed at this point. Hopefully a
few games like this will get him back to the Bouillon of the start of the season.  

Mike Komisarek:

Komisarek had problems this game. Specifically; two bad penalties, and the
aforementioned ill-timed hit. Also frustrating is how many times he is set up
for offense that ultimately goes nowhere because, well, he’s Mike Komisarek. I
know it’s not his game, but damn it would be nice to see something go in off one
of his shots. Despite shutting down the Penguins’ top line, this game was just
so un-Komisarek-like that he just can’t get a good grade.


Sergei Kostitsyn:

For the first time in a long time, he was the better Kostitsyn. He hustled in to
force the mistake by Fleury, drew a penalty, and protected the puck with some
very shifty stickhandling. Everything just seemed to go right for Sergei.

Saku Koivu:
not on the scoresheet, but he deserved a point. First, it was his sweep check
that started the shorthanded goal sequence, and second, he never stopped skating
and made sure it was his body between Higgins and the Penguins backcheckers.
Higgins will get the glory for his stickcheck and goal, but Koivu’s hockey sense
was all over that goal.  

Tomas Plekanec:

The fact that he works as hard as he does every game, after constantly coming up
empty, is a testament to his character. Tonight, he was rewarded with an assist.
Hopefully that helps open the offensive floodgates for him and Kovalev.

Steve Begin:

Picked up where he left off last time he was the 4th line center. Begin was
physical, and all over the ice. Had Kostopoulos brought the same intensity, the
4th line would have been rockin’!

Alex Kovalev:

I think he got the
message. Alex skated with zip, and treated every shift like he was going for the
game winner. He even skated the width of the ice to throw a hard bodycheck.
Without the assist, he was a B+ player. With
the point, he gets bumped up a notch. Consistency is the key now.   

Maxim Lapierre:

An ugly, pretty goal: just
how I like them from Laps. He’s showing that he can work with anyone on his
line, and that will put him in his coaches’ and players’ good books forever.

Andrei Kostitsyn:

Happy birthday to you! It
didn’t really look like an Andrei Kostitsyn goal, but no one is complaining.
Kovalev passed Andrei a gift that HAD to go in. Kostitsyn’s grade doesn’t come
from his offense though, it came from his defense. His backchecking helped stop
a couple of Pittsburgh rushes (including taking the puck from Crosby once), and
that helped the team more than his 18th goal of the season.

Chris Higgins:

"His PK work is excellent, and he’s really finding a niche in outworking guys for
– Me, in my previous player grades article. If I get to write
that every time, I’m a happy grader. He’s still got that chemistry with Koivu,
even after they were both injured for so long.

Max Pacioretty:

Max still can get caught up in the moment and rush
the play, but it hasn’t really hurt him yet. The time that he didn’t rush was
when he outmuscled the Penguins defenceman for the puck, and made the pass to
Lapierre for the goal. Beautiful.

Matt D’Agostini:

Guy Carbboneau named him as a potential Lang replacement on the PP. He may not
have got a point, but he didn’t get lulled into the passive plays like Lang did.
Matt skated the puck to create space, and some good chances came from it. I’m
also impressed with his defense this game. Did anyone notice he had 2 blocked
shots? I sure didn’t. Good on him! 

Alex Henry:

Played forward? And didn’t
look out of place?!? And had a good fight?!?!? It appears he’s gunning for
Georges Laraque’s job! He obviously didn’t warrant a consistent shift with Begin
and Kostopoulos, but he didn’t hurt the team either. Pretty much all you can ask
of a 29 year old NHL/AHL journey defenseman. 

Tom Kostopoulos:

Didn’t do much the entire
game, and when he had an opportunity to be physical against Maxime Talbot, he
instead held him up for a penalty. Energy guys need to bring energy. My only
guess is perhaps he didn’t feel comfortable with Henry as his linemate, and was
constantly holding back to cover for mistakes that didn’t happen. 



Koivu’s unit kept the puck moving fast and to drove to the net and created
chances. Plekanec’s unit slowed the play down,
passing along the perimeter and waited for chances to happen. Koivu’s unit:
. Plekanec’s unit: C.
Average it out…

Penalty Kill:

Up until the 3rd, they gave Pittsburgh nothing to work with. It was good to see
them awarded with a shorty. Evgeni Malkin may have been given a bit too much
room, but his shot shouldn’t have gone in.