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Everything posted by Colin

  1. Admittedly, the Flyers weren't at their best tonight, but let's be completely honest here, the Habs went into Philly and played just about the perfect road game. Were there any passengers for this one? Did anyone play a bad game? This kind of effort has *got* to be extremely gratifying for Julien and the coaching and management staff. Heck, I don't think there are too many habs fans out there who aren't extremely pleased. There were still a couple of issues that were exposed, though. First of all, we were dominated, quite badly at times, down low. There's still a size issue, particularly down the middle and on defence apart from Souray, Komi and Quint. Tonight it didn't kill us, but this was a Flyer team not running on all cylinders. ~~ Notes: Theo: I was getting a little nervous in the first when he didn't seem able to handle anything out of his crease. His puck movement tonight was some of the worst I've seen from him all year, however in the net...well, what can I, or anyone, say. Purdy. A Bouillon: If anyone is asking themselves if there was someone who was supposed to take his spot, though they can't put their finger on the name, then you're absolutely correct. Hainsey who? Bouillon is getting better and better and while he's small, he plays bigger than many defensemen in the game. A- Rivet: Nothing special, but that's good. Means he played his own game. B Brisebois: He made one pass up through the middle in the first that drove me nuts. After that, he was careful and extremely solid. B+ Komisarek: Much *much* better game. He looked like a changed player tonight making the smart play, moving the puck well, cutting out plays before they started. I'm not saying he was perfect, but this was pleasant to see. B- Quintal: His size in games like this is so useful. And when he plays that positional game, the faster guys don't have nearly the chances. B Souray: Except for the Christmas gift he gave to Brashear...LOL Nice to see a good comeback game. He's become so patient on the puck as well. B+ Langdon: Well, not quite a regular shift, but he did see the ice in the third, and that's a bonus round for him. B- Dackell: Seemingly demoted to the fourth line, yet still an effective player out there. Perhaps not as strong as some others, but again tonight he did those little things well. B- Perreault: That's about as feisty as I've seen him in a dog's age. Heck, he even scored a goal - though it was called off. Nice work from a fourth line centre. B- Sundstrom: I think we're only now starting to see the Sunny we should have seen from the beginning. He's starting to come out of his shell and his play is really picking up. B Juneau: Strong game at both ends, really. Perhaps he's overmatched in some games like this, but I felt he played within his means and did his job well. B+ Dagenais: My one disappointment fo the night, he seemed to fall to the wayside when the going got tough. Furthermore, when someone on his line did get the puck deep (okay, it wasn't all that often) he didn't get to his usual spots. C- Zednik: Can we petition the league for the ability to decline the penalty shot and instead take the two minutes? THAT WAS DISMAL. LOL Fortunately, he made up for it with the rest of his game. A- Ribeiro: He really does excel on the power play. That deft touch to Zed on the first goal was sublime. His second assist was a wonderful cross-ice pass to Ryder (to Zed eventually) and was also sweet. And...no wait, lemme do that right. *AND* he played decently defensively again. Two in a row and he's looking better and better. A- Bulis: Really made things happen tonight with his never-say-die work ethic. He cause Weinrich to take the 4:00 penalty, scored a goal, hit a post, was a tireless forechecker. Made some outstanding defensive plays as well. A- Ryder: Honestly, I can't look at him as a rookie anymore; he just doesn't play like one. A three point game and another really solid contest. Totally underrated vision as well. A Koivu: Typical game from the captain as he crushed opponents, played tirelessly on the defense, with vision on the PP and well everywhere else. A Ward: Okay, I left him until last. I'm going to admit to everyone and say how astounded I am with his play in the last couple of games. If he can keep this up, I really do think he's a legitimate third liner and not an AHL guy. NEVER EVER on the top two lines, because really, he's not an NHL quality scorer, but I will accept, *if* the type of play he gave tonight continues, that he's earned that spot. Sheesh, he was all over the place, and this time not with reckless abandon. He was controlled and smart. A- ~~ Nice touch at the end when Sax went up to Theo in the handshakes and (this is what it looked like with my limited lip-reading skills) apologized for the team letting him down and not helping get his shutout. Can we once and for all close the 'is he a legitimate captain' debate? Off to the swamp to play the Devils. I'll tell you this, if we play the way we did tonight, we'll give them a good game. Should be fun to watch as well, not because it's two trap teams going at it, but because it's the two best goalies in hockey at the moment going at it. I expect to see some wonderful saves. And a bonus, we've given them something to think about since we actually have two scoring lines that can challenge. A Concerned Fan
  2. Well, this is one game I think the Habs should be pleased about stealing a point. We were the second best team tonight because we lost almost all the board battles and were second the the puck frequently. I'm really impressed with the Rag$ and the fact they seemed to have honestly turned the corner for the first time in years. As for the Habs, it's a testament to how confident they are that they pulled the tie out of this and had a chance to win. It's a common fact that the best teams can pull things out of the hat even when they might not deserve it, tonight Montreal was in that chair. In fact, there seemed to be a concentration problem tonight as pretty much every single player had problems with passes both in giving and especially receiving. On the other hand, I would have liked to have a good look at that ice since it seemed the puck was trying to imtimidate a ball rather than a frozen disk of rubber for a lot of the time. Who else was laughing at the improv act by Massenhoven who blew his whistle to stop the play, then when he saw the puck was in the net called it a goal, only to eventually have it called back when it was proven to be a high stick. That was honestly a farce and the NHL really has to look at things like that. In fact, the specific thing that bothered me was the ref calling it off, then contradicting himself within a second. He was making the gesture to call off the goal and in mid-motion he pointed to it as being it. Oy. ~~ Notes: Theo: Okay, the two on none was a bit lousy when you consider that the puck ended up on Rosie's stick and he had the worst angle of the two, but the fact of the matter is that Theo followed it well and gave them nothing. No fault on either goal, and a great game. A Cube: Best game of his year and once again proof that he's about ten times better than Hainsey at the moment. He was excellent in a game where he should have had terrible troubles with the bigger guys. In fact, I'd say he was better than a lot of his larger teammates. A Breeze: Basics, basics, basics. Gotta love it. I think I read that it was Jan 28th of last year the last time he scored a goal. If we get the good defence, here's to another year of scoreless play from the Breeze. B+ Rivet: It was a better game than the ones he'd had earlier in the season, but I found him being battered by the opposition more than Cuber. Tonight his lack of leg drive seemed to seriously hamper him at times, though the good thing is that he wasn't running around. Good play. B Komisarek: Hrm. He comes out with a plus and that's always good for the confidence to see that on paper, but let's be honest, he had a few troubles in the first. The fact the Rags were coming in waves seemed to give fits to Komi who still has trouble making plays quickly enough. Once I heard someone one the ice yelling, "Get it out now...now...NOW" and still he held on. C- Quintal: I'm calling the second Rag goal on him because he was behind the net when his position is the slot. You can look at Dax and say it was his man, but in reality, Dax's man is the defender at the point. Still, his game wasn't bad, and his size was welcome on this night. B- Souray: Another tough night, in all honestly. I thought he struggled with the puck and made some poor decisions defensively. On the last goal, he seemed slow in dealing with the winger flying in which led to Lindros picking up the loose puck. Honestly, I just felt that he wasn't in the game like he usually is. B- Langdon: I wish he'd played more tonight as I thought he was doing a good job with the body: the one area we were extremely whipped in. B- Dackell: Stuck to the fourth line tonight, and I'm not sure how to feel about that. He was feisty and strong and made a few really good defensive plays. I hope it was just the knee that Julien was worried about and therefore worked him in slowly, but if it's because Ward was better... B Perreault: Surely the ticking of the clock is getting louder. I know Julien uses him in critical situations to win faceoffs, and that's great to have, but is there another player anywhere in the system who might give a little more? C+ Sundstrom: First Rag goal sits on his shoulders unfortunately tonight. He came back with his man, then left him to score the goal at the very end of the play, choosing instead to chase the puck. Still, it's nice to see him playing the way he's doing these days, rather than the way he was at the beginning of the season. B- Juneau: Tough night dealing with the Rag$ best. They were being kicked around the whole game and, in all honestly, I have to question why he wasn't taken away from that line. C+ Zedder: Bits and pieces of his good games along with bits of games where he doesn't care. Anyone notice how, on his one shift with Sax after Bulis had just gone off after a PK, Zed was playing about the hardest we've seen in ages? C+ Dagenais: No denying the shot, or the continual parade of points. Tonight was easily his best of the year as well as he also laid on the body, played a surprisingly good defence (okay, matched against the Rag 4th line), and made a couple of good passes. B+ Ribeiro: That dangle play where he almost had Dunham thinking he was going around the net was sweet indeed. Fun that we really do have two centres that can make opponents look silly at times. Ribbo rose to the challenge tonight and played a good game against Lindros. Yes, he was matched against the fourth line in hopes of taking advantage of weak defensive play, but also true is the fact Lindros has played extremely well of late. Okay, physically it was a bit of a laugher, but Ribs never gave up and made some surprisingly good plays. Weight room kid! Please! A- Bulis: He's starting to really struggle on Sax's line. Not that he's playing poorly, mind you, just that he's not producing and I think that's weighing on him, and on the line in general. He's a good fit in terms of speed and making things happen, but it might be time to move him along and see Zed back here. B- Ryder: Was that one of the most precise shots you've seen? I think he broke the cookie jar with that one. Norman Bates would be proud! I find it mind-boggling at times that this is a rookie who's playing with this much maturity, poise, and confidence. And for a scorer, he still manages to finish checks regularly! B+ Sax: He made some stunning plays and put passes on a plate for players who eventually whiffed, but he also made a couple of uncharacteristic bonehead plays - not that you'd need to tell him, he's harder on himself than I am. Sheesh! He just wasn't playing with the same zip as usual, though Sax not at his best, is still damn good. B+ ~~ It's unfortunate we couldn't pull that one out because it's the last of the lighter games for a little. Philly, Jersey and Toronto are all up next. (Oh, I think we're now a mere five points out of first in the conference - and everyone has played the same amount of games...except Ottawa, but we try and ignore them as much as possible because that uniform has Trojan Condoms advertised on them.) Quite the accomplishment for a team that most picked to finish in the bottom three of the conference with one of two places picking us to finish last. Below the Pens. HELLO? What were they thinking? Off to Philly where we get to play a Flyer squad that's brimming with confidence after dismantling the Leafs (big grin everyone) twice in two games. Roenick should be at the top of his game and, though it might hurt to look at him, he's absolutely right about the reffing problem in the NHL, I just wouldn't want to agree to him to his face for fear of grimacing and then getting the snot kicked out of me. If we can come out with three points in the next three games, I think we can count ourselves pleased.
  3. I'm going to be quick with this one since I've been fighting my ISP all night and I'm sick to death of the computer. It's nice to see the Habs winning 6 of 7, though I worry about that third and how it opened up. That's not the kind of road game that Julien will like, instead causing him to down a bottle of Pepto as he watches things go horribly wrong everywhere but on the scoreboard. There are times when the best players don't make the scoresheet or don't keep out the pucks, and this was one of those nights. In probably his best defensive game of his career, Koivu was stellar on the PK, which he played extensively, and equally good backchecking during regular play. And despite being held off the scoresheet, he made numerous players look silly, including Dafoe, and was dangerous much of the time. ~~ Notes: Theo: 37-save performance. 'Nuff said. A Bouillon: Solid strong game, though he had to eat a minus which wasn't his fault. B+ Rivet: The comeback continues; he's playing that smart simple game. B+ Komisarek: Hard to complain at a +2 performance, though I don't like that stat much. Then again, he played a simple game and did pretty well. B- Brisebois: Back to the simple stuff that makes him successful. Love it. B+ Quintal: Almost 22 minutes for a guy people love to dislike. Played intelligently. B Souray: No goalie in the net and he hits the post. Is this his decline? *winks* Excellent defensive game. A- Langdon: "Please, play me a little more, I'm really not just a goon!" B Kilger: No matter how he plays, I think he's on the way out. Didn't make anything happen tonight though. C- Perreault: When I see him, I'm starting to think "Mullet" before anything else. Where was Pleks? D+ Sundstrom: The breakaway blues. Good game defensively. B Ward: The breakaway blues, part 2. Good game defensively as well. B Juneau: The wings on which he'd played recently seem to have been clipped. Then again, for a guy with an aching back, two games in two nights... B- Zednik: Where were all the good plays from last game? C+ Dagenais: One goal where he stood in the slot and was hit and an invisibility cloak the rest of the game. C+ Ribeiro: Made something out of nothing on that goal, though it was equally made by Atlanta. Good, not great overall play. B Bulis: When Sax gives you a pass in the crease, just hit it. Not his best game. B- Ryder: No points, but he still did all the little things he has to do to succeed. B+ Koivu: No points, but great up front. Even better overall game. Perhaps following Souray's lead to the next level in terms of overall game. A- ~~ I'm going to point out again how I think Plekanec should have been given Perreault's spot. I think it's time to phase out Yannick the Great and work in a strong kid for some youthful exuberance. I mean, does anyone out there think Pleks would do worse in a fourth line role? Thought not. Count the $$$ as the not-so-mighty Rag$ come to town on Saturday night. Then again, they are playing infinitely better than they have, and some have even accused them of starting to look like a team! (Damn them!) Sather seems to have actually figured out how to motivate these guys, so this will be anything but a walk. Taking advantage of chances and working that defense to distraction will be the key to a win. A Concerned Fan.
  4. For the Habs to come along and win by a 5-2 score against the Blues is a great story all by itself. For them to do that after having beaten the Pens 8-0 is something else. Julien has to be a pretty good coach to get his guys grounded after having hammered a much poorer opposition and get them ready for a team that, while they are struggling, are still infinitely better than the Pens. Now, it's a bonus that they have no number one goaltender and it's a bonus that their defence is decimated and they have a high-risk offence, but let's not take anything away from a really strong habs performance. Personally, the best part of tonights game for me, at least, was the fact that it wasn't the power play that won, it was the goals at even strength. That our PP has been doing brilliantly lately is great, but when you can score that many goals at even strength, it means things are going right for you. Our two offensive lines were a force tonight and when you can have two strong lines rolling with one good defensive line, plus another to give everyone else a break here and there, you'll always give yourself a chance to win. ~~ Notes: Garon: (I almost wrote Theo he's been there so much.) Well, he completely whiffed on that first goal, but other than that he played a strong game. I urge you all to take a good look at the improvements he's put in, because it's my belief he's going to be challenging Theo by next year. B+ Bouillon: Could be considered a marginal call, but it was still a vicious boarding. Might be a blessing in disguise since he didn't have to speak with the interviewers in the first intermission. :-) N/A Rivet: Well, does anyone else out there see how he's turned the corner? He logged 25+ minutes and was a +4 and played strong defensively. He didn't give up any real bone-head plays and he played within his means. Kudos again to the coaching staff for helping him work through his problems. B+ Brisebois: Looking better tonight than his last few games, which is good to see. He only send one really badly errant puck out tonight, and instead played his game. And almost a goal! Sad to see that one ping off the crossbar. B Komisarek: He's still either rushing his plays or hanging on just a little too long, but he's doing it less. In his fourteen minutes of work he was on the PP, the PK, and was there in some crucial situations before the Habs ran away with it. Julien really knows how to work his players in - see Ryder if you have any doubts - and I think he's slowly bringing Komi's confidence level up. C+ Quintal: A solid and quite game. Just what you love to see from the big guy. Nothing more to say, because there's nothing out of the ordinary. B Souray: Terrible game. Didn't get a point. Sheesh. (Did I get anyone's blood pumping with that? LOL) While he may not have had any points, he was extremely good defensively and his massive minutes really helped the deprived habs defense. Someone in St.Lou didn't do their homework either since he was given carte blanche on the PP and allowed to wind up and fire. I'm a little shocked at that. A Langdon: I'm sure he broke a sweat, though in his few shifts he wasn't that noticeable - not necessarily a bad thing. N/A Perreault: I'm really surprised Julien came back with him after he took those four minutes of stupid penalties. I guess it shouldn't be that surprising since they have a game tomorrow, but I fully expect Pleks to get that fourth line after Yannick's display. D+ Kilger: Oh dear. Demoted to the fourth line after most of us thought he played fairly well in the last few games. I guess there's not much he can do to play himself back onto the team...and it showed tonight since he wasn't nearly as effective on the ice. C- Sundstrom: Timing was a little off coming back from injury and he sure muffed that chance in close when he was alone, but all in all he played a pretty solid game. He was one of the two not responsible for the second Blues goal. B- Ward: Dunno how he managed to get promoted to the third line, but there he was. He did a fine job defensively and even created some things offensively, which is good to see. I'm not sure he's the best choice for that line, but at least in this game he didn't look too out of place. Then again, for anyone out there who thinks he should be on the top two lines....three 2v1's and he blew all three - the first the worst when he *missed the net*. Oy. B Juneau: Ultimately his man who scored the second goal. He was a step behind the whole way and that left Komi wondering what to do and who to cover. Then again, he's got a jump in his step that's looking much like the beginning of the year. Hopefully he'll know to take the time off when next his back is aching. B Dagenais: Nice pass to Ribs on that goal, for sure. Tough for him to get into the rhythm of a game like that with so many penalties happening. He played barely ten minutes and I'm *assuming* it wasn't for bad play, since I didn't see him doing anything that he doesn't normally do. B- Zednik: With each passing game I'm finding his confidence growing. He's starting to cut to the middle more and is making intelligent plays with the puck. I'm really pleased with the progression in recent games. B+ Ribeiro: No doubt, that was the kind of game we have to see from him. If he plays like that, we have an extremely good 1-2 punch up the middle. Might be a little small, but even Mike was playing bigger tonight. Anyone see him level his check at the blueline? That was sweet. The best though was the blocked shot. *applause* My only...*only* problem with Ribs tonight was his classless patting of himself on the back when he got first star. Everyone else who gets a star is humble and awknowledges the crowd. Ribs seems to be pointing to himself as if to prove that he can do it. We know you can, bud! TEAM first, not pats on the back! A Bulis: Finally got himself a goal on a good shot. Took beating a weak Osgood to get it, but for his confidence in the scoring aspects, he'll take what he can get. While he isn't a bonified scorer, though, he certainly works well with his two linemates, doesn't he. B+ Ryder: Had a mild argument with my good friend about who was the better rookie, Trent Hunter or Ryder. He says Hunter hands down because on any given night the kid plays at the highest intensity and quite often he's the best the Isles have at this point. I say great, but Ryder does it all too, scores, passes, hits, wins almost all his battles along the boards, plays with great passion... With Bergeron and Pitkanen, this is going to be a fun battle to watch for the rest of the season. Tonight, the usual from Ryder. :-) A- Koivu: Virtually every shift - and tonight even some of the ones on the PK - Sax was dangerous on the ice creating some kind of scoring opportunity. He should have had another three or four points, and I think specifically of Zed at the edge of the crease alone with Sax's pass hitting him in the tape. Arrrrggghhh. :-) A ~~ A little worry of mine that creeped up in the third occurred when we stopped playing for the win and started playing not to lose. For those two or three minutes, the Blues were by far the better team, had some quality chances including a goal, and really gave the impression of a team that was going to comeback and have a huge upset. Fortunately after the goal we woke up and started playing again, but this team has to be very careful about lapses like that, because one day it may just haunt us. Quick flight to Atlanta and we play the Thrash tomorrow night. They're a struggling team, but one that has a lot of fire-power. However, if we continue our solid play, we'll give them a good game and as fans we should enjoy ourselves once more. A Concerned Fan
  5. Do not kid yourselves habs fans, despite the score, that was almost as ugly a game the Habs have played all year. The first period was a dullard affair with virtually zero passion shown in the game. The turning point came when the Habs killed the two man advantage and from then on it was a mildly disinterested habs team playing an ECHL club (Pittsburgh faded into oblivion after that PK - there was no (team) effort and Caron was left out to dry completely). I'm sure there will be a plethora of fans saying we have to take victories like this as they come and be happy we get to see them now and again, but in my mind, it was yet another worrysome three periods, making that eight in a row. It wasn't like the Habs were playing well, in fact passes were consistently in feet, receptions were poor, and play was meek-spirited and filled with errors. The problem is, particularly after that PK, the Pens gave up leaving the Habs to play shinney. ~~ Notes: Theo: He had to make one or two good saves, his rebound control looked a little better than it did last game and he did end up with a shutout. Still, when the average shot if from a half mile and right at the crest on your shirt, it's not exactly bragging material. B+ Bouillon: Fairly typical game from him and I'm not at all disappointed in his game. B Rivet: For all the good he's done in the last two or three, this was a giant step backwards. He did practically nothing right, making lousy passes, poor choices on and off the puck, and getting beaten by the ECHLers. A very disconcerting effort. D+ Brisebois: Better than last game when he was making old-time Breezer danger passes, but still not where he was a couple of weeks ago. I found him lazy and non-committal in the defensive zone. B- Komisarek: He's got to watch the concentration lapses, because about five times per game he whiffs on a pass and causes heart problems. Tonight it wasn't so bad because the Pens had no one who could do anything about it, but it's still a concern. Decent game otherwise. C+ Quintal: Steady, I thought. While he did make an error or two each period, they were minor and I was pleased with his overall game. Of course, his opponents were not exactly challenging. B+ Souray: Tough, tough, tough call. He sure re-wrote the record books and that's great to see, but honestly, think back after the first period and after having seen all the errors he made. How many out there were a little concerned with his game at that point? He gets the A, purely because he shone with the puck. A Langdon: The goal in games like that must be: feed Langdon. I think he should have been put on the first line and been given every chance. When you have a player who plugs for you every night, it's nice for a little payback here and there. B+ Perreault: On a night where his game should have shone, he was all but invisible. All that space, minor league opponents, and a poor game. Not good. D+ Ward: He had a good hustle game certainly, but once again I have to call out those who think he's got NHL-quality offensive skills. Nice whiffle on the break. *cough* Of course, it could be that he couldn't get a clean break despite his all-star speed. B- Dackell: Particularly weak game for him. A lack of intensity that I'm not used to seeing has me quite disappointed. C+ Juneau: Looked good and is a good leader. That's how you play every night no matter who you're playing. Same intensity as in every other game, and tonight he was rewarded again. Kudos to one of the few who really put in a full nights work. B+ Kilger: Three in a row where he's looked good. When half the team took the night off, he was still trying to make his point. Not perfectly done, but certainly another step in the right direction. B Dagenais: Um, isn't this the kind of game where you're supposed to shine? Talk about someone taking the night off and floating because he thinks it's an easy one. That's how you pick up bad habits. I'm not impressed in the least. D+ Zednik: He does have more jump lately and really is varying his game plan in the offensive third. B+ Ribeiro: *sigh* I can't wait to get lambasted again. he gets, what, four points? But I thought he was mostly poor out there. Sure, the PP was good for him, but on his own line, he was doing all those silly dangle things when he didn't need to. Why try and impress the world when you can do the easy play and be a team guy. And why not work hard tonight? Don't want to run up the score to 15? Then play puck control. For the points... B Bulis: The first period was one of his worst this year. No energy, no hustle, no desire. He finally woke up later on and started playing fairly well, though he wasn't as good in the defensive end as usual. Against this Pens team when they quit like they did tonight, your man shouldn't ever be getting away. B- Ryder: Julien really hammered it home when he benched him that one time. Other than the last game, he's been Mr. Consistency on the Habs. He continued tonight dishing out hits, playing hard at both ends and fortunately racking up some points. Habs fans shouldn't be just happy, they should be proud of this guy. A- Koivu: He was a little lax at first, but picked up his game as the contest went along. Deserved more points than he got with some scintillating play on the PP and at even strength, but wasn't rewarded tonight. That's how it goes. On the PK, 3v5, he was again brilliant. This new defensive dimension is great. B+ ~~ Games like this require puck control and intensity. The Pens quit and we scored eight with only a half effort. Remember our best games of the year? Imagine the score then. I have to wonder when Caron's lawsuit will be served. I mean, the complete lack of support out there was embarassing. St. Louis comes to town Tuesday and if we give this effort, I would expect about the same scoreline...the other way. Perhaps it's the mid-season blahs, but the Habs really have to turn it around as the sked is going to get a lot tougher soon. A Concerned (and ready for a shellacking) Fan
  6. Anyone awake out there? THe Habs have a problem on their hands because it wasn't just tonight's game that was without passion, it was also the last two periods against the Sabres. That's a trend that has to cause some concern amongst the habs brass. Tonight we were almost never first to the puck; we played with almost no passion or intensity; indeed at times it looked like we were preferring to watch the game rather than play it. What this game proved, ultimately, is that if our best players aren't playing good games, this team doesn't have a chance no matter how good our filler is. Because let's be honest here, it wasn't like the Daganais' and Dackell's played much different than usual, it was the big guns who were out to lunch. Personally, I would have pulled Theo at the end of the second and allowed Garon to take that third period as it probably would have been a good wake up call and Theo had really struggled to that point. I'm not sure why Julien rolls his lines much better when the Habs are losing. Tonight, the fourth line got regular shifts when we needed to try and pull the game back, whereas on nights when we're winning, he tends to shorten that bench and leave the Langdon's of the team to pick out splinters for much of the night. Before I make a judgement I'd love to hear an explanation of sorts - even if it's as simple as him just not seeing anything worth playing from everyone else - because to me, it's a really odd decision. ~~ Notes: Theo: Don't take too deep a whiff, you might get sick from the noxious smell. Three goals were ones that Theo would have had on most other nights. Like I said, I'm shocked he stayed in for so long. His rebound control - that which I was so pleased with in recent days, was horrendous. C- Bouillon: At least he'd fairly consistent. I don't think he played a particularly poor game, in fact I like the way he handled himself when he was against LeCavalier. He's a player that doesn't get intimidated by talent and that's a good thing to see from a player like him. On a game like this where most stunk, he was even for the night. B+ Rivet: Turned the corner, perhaps not. Turning the corner, absolutely. Again, another player who was even tonight and despite getting caught running around a couple of times, despite a couple of nasty passes, he looked pretty good out there. Again, though, it's a case of the lower players being consistent, and this team can't afford that. B+ Brisebois: I'm starting to get a little concerned about his game now. That's three in a row where's he's made a few boneheaded plays. Back to the simple game, Breezer, or the boo-birds might make a re-appearence. C+ Komisarek: For someone who spent most of the night on his off-side, I don't think he played that poorly. He's made some good adjustments in his game and is looking better, and getting more ice time as a result. If you compare he and Souray, you can see the differences and his deficiencies boldly: tentative, slower, more prone to panic. However, for his age and maturity level, he's not doing badly. Then again, I'll be interested to see if he plays next game if Markov is back. C+ Quintal: For one of the rare occasions it was Quintal bailing out Souray a few times. All night he was consistent in his play and like any good defensive defender, you rarely noticed him. I particularly love the way he uses his experience to tie up sticks when he's about to be beaten. B+ Souray: Take a deep breath habs fans and pray that this game was an aberration. He made rookie-type mistakes and just didn't look good at all out there tonight. There was no fire to his game - other than the revenge fire that he showed to some Bolts which was more borne out of frustration in his game than it was in something they did. C Langdon: While I'm not overly pleased to see him out there when the Habs are down later in games, I think he played a pretty good one tonight. Once again I found myself smiling at his actual hockey and thinking it was way better than I expected when we first acquired him. B Ward: WHen he was put on the first line late in the game, I just about choked. With apologies to Wardo fans, that was a bit of a joke. He certainly didn't have a great game and while he works hard, he doesn't even have the offensive skill Bulis has when the latter's confidence is low. B Perreault: I thought one play late in the game was pretty much typical of his night. Someone won the puck along the boards and passed it out to Yannick....who was skating slowly the other way not paying even a lick of attention. D Kilger: Three in a row. Who'd a thunk he would have really taken that message to heart. He's my first star for the Habs in tonight's game. Hits, shots, solid play everywhere....intensity! With those ingredients, he stays. A- Juneau: Perhaps that half game off helped because Joe had some good jump tonight. I was quite pleased to see him back in the lineup and even more pleased when his game was so good. He was probably one of the better Habs all night in both ends of the rink. B+ Dackell: Another typical Dackell game. He did his job effectively all over the ice, and you can't really expect more. Now, tonight he was a little less effective than he usually is, but I think that was just along the vein of the team. B- Dagenais: Dags lovers rejoice, he scored again. Right place, right time - and that's something you can't teach anyone. Of course, hockey lovers should be cringing about now, because other than that one play, he was dismal all night. C- Zednik: While most of the rest of the team turns south, Zed looks to be getting a little more jump in his skates. Instead of going the long way around, he's going to the net more. He's making those plays - the little ones - which will untimately make him a more successful player in the end. Look for him beside Saz with Ryder on Saturday. B+ Ribeiro: After such a great game two nights ago....... Ribs should have stayed home, he was putrid. There was almost a complete lack of effort tonight, his shifts were again too long, and he was just about the most AHL-looking player I've seen in the NHL in a while. And that INCLUDES Dags and Ward. His line was dominated almost every shift, and much of that was on him in the defensive zone as he continually failed to put in his work. F Bulis: Not his best effort tonight, unfortunately. He was skating well and on the PK he was good, but overall he just didn't seem to be where he needed to be. B Ryder: Are we about to see another benching for the uber-rookie? This was one of the worst games I've seen him play all year. He got a real chewing-out when he totally left his position to hit someone on the other side of the rink. Hopefully he comes back with a much better effort Saturday. D+ Koivu: Again, just not all there tonight. Sax just didn't have the zip he's had for the last 10 or so games. That said, he still created more in the offensive zone than anyone else tonight and was also really good defensively - particularly when matched against LeCavalier, but it was just not a top-notch night for the Captain. B ~~ Let's just put this one out of our heads and hope things look better on Saturday. I'm sure there will be a few choice words from the coaching staff over the next couple of days and I would suspect there will be a few lineup changes as well. Don't be surprised if Garon gets the start - and I really believe he should have had it tonight. Pittsburgh it is - the team that shocked the Devils 4-2, so we can't take them lightly at all. Sets your alarms because it's an early game, starting at 1:00 in the afternoon. No Mario doesn't mean win, it just means that everyone else on that team works a little harder. An effort like today from the Habs will give us another loss, and some real soul-searching to do.
  7. What started out being a walk against a team that didn't look like it wanted to play hockey turned into a nail-biting game that probably cost both coaches a few grey hairs. The Habs completely dominated that first, then sat back and had trouble maintaining the intensity for the rest of the game. Fortunately there were enough players that had it in them to pull out the win. That first showed me things I'd not seen in the Habs in about 10 years, the most important of which was the first-time passing that was consistent and stunningly accurate. Sure the Sabres didn't show up for the first, however the fact that said passing was so accurate still indicates a huge improvement in the skill-level that the coaches and management really deserve a good pat on the back. The second and third showed me that there's a problem still in the concentration levels of some of the atheletes that needs to be addressed. ~~ Notes: Theo: If he's not playing at his current level, the Habs are in trouble. If he continues to play this way, the playoffs are ours to lose, quite honestly. A Bouillon: Stunning first period. After that he was still very good, but made a few more errors that I'd like to see cut out of his game. Where he slid into Theo was not his fault, that was losing an edge. The goal, though, was ultimately him. When he attempted to hammer Afinogenov instead of angle him out, he cost the team the ability to contain the attack. B Rivet: The goal was absolutely not his fault. He contained his man and didn't let him penetrate to the inside, instead forcing the pass. You can't ask any more than that. Rivet played a good game, made only a few errors, and best of all, took responsability and fixed those mistakes. Still, he needs to cut out those errors in the first place. B Komisarek: A little more time tonight, and he deserved it completely. I thought he came out extremely strong and confident in the first and carried that through the game. Certainly, as any rookie, he made his errors, but playing on the wrong side doesn't seem to affect him as much as some others, and he's certainly putting in all the effort. B- Brisebois: I think *think* mind you that Breezer has been given the green light by the staff to start trying to add in other elements to his game. He's been so solid defensively and consistent to boot that I can see Julien loosening the strings slightly to see what might unfold. Unfortunately that's led to a few more turnovers than I'd like to see. We'll see if he keeps up with it or if he's pushed back to the simple game. B- Quintal: Game 1000 was a solid one. No glaring errors at the back and even a couple of scoring chances to go along with it. When you think about it, a thousand games at this level, particularly for a plugging #4-6 defender is an impressive achievment. Nice gesture by the Habs brass to give him a star at the end. B- Souray: Only once did I see him really blow it and that was when he took his time, made room for himself, them completely failed to do anything and subsequently get attacked by someone. Again, though, he's really improving. A- Langdon: That was a tough fight against a really tough opponent and Langdon held his own. I like his style, though it's not as flamboyant as a Chris Nilan. He's patient, uses that left chop well, and picks his spots intelligently. He was also really effective on the ice tonight as well. A- Ward: Tough call here. He didn't draw attention to his play in any major way, but since he was moved up to the third line, I feel that's not such a bad thing in a defensive role. Some shifts he hit, some he didn't, but as usual the intensity is there. I notice now, though, that he's not over-pursuing nearly as much and *that* is a good improvement. B- Kilger: WHO IS THAT MASKED MAN??? Is he trying to play himself back into the Montreal plans? He was fantastic tonight! Everything everyone wants him to be. I mean, he'll never be a first-line player, but if he can play at that level every night then the third line is a great place for him. Someone out there PLEASE, tell him to keep it up! B+ Juneau: Shame he got injured because he really is showing jump lately. Hopefully he's back soon as we need that experience out there. N/A Dackell: Once again Mr. Consistency provides. Looking at his game and thinking back carefully, I don't think there's a player on the team that ties up a stick better than he does. And he's really smart with the puck in the neutral zone. B Perreault: He was used all over the place tonight - at least when it came to faceoffs. I like the way Julien uses his assets the best he can, it's simply great coaching. Unfortunately, Perreault just wasn't all there tonight. You know, defensively he's horrible, but it's not because he's forgotten his man. It seems to me that he's always there, it's just that he's behind the guy and not *doing* anything about him. That's not defense, that's a front row seat. D Zednik: For once I can't really talk about his defensive problems....because that line was never in the defensive zone!!! Zed was brilliant on the puck all night and created multiple chances. His strength alone kept the puck in on numerous occasions. B+ Dagenais: Defence-schmefence. Who needs it when you're never there. I know why that line was put out at the end (who else held their breath at that decision which was another of Julien's controversial, yet positive decisions that made him look like a genious), they were dominant all night. Still, Dags has to learn the four-letter word: p-a-s-s. His goal was right-place-right-time and the rest of the night he picked a spot in front of the net and waited, unmoving, for the puck to get to his sweet spot. B- Ribeiro: Now *THAT* is the Ribs we have to see every night. He didn't hold on to the puck too long, made utterly brilliant plays consistently, and never had to worry about defence because he was never in his own zone. (Actually, the one time his line was on in the third when they were backed up, all three were dallying by the blueline instead of getting back - talk about wrecking an almost perfect night.) The third star went to Quintal - only because he played number 1000. Ribs was my third. A- Ryder: After a three point night it's hard to come back and be all that and a bag of chips. The line didn't have half the chances tonight as they were generally matched against Buffalo's best, but Ryder performed well enough. Defensively it was his worst outing in a while as more than a few were held in at his point where he should have moved them out. B- Bulis: Why oh why do the 'tenders have to save their best saves for him? Imagine the goals - and the confidence - if even just a few had gone in! B+ Koivu: Oh those Fins and their tempers. They make the Irish look meek by comparison. Tonight was more a focus on his defensive game: witness the immaculate work he did on the two-man short situation. While he was his usual self offensively, that line didn't have nearly as many chances while playing against a solid Buffalo attacking three. A- ~~ Classy play is routinely overlooked in the NHL. Take Komisarek for example. He took out his man - with authority - on one scoring chance for the Sabres. After the play had been blown dead you could clearly read his lips as he asked the guy if he was okay. Now, when you add that little element into everything we know about Komi, into the way he played tonight, and hit, and into the work ethic everyone knows he has, is it any wonder that as many as 23 teams or so have contacted the Habs regarding his availability since he was first drafted? (That was the number of requests from teams that Savard had before he stepped down.) And this kid is still just that! Imagine when he develops it all? Tampa Bay and the Tortorella/LeCavelier affair comes to town on Thursday. They're a struggling club, but one that can still explode if given half the chance. Don't be surprised to see Garon in for this one, as I think he's about come due. Also, if Juneau is out, it'll be nice to see Pleks back in and getting some more quality ice time. A Concerned Fan
  8. While I was going to do a mid-season report and mark it in my usual fashion, it occurred to me that this was a good opportunity to take a deeper look at the organization and where each piece of the puzzle fits in. I feel much better about that decision now that I see poster Saku K. has submitted a strong post regarding performance with marks not unlike what I might have given the players. As a warning to those who read this, it's not going to be short; I have every intention of being thorough so if you only have a few moments or don't feel like reading a rather lengthy piece of work, this might be the time to look elsewhere. My intention here is to take each player and give a minor scouting report outlining what you may or may not see if you watch them play. I feel this is a good tangent to take after what I've produced during the year thus far, particularly for the casual fan or the non-habs fan who might want to have a reference for when their team plays the Canadiens. Instead of those performance marks, I'll discuss more their adaptation to the system, how they work within a team concept, their intensity (or lack thereof), and their outlook in the organization as a whole. I'll also put into words some of my thoughts on the coaches and general manager and their provided for the club as I feel these two elements are integral to the success of any hockey team. **I would ask that instead of quoting, should you wish to respond, you type instead, "As Guy! blathered about..." or something similar. Direct quoting of this post will cause bandwidth pains similar to having a 2400 baud modem back in the day. Not good. ~~ Goalies: Theo: After a difficult season last year some might have expected him to come back with another difficult season this year. Hardly so. What many don't take into consideration is the way he finished last year - he was much stronger and much more consistent. Therefore, his play this year should not be a surprise to anyone. The large paycheck and hardware received two years ago have faded enough into obscurity that he's just playing the game, rather than playing for ulterior reasons. Theo's greatest ability as a keeper is that of getting in the right position. Even when he's not making the best of saves, he's usually in the right place so that, more often than not, the puck hits him. Some have said his games look really easy and you therefore can't say he's playing particularly well; I disagree. He's getting into such a position that players are hitting him because they have little other choice. From the beginning of the season until now, I feel we've seen a vast improvement in his ability to handle his rebounds. Where he was sending them into the slot early on, now he either smothers, or where that's not possible, deflects to corners as much as possible. If there's one aspect of his game that's making life easier on him and his defence, it's this aspect. He's a small butterfly goalie and has been taught to stay very upright when facing the shooter and it's something he forgot last year. This year, he's square and tall and challenging and unless you're a tiny goalie, you cover a lot of the net this way. It's tough to guage how a goalie works in a system, but I think I've seen a few indicators along the way. First of all, he's communicating with his teammates better than he's done before which simplifies things in the defensive third considerably. He also moves the puck effectively now when leaving the net. Rarely does he give the puck away and so you can almost call him a third defender at times, which in the team concept of things, helps the Habs transition that puck infinitely quicker. I don't think ayone can't doubt Theo's intensity or his desire and at this point he's earning his paycheck completely. It's been a game of improvement for him this year, as he was certainly not at the top the whole time, but for the last 15-20 games, he's where we need him to be. As for his standing in the club, I think we can all assume he's the centrepiece at the back, and could be for a long time. The only question in his habs future has to do with his number two. Garon: He's had little time in game situations this year, however for those who have watched him closely, you may have noticed some serious improvement in his game since the beginning of the year. If you have game tape from early on, watch closely as his lateral movements take him too far on a routine basis. Now when he slides, he stays in position and doesn't have to scramble back to make a save. It's a small thing, but it's key for a butterfly goalie to be positionally sound. Honestly, all he needs now is more game time so he can refine his rebound control (you can't do that effectively in practice as the slightly lower tempo can never recreate what happens in game situations), however I don't think you'll see him getting all that much before the end of the season short of an injury to Theo or a guarantee, one way or the other, about the playoff picture. As a slightly taller goalie, he covers the net somewhat better than Theo, though I think his aggressiveness is somewhat lower, again due to lack of game time. His largest problem is his lack of concentration in games. If this is due to desire or confidence or intensity, I can't say, but it's something he needs to address before he takes on any number one role. He's got the talent to, quite honestly, be better than Theo (Jeff Hackett maintains Garon has the best legs in hockey) but he's got to develop a little of that swagger and confidence in order to back up the natural talent. Having said all that, Garon makes for the perfect back-up, and if Theo's not careful, an aspiring starter with large potential. If he gets the game time necessary, watch out. You could see a blockbuster with Theo and his paycheck being bundled off to regions unknown (okay, not Boston). Defence: Bouillon: One of the guys everyone loves to hate, he's made the team because of what he does and not that he does it a few inches lower than everyone else. While many might say he's deficient defensively, the reality is that he's an effective defenseman who's positional play is sound and physical play is second-to-none on this club. The problem he encounters arises when playing against significantly larger players who have the ability to push him off without much effort. Cube, or Bubbles as I like to call him (but not to his face, he's whomp my butt) is on this team because he's confident, and plays the game he's told to play. A particular strength of his lies in his work with the puck; as he's a very good skater. He has the ability to transport the puck himself during transition and though sometimes he over-handles it and that can lead to problems, he's got the speed, and more importantly the tenacity, to work at fixing his errors. I've always called him the best number seven defenseman in hockey, and I stick to that. On a contending team, and by this I mean Cup contending, he's the depth guy you love to have. If he's in your regular six, it means you're deficient at the back in some respects in all probablility (or your top four are studs). His place on this team is basically assured, particularly on a fairly shallow left side, until a rookie supplants him with better play. My guess is that he's safe at the very least for this season, and may very well have his spot next year as well. Certainly, he plays the system and doesn't rock the boat - he's here for a reason. Rivet: He's had more than just a difficult year this season. From the drop of the opening puck, he's struggled with his game and has put more pucks on opponents' sticks than he has on his own teammates. I think it boils down to him trying to do too much in light of his sparkly new contract. What he has to realize, and what I think the coaches are slowly getting through to him at this point, is that his game isn't as a number one or two defender, it's as a solid number four or five who gets the job done. At this point, what you'll see in Rivet's game is the very simple plays. He's starting to angle his player out rather than make bigger hits, he's using his stick a little better now in terms of checking his opponents. When he's got the puck he's chipping it out and rarely makes any kind of break-out pass; this last I believe is a direct result of coaching and confidence. For a while he was consistently losing the puck on supposed break-out passes only to have them come back in his face. His game is simpler and as such, much more what the coaches are looking for from someone like him. It's interesting to me that someone his size has far less impact in terms of hitting than his partner Bouillon. Part of it is leg drive, for sure. Rivet tends to hit with his upper body instead of driving through his opponent. Sure, the hit starts with the legs, but he doesn't really follow through. But the other part of it is timing. Quite honestly, he doesn't have half the timing Bouillon does when hitting an opponent, and timing is a tough thing to master. For now I'm satisfied with Rivet's game as he's taken hold of the coaches concepts and goals and is playing within the system regularly. He's a leader and one of the most intense players on the team and those two elements flow together and are part of the reason Markov had such an improvement last year. As to his future, I have my doubts. He does have value on the trade market and with our youngsters on the cusp, he might be a logical choice to move. If he doesn't move, he, along with Quintal, are the two whose positions are most threatened by the upcoming Komisarek. Time will tell. Brisebois: From the moment Gainey opened his mouth and berated the booing fans, there has been a turn-around in Breezer's game. It's been slow, and has been supplemented with much support and guidance from the coaching staff, but he's gone from being an offensive defender with little regard for his own zone to a smart player who plays within his means. Rarely now do we see the panicked or rushed pass from his own zone resulting in a turnover and scoring opportunity for the other team. Now we get the simple pass and effective transition from a player who's finally bought into the system. Defensively Breezer has always been better than any numbers might have indicated. The problem was his focus: too often he was trying to be the offensive catalyst or was more concentrated on fulfilling his hefty paycheck instead of doing the little things that make a good defender. Now he angles his man out, throws the occasional smart check with his newly buffed up body, or poke checks not wildly but accurately. He may not be the strongest in front of the net, but he's smart and plays a good balance game with the opposition and is able to clear the front that way. With the puck, he's no longer an offensive threat, however he's an ultra-accurate passer and a smart, experienced player who knows when to pinch and when to get out of Dodge. He does have a strong shot, though we've not seen much of it this year. I believe we'll see more as time goes on and as he continues to adapt to his new style of play; particularly since opponents will be keying on Souray as the main threat instead of him. And while his adaptation to the new system and his new game have taken time, they look to be at a point where everyone is confortable with him. At times he still looks lax, particularly on the power play when moving the puck up, but I think that's less intensity related as it is more confidence in his abilities. High contract aside, I think Breezer is going to be with us for a while. Although his trade value is probably at the highest point in about four years, he's the best we've got on the right side and would be a good person for youngsters to learn from as time goes on. He's no longer the deficiency at the back either, and with the fans and management behind him, his confident and strong play is something that we will need in the coming months, and potentially years. Quintal: He's getting long in the tooth and slow in the leg, but he still has something left out there. When he plays his best game, Quintal is a positional defender who can pin men to the boards and neutralize a play with excellent board work. Unfortunately, consistency has not been his ally this year, and we've seen him scrambling to catch up to plays and being left behind by faster players all too often. I would hazard to say that pairing him with someone other than Souray would potentially bring disaster, since Souray routinely bails out Quintal's misses. There is something that will be dearly missed when he either leaves or hangs them up, and that's leadership. No one else is as willing to drop the gloves to defend a teammate or fire up the team. For two solid years now, he's been the guy to count on in a crunch. The fact that he works extremely hard every night and is a committed team player within the system is only an added bonus. If only the legs were a little younger. The future's a mystery for Quintal. He could be traded, could be left aside when the younger guys work themselves into the lineup, or could be there next year to continue to provide his leadership and positional play. If he can minimize the errors and remain as consistent as possible, then I can see him on the backline next year quite easily. Markov: If ever there was someone who suffered from confidence problems, it's Andrei. Last year he made his breakout and was stellar on the back line. He's the most proactive defender Montreal has seen in years cutting out plays at the opponents blue line routinely. His ability to angle his man out has always been exemplary. He's got incredible hand-eye coordination and can pick pucks out of scrums as well as win board battles by deft stick work and shifty play. He can handle the puck extremely well and his passing from the back is unequalled amongst Montreal blueliners. His shot is low and accurate and his pinch to win the puck is usually spot on. In a one-on-one situation, I would never bet against him with his array of talents. The problem is that most of those skills are unseen this year. True, he was paired with a severely struggling Rivet, and then many others as injuries and movements took place at the back. True, he lost his Russian buddy Petrov late last year and is basically alone (one reporter mentioned that he seemed very unhappy). True, he's still young. Also true, though, is that it's up to him to bring it all out again. He can't rely on playing with other Russians or on who his partner is, all he's ultimately got is himself. There's no question he plays within the system or that he's a coachable player. There's no question that he works hard each night or that he's a team player who sticks up for others. The only question is when he'll put it all together, realize he can do it at the highest level, and then become the best habs defender as his skills dictate he is. Do his struggles mean he's on the way out? Probably not, though he's surely fetch a nice bauble or two. With Souray playing so well, it does lessen the impact of a struggling Markov. I'd like to say he's part of the core of the team and that, when he gets his game going, we could have a one-two punch on the left side of the defence which can rival any in the game, but he still needs time to find himself and his game. Souray: It's all in the little things. Yes, he's leading the league in scoring for defenders and has produced far above what anyone expected in their wildest dreams. Yes, he's a physical defenceman who can clear the crease, win the board battles, and cause the havok needed in the defensive zone. Yes, he can move the puck with extreme precision and has the hockey sense to know when, and when not, to do it. Now, will he score another 13 in the second half of the year? Probably not if the games against Atlanta and Washington are examples. They're keying on him - the ultimate compliment. And also good for the Habs considering his passing ability as it means, particularly on the power play, that someone is going to have about an acre of space to himself. What he's started doing more recently, though, is take his game to a completely new level. A few have noticed it: Jaques Demers being one. Now he's added a subtle poke-check to his game. He's added a more proactive ability on defense as he cuts out plays before they start. And most importantly, the game is slowing down for him: he's showing patience in his plays, seeing things that most would never see, and doing little things on and off the puck that make me think he's not just a solid three or four guy, but potentially an elite defender. Now, he's still got work to do in this transition, and as a result he makes mistakes from time to time, but I think when he emerges at the other end of this transformation, we're going to see an absolutely stunning defender. One of the most gratifying things in his game is the team aspect. He's stated on numerous occasions that he's extremely satisfied that the Habs stuck with him during his misery and he has every intention of paying them back fully. He sticks up for his teammates at the drop of a...glove. He's taken the new system to heart and is the first to speak in the dressing room when things go wrong. He works his butt off every night. Can you ask more of a person? His outlook? Top two on the Habs blueline at this point - particularly with Markov's struggles. He's an all-around stud who's making headlines for himself. If there's a group of players who are the core of the future of the Habs, Souray is right in the middle. Hainsey: It's a bit of a joke thinking he should be in Montreal over Bouillon, quite honestly. His work ethic, his confidence, his actual play; none of these things are anywhere close to Bouillon's at the moment. Hainsey is a good puckhandling defender who needs to learn how to defend. For a guy with his size, he's incredibly weak on the boards and in front of the net. The fact he doesn't use that size to at least angle a player out is the most worrisome, though. Positionally he is getting better, his latest stint in Montreal served notice that at the very least he's learned a bit in that regard. Of course with the puck he's got a wonderful shot and can move well and pass well, but that is less than half a defenders game. Some might say he's got the potential to be an elite player in the NHL, but his deficiencies on defence lead me to believe that he's closer to an Andy Delmore than to a Nick Lidstrom. Now, he's young for sure, and with patience he might still develop into something special, but from what I see, he doesn't have that something special that other kids have. With Markov it was the ability to be so proactive. With Komisarek it was poise. Hainsey is good with the puck, but nothing jumps out at me as special. I sure hope I'm wrong, but... If only he weren't the overly cocky person off the ice, he might learn something or two. The stories you hear about him are disconcerting at best. And while they may just be stories and rumours, usually where there's a little smoke, there's at least a flash of fire. His attitude is probably the one thing we hear most about his reason for not being in Montreal: he doesn't work hard enough, he doesn't play the team game well enough. Those are troubling statements and in my mind, they leave his future in some doubt. Perhaps a change of scenery is what this young man needs. Komisarek: Big, bruising, and developping slowly into a nasty defender. From the beginning the surprise with Komi was his abilities on the puck, but it's his play off the puck that had him drafted so high. Make no mistake, he's going to take some time to fully develop, but I think in the end, it'll all be worth it. Each time he takes to the ice there are small improvements in his game and this is thanks to the hard work (and work ethic) that he does with Rick Green. His positional game is coming around and he's caught flat-footed and out of position less and less. He's also learning to effectively angle his man into the boards and once there consistently win the battles. As for sheer strength, he's got it, he just has to use it a little more effectively in front of the net. And of course, now and again, we get the chance to see him severly punish someone with a massive hit. On the other hand, his passing has been a revelation. He makes effective tape-to-tape passes and launches counters adeptly. Of course, he's still adapting to the speed of the NHL game and as such holds on to the puck a little long at times, but this is one of the things he's been working on and recent games have seen improvements in this area. His shot is superb, whether wrist (which I love that he takes since it's quicker and far more accurate) and his low and hard slap shot which for a youngster is surprisingly accurate. Once he puts it all together, not this season but probably mid-next year, and then develops it all, he's going to be a scary defender. When you add to his raw abilities his team game and that work ethic which is much talked about, you can see his future with the Habs is bright indeed. Toss in his composure and obvious leadership abilities and he's future captain material. Forwards: Begin: If people thought Gainey was going to take his time to stamp his image on the team they were wrong. When he plucked Begin off waivers before the season started, he pulled in an absolute sparkplug with more potential than any realized. Where can you start talking about him other than his absolutely incredible work ethic. Every shift of every game he's out there giving his all and for habs fans, it's a complete treat to see. He consistently finishes his checks, and often with strong results. He's always on his opponent, harrying them consistently and causing turnovers and mistakes. Simply, he's a gnat - but this gnat has talent! In a surprising move when Juneau when injured, Begin was given the third line and he did a remarkable job with it. Not only was he in the face of the opponents best, but he was positionally sound, and played the defensive game at a very high level. Best of all, his buzz-saw play rubbed off on his linemates and in particular woke up Sundstrom from a season-long slumber. Sadly, a shoulder injury has him out, but when he returns, Julien will have a most happy problem. Begin is a team player, he's a hard worker (understatement!), and he's a guy other teams hate to face. Is he in the future of the Habs? Not only is he there, but he's probably worked his way from a fringe role-player to something closer to an integral part. At least for a year or so before some of the younger talent develops, Begin will be a key in the Montreal offence. Kilger: I gave him the nickname Shrug earlier on, and except for a game or two, he's lived up to it to the fullest. Recently he cleared waivers and that's a direct sign that his days as a habs are just about up. The only reason he played in the most recent game was a series of injuries that left the Habs short. It's such a shame too when you see his size and how he plays on *some* nights. When he puts in full effort and finishes checks, forechecks strongly, and plays with intensity and an edge, he looks something like a player who might have been drafted fourth overall with a reason. Most nights though, he's a fringe guy who barely makes an impression on the game. Sure, he plays within the system, but barely. Maybe he needs more time to develop and figure out that only the hardest of work keeps you in the NHL, but I don't think that time will be in Montreal. His days are numbered, and few will shed a tear when he leaves. Ward: Certainly one of the more favoured players of the fans in Montreal because he works so hard and was a scoring guru in the AHL, unfortunately, that latter aspect has failed to translate to NHL success and his other deficiencies are slowly catching up to him. Ward is a poor skater and while positionally he's good, his abilities on the blades won't leave him with many chances to score at the NHL level. The problem is not just speed, because if it were simply that, he'd be fine. Ward has no lateral abilities and no footspeed and therefore can't keep up at this level. Recently, since his injury, we've also seen a reduction in his physical game, and while the injury may play a small part in that, Ward has to realize that it's this hard-nosed game that was the real reason he was brought up in the first place. He'll never make it on talent alone, he has to work harder than anyone else in order to stay. Unfortunately for him, as more and more of our talented rookies take hold, he'll see his ice time diminish to the point where he'll be a depth player brought up for injury reasons only. For now he might keep his spot, but it will forever be on the edge and his ultimate destination and destiny is the AHL and scoring glory while teaching other kids what it takes to make it to the NHL level. Sundstrom: I have no clue if players read these postings, however the day after I called him Mr. Invisible he suddenly woke up and started playing hockey. While I'd love to take credit for the turnaround, I think I can say with relative certainty that it was Begin beside him who woke up his potential. Sunny plays so far below his potential at times, it's scary. What's most frustrating is that, while playing as he has, it's still good enough to be a solid player. He's got good instincts with the puck and is strong defensively. Positionally he's sound all over the ice, and the recent experiment from Julien with Koivu as his centre should prove interesting if it continues for a few more games. There's a reason he scored like he did when he first broke into the league, and that's intensity. If he can get back to that level, start winning his board battles, and generally be stronger on the puck all over the ice, there's no reason he can't pot another ten by the end of the season. I think it took a few games for Sunny to adapt to the new style of play. For a while he was sitting on the fourth line and wasn't getting much ice time. It could be, of course, that he just didn't have the drive to play within the system at first, and that would answer a lot of questions. As for his future, it's certainly clouded. Unless he picks up his socks and starts to give his all, I don't see him staying in Montreal under Gainey much longer. Our GM wants work-a-holics, not coasters. His saving grace might be his defence, though. While not a physical player, he takes out his man effectively and that work in the defensive third might keep him around until a replacement can be found. Perreault: If Yannick the Great could play with intensity every game, could take his best game and make that his norm, he'd be a 40-goal man and would be an integral part of the Habs. The fact he gives you a shift on and a shift off has him ticketed elsewhere at the very latest at season's end. Compouding his consistency and intensity problem is a problem sticking to the system - as he's routinely in the wrong place. Now, he has adapted slowly and is much better within that system now than he ever was earlier in the system, but a team player he is not, and never will be. Yannick wants to score goals, and get points, he hasn't figured out that Cups come with team efforts. Possessing a precise wrist shot and deft ability around the net, he could have been one of the better snipers in hockey. What he lacks in creativity and vision on the ice, he more than makes up in the slot and in being at the right place at the right time. Sadly, the game isn't solely played in this area, and when it leaves he's lost. Winning battles along the boards is basically out of the question and tracking a man back defensively is a hit or miss proposition with the arrow usually hitting miss. The fact he wins more faceoffs than anyone else in hockey is really of little consequence in the long run. Most would rather have four useful centres at both ends of the rink rather than three plus one who wins faceoffs and is good in about a hundred square feet. That he still has a spot with the Habs is testament to the lack of scoring ability present on the squad. Juneau: It's a shame about the back problems, becuase if he could just remedy those, he'd continue to be a useful player for 82 games year in and year out. The fact he started the year so strongly has to be attributed to the summer layoff and subsequent rest for his aching back. After playing so much in the first half of the season, his game started to go downhill until he had to pull himself from the lineup because of the recurrent problems. Juneau is still an excellent defender when healthy. He's been able to track the best players in the game and hold them off the scoresheet more times than habs fans will care to remember. His penalty kill work is also exemplary and it's the little things his experience gives him, like patience with the puck, that allows him to be so successful is those situations. An extra step instead of a panicked clear usually gives him a window of opportunity that most would completely miss out on. Offensively it's been a slow year. The back and legs don't get him into the opposition end nearly as much as they used to, and his worry about being caught has him playing very high in the offensive zone. That doesn't take away from his passing ability, though. He's still extremely good at making plays when he gives himself the chance, and if he'd been playing with two scoring types rather than defensively oriented players, you might see his point total much higher particularly in the assist column. Right now, his biggest contribution to the club is as a teacher, I'd guess. He took Bulis under his wing and made him an extremely good defensive player. I'd like to see him do the same with Hossa as well. He's stated in the past that he'd like to transition to coaching, and I think that'll suit him well. He's got a great grasp of the game; his hockey sense is wonderful. He certainly took the new system offered this year and ran with it, probably being the player leading the charge in adaptation. As a player, I'd say his days in Montreal are numbered, in fact I'd guess he might hang them up at the end of the year, but I can see him taking some kind of coaching role with the Habs - perhaps an assistant in Hamilton to start - when he does give up playing. Zednik: Last year he blossomed into a serious goal scoring threat as he went to the net with regularity and made plays with the puck in the slot. This year his game has been kept to the outside and he doesn't seem to be putting the same effort forth. Part of this is a change in linemates and the disappointment that goes with not playing with the team's best. Part of this is an adaptation by the rest of the league to his game and how to counter it. The rest is down to him not putting in the requisite work to keep his game elevated. Recently he's been playing somewhat better going to the net more and not taking the long tour around the net, instead making plays to cut to the middle. If he keeps working in that trend and raises the intensity level another notch, he'll get back to the 30-goal mark for sure. He's certainly strong on his skates, one of the strongest in the league, and he has the major league moves to succeed, it's just a matter of working them back into his game. Defensively he's poor. Routinely he's beaten on the side boards to pucks that should, by all rights, be cleared out of the zone, and thus puts the pressure back on his defence. Again, this is an intensity question since there's no doubt he's strong on the boards - witness his work in the offensive zone. Unfortunately, he has never really bought fully into the system due to his being an extremely offensive player. The problem with being so single-minded is that you leave your teammates in the lurch too often. Audette was the same way, only couldn't score and you can see where it got him. Zed is, however, a good team player and is quick to protect a teammate in most situations. And Danger Will Robinson if you make him angry enough to fight. A more devastating pugilist I've not seen. Zed will be with the Habs for many years to come, unless a younger kid comes along with goal scoring ability as well as a defensive game. I like to think of Z as core, though - he's someone I'd like to see grow with the team. Dagenais: The man with the shot...and precious little else. Yes, he's made it to the NHL based on his hard work and his scoring prowess in the AHL, but let's not fool ourselves, he's filler material; a depth player. That he had many points early on is no different that Hossa's five goals in five games when he was called up previously - a pleasant hiccup. Another molasses skater, at least he has the ability to move laterally. His biggest asset, though, is his ability to work with Ribeiro who seems to always know where Dags is. And when the latter gets the puck, he sure knows what to do with it: shoot. Unfortunately, it's also going to be his downfall. When he goes on a line change, he shoots; when he takes a pass just inside the blueline, he shoots: when he gets the puck behind the net, he shoots. I love the scoring enthusiasm, but his game is so narrow it's easy to defend. As with Zed, he's defensively poor. There are games when he gets it right, but for the most part he's not strong on his man and loses his board battles. At the very least, though, he's taken some instruction to heart and is throwing the body more than we've been led to believe he ever did in the minors. I'd never call him a player who plays a system well, that's just not his type. I'm sure he tries, when it occurs to him, but he's a strictly offensive person and coverage in the defensive zone will never come naturally. Hopefully he enjoys his stay in the NHL because I'm sure he's ticketed for the AHL as soon as either a youngster comes of age or Gainey acquires a more competent replacement. Gratton: We didn't get to see too much of him until he took the injury to his head and is out with a concussion, but what we did see was similar to Begin, at least for the casual observer. He's another dynamo on the ice who hits as much as possible. Problem here is that his hits don't do any damage because he's so small. I love the enthusiasm, and for a fill in player he's great, but long-term he has no place in Montreal. Of course, he was here for such a short time that he probably didn't get to settle in and start to get in a groove. Once returning from injury, should he get the chance, it might be interesting to see how he works out over a 10-15 game spell. I don't think he has what it takes to make it in the big leagues, but having seen him so little, that assumption may be incorrect. Dackell: He makes most fans trade lists and if he's not on those he's the guy whose contract most can't wait to expire. Shame they can't see past size and look at the little things he brings. Defensively he's a consistent player who brings the same game night in and night out. He takes his man, is rarely beaten, and though he's on the smaller side, wins board battles significantly more often than most. Offensively while not a goal scorer, he's got a gift that so few have - he can hold that puck along the boards by himself for an eternity. His intensity level in those situations is second-to-none. And that simple play is such a momentum shifter, such a time taking move on the penalty kill, such a back breaking play when the other team is desperate. He also cycles the puck very well and is a good passer. As for the PK itself, there are few I'd rather have out there. Consistency has been his catch word this year and it's so nice to know that no matter what the rest of the team is doing, Dax will be doing his same thing as usual. He's bought into the system, and plays the team game and I think if there's one player we resign next year, it'll be Dax for all the little things he brings - as well as his overall game. Langdon: Another of Gainey's waiver wire acquisitions, he was brought in for muscle and size and has provided, for the most part. There have been times when I've felt he should have taken his role as goon a little more to heart, but to be honest, he's also played much better than I'd have expected. He doesn't get lost defensively, can cycle the puck fairly well, and works hard on each shift. From a fourth line goon, that's pretty good stuff. As a fighter, he's the patient sort. You'll never see him go for the Tyson knockout, nor will you see him with wildly swinging fisticuffs, but he'll absorb a few hits, let the other tire out, then start to slowly take the momentum of the fight and eventually land a few good punches himself. He's not going to win many fights, but it's better than watching poor Dwyer who always lost his fights. Pleasantly, he's taken to the system very well, and that combined with his other attributes leads me to believe he'll be the goon of choice in Montreal for a while more. Hossa: I was mildly shocked when he was sent back to Hamilton earlier this year as I thought his game had been improving, if only mildly, on a consistent basis. Perhaps it wasn't at a fast enough rate for the staff and perhaps they felt he needed to go down and regain his confidence fully, either way he's down now and hopefully putting things together. What pleased me most about his game was the way he won most of his board battles. Up until this year, there had been precious few who'd done this on a consistent basis. The disappointing thing seemed to be a lack of intensity anywhere else in the rink, and as I look back and look at the present habs team as it is now, I understand where he doesn't fit in terms of work ethic. He's barely an average passer, at least by NHL standards, but his shot is high quality. Defensively he's learned a lot and I think would benefit sitting on Juneau's wing for a while. What he needs most, though, is that desire. Where this leaves him in the grand scheme is a good question. He's probably good trade bait except that he's a left winger, and those seem to be in somewhat short supply at the moment in terms of depth. Honestly, I can't see him back in Montreal this year except in the case of heavy injuries, but with an honest effort he might make it next year. Of course, then he'll have a few other kids who will be nearing readiness as well. Plekanec: Two games is hardly enough to comment on a player in any depth, however I will say this: he's got the work ethic, desire and skating ability to make it at this level. He was the last cut out of camp and he'll be tough to send down again, though in the end the numbers game will catch up with him. I'll be interested to see where his future lies. Could he be a third line centre and if so what does that mean for Begin? Will he be moved to a wing? His size is a minor issue, but if he plays big - a la Peca - there's no reason to hold it against him. I look forward to seeing what happens in this case. Bulis: The most consistent player this club has seen since Mark Recchi. Every night he brings his 'A' game and every night works his butt off at both ends of the rink. If everyone worked like Bulis, this would be a team to reckon with for sure. Now, if we could only get him to put in some of the numerous chances he has, he'd be a scary player for the opposition. Defence is Bulis' strong point for sure. He's great on the coverage, wins his battles along the boards, and positions himself well. He's wonderful to have on the PK not just because of the former attributes, but also because he's lightning fast and as such makes life tough for the attacking crew. Offensively, he's got decent instincts, but it's his speed and willingness to take the shot that are the best thing. He works hard on the boards in the cycle to win pucks, he also passes very well to boot. With just a little more luck and a little less timely goaltending from opposition 'tenders, he might finally break through and start putting it in regularly. An absolute team player, he's taken to the system extremely well. If you want to know where you should be in terms of being a winger in Julien's system, watch Bulis. Interesting that he's on the first line at the moment, because I can honestly see making him the centrepiece of a defensive line. His future is with the Habs, I would guess, for quite a while and he's one of those core elements that we can build around. Ryder: Two years ago he was playing ECHL hockey and probably wondered if he'd even get a hint of the AHL, let alone the NHL. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring players out there: a massive work ethic will get you where you want to go. Last year he had trouble cracking the Hamilton lineup at the beginning of the year and by the end he was one of the leading scorers. This year he went from the fourth line to the first, is leading the rookie scorers in the NHL, and is still heating up. The sky's the limit. Best of all, he's becoming a very well rounded player. His skating was choppy at first, but with work he's become far more smooth and has a gear that I think most of us didn't expect. His work along the boards has improved continually all year to the point now where you almost expect him to win when he gets in a battle. Equally impressive is how he's incorporated the body into his game. Not just content to score the goals, he understands that in order to stay at the highest level, he's got to go above and beyond all the time, and he finishes his checks regularly. The most under-rated part of his game is his passing where he's shown a vision that is quite remarkable; he consistently makes passes that only the likes of Koivu, Ribeiro, and Markov could make. The key, though, to everything is his coachability. When you buy into the system so fully, when you work so hard and play with so much intensity, when you play as the ultimate team player, great things happen. And so they will with Ryder as he continues with Montreal for the forseeable future and potentially becomes a very highly regarded top-six player in the NHL. Heck, if he continues improving, I see no reason why he can't be a bonified first line player sooner rather than later. Ribeiro: It's his make or break year with the Habs and he's playing it just that way: one shift it's make, the next it's break. He's got all the skills and has most of the sense necessary to make it at the NHL level, but what he doesn't have is speed, size, and desire. Those three might be his killers. There are times when Ribs seems to know how to play defensively, times when he takes his man, ties up his stick and wins plays. There are other times when he might as well hold up at the blueline and wait for the breakout pass. The same can be said for his handling of the puck. Sometimes he does the right thing, not trying to beat someone who has him well covered and making a deft pass to someone in the open, yet there are other times when he takes someone on for no good reason and ends up losing the puck again and again. This is sorely evident in the offensive zone when he tries to do too much with the puck and loses it more often than not. If he would just stop trying to be the hero and try to be a team player, he'd be much more of a success. There was a time in junior when he dropped his pants on the ice to fix his equipment, such was his attitude. While it's improved, it's still not where it should be. Ribs is not a team player, he's out to prove himself as much as he can. Despite all the points he's accumulated, he's still not doing everything he could and should in order to be the best player possible. There are nights when his effort is sadly lacking and he's painful to watch. When Gainey said he was a pleasant surprise, don't take that necessarily to mean that he's been a revelation and is a point of wonderment for the GM, just that he's been a pleasant surprise in that he's performing above expectations. And before you say, "Well, above expectations, see!" let me say that expectations must have been pretty low for him. I find it interesting that when I do my write-ups on him, there's so much reaction. Certainly, the French press has created a bit of a storm around him, building the guy up so much that it's almost impossible to live up to his hype. And many out there accuse me of unfairly criticizing him - possibly in response to said press. My response is thus: do you not take a harder line with your more talented people to bring out the best in them? If you let Ribs get away with all the stupid stuff he pulls, like the long shifts (they're creeping back into his game again), and the lack of intensity, will he be that second line centre that we need? A system player he is not. Oh, there are nights that are better than others, but he needs to be consistent, close that gap to the defenders, play the two way game *all* night and not just when he feels like it. A team player? I have my doubts. I feel he's a guy with a chip on his shoulder who's more interested in proving that he can do it and not that he can be part of the group who can do it. And his future? I'd trade him for that right handed centre Gainey says we need, assuming he's got some value on the market, which he does at his price. I don't think he'll ever be the solid number two centre Montreal needs, certainly not with his size deficiency, and if he can be used as bait to bring in someone else, brilliant. Will he be traded? Good question. He's a media darling and Gainey would take some heat, but it's more possible than many might imagine. If he's not traded though, he's going to have to double that intensity of his and buy in to the system. Koivu: He started the year without a training camp and without the first 14 games. After a five game adjustment period, he's been a point per game player and has been seen on the bench repeatedly standing up and rallying the troops. He's making dazzling plays on the ice, has improved his game defensively, and still manages to lay out the occasional opponent now and again. And yet he still struggles for respect, particularly from some in the French media. Koivu has improved steadily this year to the point where he looks like he's playing better than at any point in his career. He's lightning fast with the puck, stickhandles in traffic better than anyone I've seen, and is making more and more aggressive and assertive plays in the offensive zone. His skating is quick and deceptive and his lateral movements are sharp and unannounced. His puckhandling is well above average and his vision is near elite. His playmaking ability does place him in the elite and he makes those playing on his line better players. Defensively he's maintaining great position, takes out his man well, is tenacious in his coverage, and understands and plays the system. Off the ice, he's the first to talk to the media, and while it's his responsibility with the 'C', he does it with dignity, respect, and class. Rumours of his problems in dealing with some players in the dressing room might be something of a problem, but considering who the two main players are, it's not that hard to understand as each has a rather large ego. The debates will rage on for sure, but as I see it, particularly with the way he's playing these days, Koivu is an elite centre and is top-10 in the game today. He's an all-around player who is also a strong leader. Those who think his leadership style isn't conducive to winning can look over to Detroit where Stevie Y took the same heat...right until he hoisted the Cup above his shoulders. Koivu's recovery from cancer and subsequent season was impressive, but what's more impressive is that it was just that, a recovery season after missing a year and after having recovered from cancer. What you're seeing today is what Koivu can bring to the table consistently - and he still improving! And if he could get two true first-line wingers, he'd be deadly. I'm not taking anything away from Bulis and particularly Ryder, but they aren't there...yet. Wonderful is that he's managing all this within the system, which some (Jagr) would find confining. Great is that he's a real team player and sticks up for anyone on the team, even Theo who he supposedly has a rift with. Fantastic is that he does it all consistently, showing a desire and intensity night after night that's remarkable. In my regular recaps, I find it tough to ever give him an A+ since I know that the next game he'll bring more to the table and have me wondering again if there's a ceiling. On the downside, he has to learn to curb that Scandinavian temper of his. A couple of times his reactionary penalties have caused havok. Also, while he keeps his shifts short and sweet, there are times when I wish he'd take that extra stride to get to the bench faster as on occasion he tends to get the Habs caught on a slow change. Of course, if those are the only problems he's got, then habs fans can be rather pleased. Koivu is among the games best for sure. ~~ Julien and staff: When Bob Gainey took over and stated that he'd be using the first part of the season as an evaluation period, few understood that this meant working closely with Julien to get players to play in certain situations and to move others in and out of the lineup so as to get the best look at everyone. Really, it can be said that the first 20 games at least was the GM and coach learning what everyone could do. Many called for Julien's head, and there were times when it seemed a reasonable idea. Now that we know the facts, we know those calls to be nothing more than knee-jerk at best. From his line juggling to the implementation of the system, Julien has done things his way from the beginning. He's made the tough choices, some terribly unpopular particularly in an unforgiving Montreal atmosphere (have a seat Ribeiro), but in the end each seems to have resulted in better play, and ultimately, a better team. With his staff he's taken Breezer from a scary defender to someone with poise that fans actually missed when he was injured. He benched Ryder, though the player seemed to be doing well, and in doing so reminded the lad what it took to make it to the NHL. Since then Ryder has been among the best on the team. He's recognized abilities and deficiencies and has players playing in areas that suit their game. His latest experiment has him placing Koivu (kudos to the captain for accepting it) between Dax and Sunny to try and lift their game since they both have offensive potential that's gone largely untapped this year. It's a nice change to see a coach behind the bench that doesn't lose it at every call. He demands explanations at times, but even if he doesn't agree, you always see him nodding and then getting on with the game. He acts very much like Scotty Bowman in that respect: a clam and patient coach who says little but garners lots of respect. He even plays with his lines during games like Scotty when the time and situation permit. I think Julien is a very proactive and intelligent coach who's stepped into a difficult situation and has really shaped a *team*. They aren't out there fighting for themselves anymore, they fight, win and lose as a team. If someone even snows Theo, everyone is back. If someone decks the captain, the team responds. In fact, I think it's in the dressing room and in the heads of the players where he's made the most difference. This is a unit, and a happy one at that. Gainey: Patience. Accountability. Intensity. There are many words you can use to describe his days on the job in Montreal. He deftly plucked Begin and Langdon off the waiver wire, and more useful players are tough to get at that point in the year. He took it upon himself to call out the Breezer-booers and thus stopped that problem dead in its tracks; ultimately leading to Breezer's improved game. He's had talks with players when the need arose and has called out others, with wonderful effect, as he saw fit. He never berates anyone in the organization, only insists that they bring their best. He's taken a loosy-goosy operation and tightened it up to make it extremely professional. Most of all, though, he's made the Montreal Canadiens respected again. Take pride, habs fans. We're back. A Concerned Fan
  9. Two in a row, what else can you say? I think a lot of cradit for this has to go the the coaching staff, and particularly Julien, who put Koivu on the point for the PP, thus allowing the Habs two have two bonified passers to feed the snipers. It has made such a huge difference and has the Habs steadily climbing the tables. The PK deserves as many if not more accolades since the game in Calgary, as since then they've been fantastic. Tonight was yet another example of perfection, and in fact there was the added bonus of Juneau's goal - there's life in those old legs yet! Koivu looks like a man possessed. His game has risen more than just a notch and he's making plays I haven't seen him do in years. The six-game point streak aside, it's his movement with the puck, his play off the puck, and his extremely deft - and more aggressive and confident passing - that's really caught my eye...and his work ethic has really rubbed off on Ryder whose game has gone from good to great. ~~ Notes: Theo: Not much to say since he makes it look so easy when he's positioned well. He wasn't on that shot from the point that went in - you could see he was favouring one side of the net, but it was a quick play and there was plenty of traffic in front. I'm really impressed lately with his rebound control which is giving the defence little to do - a good thing! A Bouillon: Ends up as a plus three on the game - and he deserved it. Now, it has to be pointed out that the Cap team was basically AHL, heck even Bondra and Zubrus were missing thus leaving them with Jagr, Lang, and Gonchar as the only real threats offensively. However Bubbles played each well when the time came. B+ Rivet: His ice time has been cut down to a level I think the coaches believe he can handle while he transitions his game from high-risk to low. Tonight he played his minutes well, and didn't make any kind of glaring errors. He's still got to learn to use his body more effectively, however it's not nearly as glaring as when he's making the bad passes and stupid plays as well. One thing I have noticed, he's moved to an extremely simple game where he chips the puck out if there's any question whatsoever. He's the only defender that does this at the moment and I have to believe he's been given explicit instructions until his game, and confidence, comes around. B Komisarek: He didn't get much time out there and I think it's because the coaches were worried Jagr and Lang would make him look silly. I'm a little disappointed in that since this is the exact team (AHL-quality) where he would probably benefit from more playing time. However I understand that he's working very hard with Rick Green at the moment, and perhaps after he's moved over a hurdle or two in the video room he'll get that playing time. B- Brisebois: A return of the Breezer of old. More than a few times did he sent pucks in front of his own net for little reason. I was not impressed with his game at all tonight and if he doesn't stick to the basics, I fear we're in for a parade of unhappiness. C Quintal: KISS principle for him works wonders especially against big strong forwards in the Jagr mould. He played his game to perfection and wasn't caught out in any major way all night. I think it really helps playing alongside Souray as well. B+ Souray: Sniper scores again! But again, the best part was watching him do all the little things the right way. He played Jagr very well most of the night, only giving Jarmo a few chances here and there - and I've yet to see a defender play that guy perfectly yet - even when he plays like he doesn't give a damn as he has lately. A- Langdon: He played a strong game in terms of finishing checks and working the puck. He also did his job defensively and you can't ask anymore of a fourth line player. B Ward: What's with the laying off of the checking game? Doesn't he remember that's what got him here in the first place? Sure, fine and dandy that he created Juneau's goal, but when you're fourth line you can't play like a second liner and curl away from the hits. I was afraid of this: he's not having very much of an impact at all since the injury - is the AHL in his future? C- Plekanec: Good speed and great jump. One thing I really like about him is the ability to be at top speed in a few short strides as it gives him that jump on the puck. He's rarely second in a play and is always harrying his opponent. Here's a kid who's taking each and every shift and making the best of it, and it's only the numbers game which will catch him out and have him back in Hamilton. He's going to make the decision to send him back down a real tough one. B Dackell: If there's one guy who's contract is up at the end of the year yet who may very well be resigned, it's him. He brings so many small things to the team that so few notice. First, he's wonderful on the PK. Second, he does his job on his line and you can count on him to bring the same game night in and night out. Third, he's incredible with the puck in the opponents zone being able to pin it along the boards against two and three opponents for long periods at a time - crucial in terms of changing momentum and PK work. Tonight, while not sparkling, he did his job solidly as usual. B- Kilger: Shame shame shame shame shame. Too little too late from Shrug. Why he can't play like he did tonight on every night I'll never know or understand. He was mking the hits necessary and was strong at both ends. Well, at least he made a good show for the trade market. B Juneau: Still a defensive genious. He played the Jagr line well and made more than a few strong defensive plays. The fact he chipped in with a goal is just a bonus. B+ Zednik: For shifts, he looked like the guy who could score 30+ and be a real spark on the team. For other shifts he did his around the net usual and didn't create anything other than an offensive turnover in favour of the Caps. Consistency in that hard working play is the ticket. B- Dagenais: Midnight is coming and I'm thinking those glass slippers just won't fit. Literally all he can do is shoot. Ribs makes a zone entrance, dishes it off to Dags, and he has a one-timer from...the point? I don't think so. His dump ins are shots, he shoots from no angle... Great scorer in the AHL for these reasons, but a real NHL player he is not. D Ribeiro: Once that puck was over the Washington blueline, Ribs looked pretty good tonight - as long as he wasn't trying to beat people. When he does what he does best and passes the puck, he's successful, but at this point, everyone is used to him and those dipsy-doodle moves don't have much success. Right now, quite honestly, it looks like he struggles when carrying the puck. He gets in position well and can dish it off nicely, but he's more likely to lose it than do something useful when he retains possession. Defensively he's a wash. B- Bulis: The only thing that disappointed me about his game tonight was the fact he didn't get a hattrick against his former team. Other than that, business as usual. A- Ryder: Zowie, zesty, zingy! Can this guy shoot or what? And check out that stickhandling ability! And the hits...and the passing...and...and...and A Koivu: I did a little stats checking last night and if he'd played the whole season and had his preseason and carried his point-a-game thing like he's doing now, he's top-20 scoring and top-10 centre-wise. His vision is world class, and he's moving faster and faster on the puck now. As I mentioned before, he's also becoming more aggressive offensively with the puck and it's really giving some huge chances out there. Nice to see his defensive game improving constantly as well. A ~~ It's the little things that count: sticking up for each other, working the system well, playing with intensity each shift. There's a reason Julien is starting to get recognition and we're seeing the fruits of his hard labour on the ice. Take one step higher up the chain of command and we can see how Gainey has taken a somewhat fragmented club and has focussed everyone and everything. We're on track and it *feels* like we're watching a strong club now. Sad to say, but Houle dismantled a strong team. When Savard eventually took over, we were in shambles in most areas. Credit Savard, though, for gathering the pieces of a broken franchise and turning it around. He did it with stop-gap measures while he filled the empty cupboards, and along the way gave a few contracts he shouldn't have, but all in all, I think his work was vital to the turn around of the Habs. Enter Gainey and he's taken the start that Savard gave and is running with it, slowly stamping himself in every aspect and in the meatime using words like: Accountability. Intensity Effort And when needed: Yellow. The Montreal Canadiens are for real. A resurgent Buffalo comes to town on Tuesday with a healthy Drury back in the lineup. This will be no easy contest, in fact it'll be significantly tougher than any team we've faced since Toronto before Christmas, likely. (Dallas is struggling way too much to call them a tough team.) We do have momentum and we know the team will in all likelyhood show up and play hard, it's just a matter of sticking to the system and taking advantage of opportunities. A Concerned Fan.
  10. Finally nice to see the Habs dominate a game totally from the drop of the puck to the final whistle. Even better was that they did it not just on the ice, but on the scoreboard as well. It's a good way to start the new year. Questions will be asked about why Julien put Koivu on the 'checking' line, but when you see the level of game of his linemates raised, I think questions will be put to bed. Instead of two lines that could score, suddenly the Habs had three, and the value of Koivu rose again another notch. Julien has to be extremely pleased going into the second half of the season with a team that seems to be competing night in and night out and doesn't give up anymore. Despite last-minute losses recently, there's no quit in this team, and it finally looks like we're getting that 'lunch-box' crew that many fans have been dying for for a long time. I'd like to take a second to talk about Kovalchuk who might just be the best player in the NHL right now. Not only is he above and beyond in the offensive zone, not only can he shoot like no other I've seen in a long time, but he throws his weight around *and* he backchecks better than most forwards in hockey! If he isn't the real deal and the heir apparent to Lemieux, then there's something wrong. Nash is great. Forsberg has more experience. But no one in this game has the ability to bring people to their feet like Kovalchuk. Simply awesome. ~~ Notes: Theo: Talk about a winning performance, he showed everything Vezina and more tonight. His one error was that goal, but I think he can be forgiven since he probably thought, like everyone else in the rink, that the puck was going to be gone. A Bouillon: I can't understand the Hainsey talk when Bubbles plays like this. He was strong all over the ice and made numerous great plays both breaking up passes and making them himself. He wasn't perfect, but I'm quite happy with him back there right now. B+ Rivet: Solid game. I'm pleased to see that his play has turned around in the last while and he's slowly moving back to the game he should be playing. Sure, it isn't a $3 million dollar game, but I'm happy enough to see him doing the little things he does. B+ Komisarek: He's fighting the puck at times and doesn't have the confidence he coudl have, but he's doing fairly well with the lot given him. Had Markov been healthy, I'm sure he would have sat more, but apparently he's working intensively with Rick Green, particularly with the video, and I think he's starting to do the little things better. Nice to see him get physical in the third. C+ Brisebois: Another solid, if not spectacular game, though he did get two points out of it. It's nice to see Breezy continuing his steady play - there were a couple of games when he first got back from the injury where I was thinking he was going back to his play of two years ago, but tonight he settled down and got back to the simple things that made him successful in the first half of the year. B+ Quintal: A couple of times he was running around, and when Kovalchuk approached him there were scary moments, however he played positionally very well thus minimizing any danger. When he does that, he's at his best. B Souray: He played over 24 minutes and was in the box for half the third which should tell you just how important he's becoming. Another indication is how he's being defended - on the PP, there is a player assigned to him to ensure he doesn't get away that shot. Furthermore, I still see his head working faster and his game moving slower in terms of patience, and if he keeps that up....sky's the limit. A Langdon: A cheap shot behind the head is not the way for our 'enforcer' to be seen and heard. While he's playing fairly well, I don't see him doing any real enforcing, instead leaving us with three defenders sitting in the box. C+ Ward: Nothing particularly special about his play. He worked hard, for sure, but didn't create anything. He hit, but not as much as I've seen him do in the past. He was also put on the PP briefly which had me shaking my head - as I'm sure it had a few Habs shaking theirs. B- Juneau: The fourth line suits him? Can't honestly say I would have expected that, but he makes that line more responsible defensively, but it also allows him to relax a little more since he's playing against less offensive players, thus leaving him the opportunity to be a little more creative. B Dagenais: Cost the Habs a goal with his lax play on the boards, and really, I'm disappointed with his overall game lately. He's not really bringing anything to the team at this point and I have to wonder if his days might be numbered. D Zednik: Yet another goal, which is good to see. He might not be on the first line - in fact you can argue he's third line now, but he's producing. On the other hand, he's easy to neutralize when he tried to enter the zone these days and unless he gets paired with better linemates, I don't think he's going to be nearly as effective as he was last year. B Ribeiro: Scored a goal and was nigh on invisible the rest of the night. I feel his work ethic has taken a step down which is unfortunate. At least someone told him to dump the puck in more often than not because it was getting annoying watching him attempt to beat someone only to lose the puck at the blueline again and again. B- Bulis: Hard-working game where he didn't get nearly as many results as he deserved. There were more than a couple of times he got himself into great position only to have the goalie make a great save or something else similar to happen. His speed compliments Ryders work very well. A- Ryder: Is there no end to his goodness? He's got the shot, we all know that, but man, he can pass that puck extremely well. His vision on the ice is severely underrated and at times he makes passes that I would expect only the best to make. And these days, he's hitting everything to boot. A- Perreault: For half the game he looked strong on that line, for the other half, perhaps because of the penalty brigade, he was a little out of sorts. I can understand that, however. Undortunately for the other two, he's not half the playmaker that Sax is, but on the other hand, he can shoot, which creates other types of opportunities. B- Dackell: Two times in the offensive zone he made grossly poor choices, and that will colour a lot of opinions. However, for much of the game he was strong on the puck and seemed to work well with Sax and Sunny. B Sundstrom: Apparently the reason to put Sax on this line was to break Sunny out. He's got good offensive skills but we haven't seen them all that much with him on the third line most nights. A chance to work with the best offensive player gave him opportunity to do some things we haven't seen before, and while he didn't score with Sax, he had a few strong chances and was great in the offensive zone most of the night. B Koivu: Slowly being used more as an all-around player rather than merely an offensive force, his play on the PK was equally good as his play everywhere else - great news. Having to play with 'those damn Swedes' (Finland and Sweden have a large rivalry) was surely an interesting challenge, but he seemed to rise to the occasion and play yet another strong game. His hands are extremely deft and we're seeing more and more of that particularly along the boards where he rescues pucks where he has no right to do so. A- ~~ I just updated my books and I see that we're three games above .500. I had to read that twice. One of those 'Power Ratings' sites has us as a team to watch in the New Year, and I can't disagree. While he may not be a Cup contender nor even a pretender, we are certainly a team playing consistently and with a solid plan. We contend every night and we never stop working hard. After the last two years especially, this is not only astounding, but so satisfying to see. Gainey and Julien have turned this club on its ear in a very short time. And tomorrow Washington comes to town with all their baggage and after having played a game which, as of this writing, has yet to start even today. If we can take advantage of that extra couple of hours rest and come out strong, we should be able to compete well against a team struggling to ice two solid NHL defenders and more than four or five offensive threats. A Concerned Fan.
  11. Well, it's certainly not the way you want to enter the holiday break - on a loss. However, at least it's not a loss where the team was outplayed by a weaker bunch, it was more a case of a goalie who was really hot with the addition of a group of shooters who were anything but. The Habs played well enough to give themselves plenty of opportunity to win, they just didn't finish, and when you combine that with a few putrid defensive plays, you lose. Classless play by Washington a few times tonight. I was pleased, however, to see that Souray bided his time before he absolutely thundered Doig for his knee-on-knee hit to Bulis. I was also pretty pleased to see Sax get up and fwap that (deleted expletive) for the cowardly attempt to injure. The knee thing could be disguised as a missed hit, but the slew-foot thing? I dunno, I can completely understand someone going McSorley after a play like that - it was a career-threatening act. ~~ Notes: Garon: No chance on any of the goals, though you could argue that he might have done a poke check against Halpern, but that's a spur of the moment thing, and I don't think he made a poor choice. His rebound control is much better again than last time we saw him, and I'm also pleased when I see him controlling his movements far more. He looks like a starter who sits on the bench more often than not now. His style reminds me more of Brodeur than Theo - a hybrid goalie who can stand up rather than needing to drop all the time, and I like that. A- Bouillon: Well, he made up for a lame first with a great third. Still, I found him out-muscled down low quite often, and as a result the puck was kept deep in our zone for far too long. C+ Rivet: He was a-chasin' on that winning goal. He had a man, then took off after Souray's for some reason. In fact, had he stayed with his man, Bondra would have been hard-pressed to even be in the position he was. Again tonight I watched Rivet closely, and he really doesn't have much of a leg drive at all. Everything he does is upper body and I have to wonder why that is. C Komisarek: Again, a few errors, but I thought he did fairly well out there, and certainly that physical game is coming along rather nicely. Twice tonight he devastated Caps. He does tend to run around a little, perhaps trying to do too much, and is occasionally still caught out by the speed, but he's so much farther ahead of Hainsey it's not funny. C Markov: Little by little it's coming, though when you're only given thirteen minutes of playing time... I'm a little concerned that Julien has taken him out a little too much and as a result, he's once again going to start struggling with that confidence. B- Quintal: Houde and Pedneault keep saying he's playing well, but I just don't see it. Halpern walked past him for a goal and quite often he's running around in his end and making bad passes when he gets the puck. I'm really not impressed with him lately. C+ Souray: It gets better and better. Now, what I want to see is one of those killer checks each game. You know what's really impressive is that he's doing it all while on Quintal's side. A Langdon: I like the way the helmet looks on his head. N/A Gratton: A little less ice time tonight, and honestly, I'm pleased with that. He's an energy guy for sure, but I don't see him sticking with the club much longer as he's just not NHL quality over a long stretch. B- Kilger: That was the best six plus minutes I've seen from him in months. Consistent all night and I felt he was really working well. Shame it might be a case of a little to late as after the break I think we have injury replacements coming back and he might be one of the guys on the outside. B+ Dackell: Not his best game. Tonight he gave the puck away more than usual, was a little weaker on the boards, and was generally not as effective as he should be. C+ Juneau: On the other hand, I felt Juneau was better tonight than he has been in the last few games. He seemed to have more jump, wasn't subbed by Gratton or Sax on his line, and even worked himself into a few scoring positions. He did fairly well against Jagr when he had the chance. B Sundstrom: Perhaps the good glow that Sunny and Dax had from playing with Begin is starting to fade, because Sunny as well was less than he'd been last game, which was less than the game before. He's not back to Invisible Man status yet, but if he keeps this up, he'll get there in no time. Now, he was pretty good defensively, and that's good to see. B- Dagenais: Not really all there upstairs tonight. He had a shot, and that was it. He was absent-minded all over the rink and played like someone who was out for a happy game of shinny rather than someone who is playing in a system with a plan. C Zednik: See? Get him mad and he plays well. That cross-check on the PP earlier in the game woke him up and he started really making things happen after that. I'm telling you, someone should line him up in the warmup to get him into the game. B Ribeiro: He loves the soft pass, but tehre's a time and a place and when Bondra is staring you down, that's just not the place. Ribs came out of the block hard tonight (glad you're reading kid *wink*) and had one of his best periods in the first. After than it was less consistent, but better than in recent memory. Funny thing is, there will be those out there who will say he was bad because he didn't get points, which goes to show that points aren't everything, since he was a much more effective player tonight than the night he assisted on four. And hey, he hit Jagr! A- Ryder: I just get warm fuzzy feelings when I see the continual improvement. Goal on a puck batted out of the air. Sweet. And twenty points before the holiday break. Cheers to an even better second half! B+ Bulis: Thank whatever deity you love because he didn't get badly injured on that play. Again, a strong game for him and you can tell he loves playing his former team (they have him marked, can you tell?). He was strong all night in both ends, though tonight had even more scoring chances than usual, which is really good to see. Great goal too. A- Koivu: He's all over the ice. He's looking better than he did at any point last year and he's looking a lot like the guy who was leading the league in scoring so many moons ago. I love the fact that he is starting to make defenders look foolish on a regular basis, and at the end of the first, it was almost two defenders and the goalie when he just barely missed the net. Honestly, if he had two legitimate first liners on his wings, he'd be top ten in scoring. I mean, if you take those first five games out where they could be considered his pre-season, he's over a point a game. And there aren't so many in the NHL like that. A+ ~~ The break is upon us, and at this point I'd like to take a look at one other player who didn't play tonight: Audette. Apaprently, there's talk that Gainey, his agent and Audette himself have begun talks about the amount of money it would take for the Habs to completely buy him out of his contract. On one level, this is good news for habs fans who have been eager to see him disappear for the recent past, but looking deeper than that, it's such a shame for the person and the player who, I guess you could say, really did receive a career ending injury when he had his wrist cut. He came back to play twelve solida games in the playoffs, but I thin khe was playing on more adrenaline than anything else. Since then it's been the slow slide downhill to the point now where his one-time shot rarely hits the net. I honestly feel for the guy as he was really dealt a tough blow. Carolina on the 27th where hopefully the Habs won't be fat and lazy with bird but hungry for playoffs. The 'Canes are another team that, despite their record, are better than they appear. We'll have to continue our smart and inspired play to take that game. For me, it's a trip to the in-laws, so your email box and your eyes will be saved from my prattling for the next two games. I'll come home and watch them on tape and might still write something up, but I doubt I'll put anything out there unless there's some call for it. Dallas is the next game for me on New Year's eve and I can tell you I'll be cranky after having driven all day to get home to see it. I want a shutout and I want a blowout for the Habs. Take care one and all and enjoy your holidays. Be merry, be responsible, and above all be thankful for what you've got. A Concerned fan.
  12. Playing with fire. If the Habs want to continue their good run, they can't come out and play at half speed, even against the worst clubs in the NHL. TOnight, they found their legs after a time and fortunately played a fairly decent game for the most part, but there were moments in the first and second particularly which were ghastly. Against a better team, we would have been playing catch up all night, and we just don't have the talent - especially against a team like the Devils or similar. It's a shame Begin is injured because Juneau is hurting. Gratton took some shifts as well as Sax - the latter being particularly gratifying to see because he's really getting strong first line time. He played less in the third, but I think the game was looking solid and they have another right away tomorrow. To Juneau, I have to wonder what's going to happen in his case. He had trouble against the Pens, and they're a long shot from the Sens, let alone the Bruins. Some nice things that I noticed during the game included seeing Zed sitting on the bench going over things with Dagenais (he looked like he was teaching), The ice time of Komisarek and particularly his usage in some of the critical situations, and the fact they pushed, despite the lead, up until the siren went off. ~~ Notes: Theo: Let in the one goal, but made a few fine saves. He wasn't instrumental in the victory, but certainly I think the players play with more confidence when they know they have a margin for error. He's had trouble with rebound control the last two or three games, but tonight it looked a little better. A- Bouillon: The AHL Pens pushed him around a lot tonight, and the goal was a direct result of him and Rivet being out-hustled. When you're his size and in his precarious position on the blueline (a marginal 6th defender at best), you can't be out-hustled ever. Now, that was just one point in the game when it cost, and he was certainly not brutal tonight, but he made a few errors that would have been jumped on by better players. C+ Rivet: Quite a shame he had to take that utterly stupid penalty in the third and put the Habs on their heels for a little. I also felt he was pushed around more often than not down deep, and was caught running too often. Better teams would eat this kind of defending up. C+ Komisarek: Fifteen plus minutes and most of them were fairly strong. He made his rookie mistakes of course, but one of the things I like best is his accountability - he never *ever* gives up. Late in the game he absolutely crushed a Pen, and it's almost starting to be a habit seeing him making one or two really hard hits a game. Good habit to get into. C+ Markov: One or two blatant mistakes tarnished an otherwise strong game. He really does look like he's starting to put things together again, though he's not jumping into the play half as much as he used to. Part of that has to be who he's paried with; I'm sure he has special instructions to be sure to cover back for Komi just in case. I wish he's shoot more, but I think his confidence in that category is still in the tank. B Quintal: Despite him getting a star (mercy star?), I thought he looked like an AHL defender for two periods. Sure, he played a much better third, but when you're losing the puck repeatedly, chasing players like a mad rodent, and muffing simple plays repeatedly, I just don't think you can say you had a good game. C Souray: Again, he gets the points and is physical here and there, but it's the little things he's incorporated into his game that are the real gems. Numerous times tonight he poke-checked a player to win a battle. He angled guys out before they had chances to make things happen. With the puck now, he has the confidence to make an extra move thuys springing teammates - and a lot of offense is generated from simple plays like this. A Langdon: Ten minutes of solid ice time with no silly penalties, and a lot of good check finishes. I appreciated his work ethic. B+ Kilger: One shift he does his weak hit, or curl away play, then the next he finishes a check and puts someone hard into the boards. It's so frustrating to see what he *can* do, and then watch what he usually does the next few shifts. C Gratton: He's not even a poor man's Begin, sadly. His hits, while numerous, are weak and easily absorbed. Don't get me wrong, I love the work ethic and the hustle, but really, he looks like another AHL-fill player that we'll use while we have injuries and Audette's on the team. Oh, and taking stupid penalties like he did will not keep him in Montreal long! B+ Sundstrom: The mercy goal looks good on the stats, but he didn't have half the hustle he's had in recent memory. While not Invisible at all, he just wasn't winning the same battles, or even getting into them, that he'd won lately. B- Juneau: As much as I really *hate* saying it, I think I'm slowly joining in with the legions of fans who feel he's at the end of his rope. I actually felt better when he didn't show up for his shift. He still gives all he's got and still has a lot to teach players, but perhaps it might be coming close to the time where he teaches from the other side of the bench. C- Dagenais: He makes Ryder look like the passing king. I know his job is to shoot the puck for the most part, but there were a couple of times where Zed probably would have been forgiven for whacking him upside the head for zero-percentage shots. I'm impressed he's getting the points, and it's all desire. It's certainly not skills, because other than a shot, he's a very marginal NHLer at the best of times. But when you have a shot like his and someone who can get you the puck regularly, you tend to look much better than you are. B Zednik: I saw elements of leadership from him as well as elements of the old Zed again. There were a couple of times where he went to the net tonight, and I feel he's gotten away from that game in the last week or so. I'm tempted to say it's time for a change between Zed and Bulis, not because the latter is under-performing so much as Zed needs a boost and he'll get that with Sax. B- Ribeiro: Well, it's better than playing only one period, but a period and a half still doesn't cut it. It's fabulous that we have two centres who are regularly getting points, but Ribs really has to work on his consistency. I like that he works into the corners (when he feels like it) and I like that he's inproved his speed, but he's still got to get stronger on his skates and, vitally, has to play hard for every second. You wonder why he takes long shifts? It's his lazy style of play for half the game. B- Bulis: Oh, if only he's seen Sax when he took that shot, but at least he doesn't have a fear of shooting. Typical Bulis game where he worked hard and had nothing in terms of points to show for it. He really compliments the other two on his line well. A- Ryder: Somewhere on these boards there was a comparison of his and Ribs' first years and there were those saying that Ryder has had more opportunity by playing on the first line. Well, yeah, of course! When you work your butt off every night, of course you're going to get rewarded. I'm really pleased to see his fundamentals still improving game-to-game. His skating, passing, and deft touches are better and better. B+ Koivu: Why he didn't get a star I'll never understand. He was the best player on the ice again, and not just offensively, but defensively as well. Best of all, he's being treated like the first line centre, he had one two minute PP where he was point for half and up front for the other half, he played the PK, played on the defensive line for a few shifts, took important faceoffs. Just what you want out of your best player. A ~~ Off we go to the last game before the break against a team under new direction who are trying to salvage a season: the Caps. If the Habs take this game lightly, especially since it's away from home, they're fools, pure and simple. A key will be shutting down Jagr, and I look to see Juneau getting that responsibility, though I would think, if the new coach has any brains at all, Jagr will be put out against Ribeiro as much as possible, and it will therefore probably be a big challenge for Ribby. I think we're 7-3-3 in our last 13. Raise your hand out there if you thought we would do that at all this year. If you raised it, please watch where you walk, your extended noses are a danger. A concerned fan.
  13. Fun game to watch with a little bit of everything going on. The better team won, for sure, but Montreal came out and gave them a good workout and showed once again that they aren't a pushover team anymore. Furthermore, as a habs fan, you just have to be ecstatic about the performance from a plan point of view, and it's got to be a fabulous pleasure to see this team performing with intelligence, with heads up, and without giving up even a little. How many years has it been since we could say we had something akin to a 'lunchbox crew'. Black eye for the NHL with respect to the reffing. Both teams had every right to complain consistently and in particular the third as call after call was missed. Blatant high sticks, tackles and various other nonsense was allowed to go on like it was a pond hockey game, and in truth, it takes away from the spectacle. I'd rather see the refs call one or two things thus indicating to the players that they had control over the game instead of a free-for-all where players are as likely to get injured as make a good play - the game got out of hand in the third. I know this is Don CHerry hockey, but it's a mockery of the game. Habs fans could say that had Dackell scored we might have won the game, but I bed to differ since there were at least two, if not more, times where the Leafs missed an equal side-of-the-net opportunity. The reality was a hard-fought game where the Habs were outplayed for two of the three periods, but only barely. A lucky goal wins it, but Toronto deserved the win with the better performance anyhow. ~~ Notes: Theo: Despite a rebound control that was significantly worse than usual, he still kept us in the game with a series of spectacular stops. The goals against him left him with no chance and the only reason he comes out with a loss is a terribly unlucky deflection. A- Bouillon: He had a few good hits tonight but was seriously pushed around as well. It was his deflection that scored the winner, though you can hardly blame him since he cut out a possible scoring pass at the same time. He did, however, forget Tucker on the latter's goal and was in trouble down low consistently. C Rivet: I don't know what it is about him, but his first shift each games seems to be a disaster. After that, though, he settle down and played solid defensively. Something I've noticed recently is that, while he's a big guy, he doesn't use leg power in his hits, it's all upper body, and therefore the player he hits tends not to get knocked off the puck much. Ergo plays continue where they should be cut out. B Komisarek: Tight game against one of the league's best so he didn't get much ice time. He made one mistake on shift two or three and barely made it out again. N/A Markov: Looked great tonight winning those one-on-one's against the boards and playing some really intelligent and confident hockey. His brilliant pass to Dagenais gave the first goal, and no other habs could have done that with 50 attempts each. Shame Komi was sat because I found that he and Markov looked like they were starting to work out a little chemistry and Komi was moving the puck quicker to Markov. A- Quintal: For a big guy, he was pushed around a lot tonight. He was fairly solid, but there were times I thought he was going to literally hand the puck to the Leafs here and there. Is it me, or is he having a lot more hesitation in his game lately. The sooner Breezer gets back, the sooner Quintal can be platooned with Komi - until the latter takes over completely. C+ Souray: He had a tough assignment in the Sundin line, and he acquitted himself well. He didn't really stand out, but when you have to handle one of the better players in the game, it's good that you don't - means you aren't making mistakes. I'm still noticing lots of little things he's really doing well - poke checks et al, and it's really improving his game. A- Langdon: Good fight, his knuckles looked horrid afterwards. Had a few nice checks, but that was about it. Should have had a penalty at the end of the first when he tripped Domi, but got away with one. N/A Kilger: Shrug. N/A Gratton: Well, he may not be laced with talent, but he's laced with heart and as such, fits in well with the rest of the working boys. I have to wonder if we'll see Audette again. Interesting that Grats took shifts for Juneau here and there - the latter's back was obviously hurting. Equally interesting is that he did a fine job taking over for Joe. Not as good as Begin, but no real complaints. B Dackell: Another fine game. I love that he's raised his game a notch and he's being consistent with it. He's taken some of the Julien lessons and is really sticking with them game after game. He works harder, hits more, and always goes to the net. And as usual, wins a majority of his board battles. A- Sundstrom: Good solid game against some strong players. I think he's finally adapting to the Eastern game and it's about time. Also hice that he's started to gel with the team - for the longest time he seemed an outsider. I'm particularly pleased that he doesn't curl away in the corners all the time, but occasionally sticks his nose in and tries to make things happen. B+ Juneau: He's hurting and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he called his retirement soon - even as soon as sometimes before the New Year. He's just come back from injury and now his linemates are taking faceoffs, he's being beaten regularly to the puck and he just doesn't have that flash he had early in the year. Now, he still does a fine job on the opponents centre that he faces and defensively he's a solid player to have, but he's losing ground at a steady rate now. C+ Dagenais: Inconsistent game in that he was a force one shift and absent on the next. His defensive game needs serious work and it's a good thing that line was facing the other teams third and fourth lines or we might have been clobbered. I love the shot, love the work around the net, but I don't like what he brings elsewhere. He's got a long way to go before he really becomes a regular in the NHL. I know he's getting lots of points now, but remember Hossa - five goals in five games. Where is he now?? Oh, and Marchment's hit on Dags after he scored the goal? COMPLETELY legal, so I hope there's no complaints when I log on. There was no way March would have known the puck was in by the time he made the hit, and it was a shoulder hit barely after Dags had released it. B Zednik: He's terribly inconsistent of late. One shift on, one shift off, and I don't like it one bit. I know he's probably pining to get back on Sax's line, but since the first line is playing so well, he shouldn't hold his breath. I love his strength particularly down low, but I'd like to see him use it more defensively and on the boards as well. B- Ribeiro: Do not at all be shocked if you see he's benched again soon. Despite scoring tonight, he had a few shifts where he lingered on and on and that's completely unacceptable. Love that he scored, he needed that for shooting confidence, and love that his passing is that great, but I don't love his inconsistency. When he's playing against the other teams lesser lines, however, he'd better get points or he'll be in the minors. He's *got* to work on his defensive play more. If he's being out-muscled, he's going to have to learn better positioning. B Bulis: That's a few games in a row now where he's made a defender go the wrong way, and I see where his offensive confidence is starting to rise. A couple more games and a few less aware defenders than the one that knocked the puck off his stick at the last moment tonight and he's going to start piling in the points. If everyone worked like Bulis, this team would be the hardest working team ever. Oh, and that obstruction call where he was skating for a partial break? Laughable. And I'm glad he did rather than take four for calling the ref blind. A Ryder: Even against the strong teams he shows he can make things happen. He was excellent along the boards and still made plays against a really solid Toronto team. This is one rookie that's going somewhere fast. He may not have had a shot, but he had a few just-misses. B+ Koivu: Best player on the ice tonight. He was all over the place and I can almost say his defence was better than his offence, and he was creating all night, so that's saying something. I wish he'd play against Swede players all the time, because as a Finn, the rivalry there pushes him to his heights. Dominant. Oh, and he's become a really good faceoff guy! A+ ~~ There are so many little things that are coming together nicely for this team that. despite the loss, I feel extremely satisfied. From the short time where Komi and Markov looked really good to Markov's strong play to Souray's continual improvement in his game, to the whole team playing together instead of individually. And the list goes on and on. A new player steps in and fits right in, which once again says a lot about Julien and his system. Ribs and Dags getting points consistently. Sax starting to really round into form. Theo looking great. A *team*. Two games to the Christmas break against the Pens and the Caps and I think we can say, without having seen those games, that the initial phase of the 'Gainey' plan is a complete success. How many out there would have put the Habs a game over .500 at this point and playing the most unified hockey they've played since Jaques Demers? And yet we still have those two games to go and even if they are against struggling teams, we can't take them lightly. The Pens usually get up for games against Montreal because the owner is a Montrealer. The Caps have made a coaching change and I think you'll start to see them playing better. At least we can say that the Habs will be well-prepared, and if they continue to be consistent, as they have been, then I think we'll watch a couple of fun games. The goal has to be three points out of four, though, because you don't want to throw away valuable points against 'weaker' teams. A Concerned Fan.
  14. I think it's strting to become evident, over the last ten games or so, that this team is becoming more combative, more energetic, and more exciting and tonight was a great example of all three things. Never did they give up, they were the more physical club, and there were a great number of chances to score, particularly on the power play. I would imagine most of Julien's critics will be hiding themselves in the woodwork now, since you can see he's gelled the team nicely and he's using the elements available to him in an advantageous manner. What's particularly nice to see is that we've a group of defenders who are willing and able to add some attack to their game, and I don't just mean by scoring or assisting, but by cutting out plays (Markov, Komisarek), by pinching to keep things alive, (aforementioned two and Bouillon, Breezy and Souray), and by occasionally looking for the daring pass (particularly Rivet and Breezy, but at times all of the others as well). It adds an extra dimension and I think you can tell it's something that's been worked on significantly in the past month or so. Another excellent point is that we have three who can consistently hit the net with hard and low shots (Markov, Komisarek, and some guy who scored three tonight). Of course, there's still plenty of room for improvement in many areas of the game, and there are still a fair number of passengers along for the ride. There are a few who are consistently in that boat, and another few who go either from game to game or shift to shift being passengers. Of course, it's tough to make large changes in the current economic market, so we'll probably have to deal with many of these passengers for the rest of the year, but if we can mix in a solid group of consistent performers and good goaltending, I think we'll be in the race at the end. A large part of our problems are going to rest on our second line because, as was evident tonight, the first gets all the best defensive players to fight against. When the second plays well, we'll compete, when it takes the night off, we're in trouble. Another key, of course, is a solid checking line that's consistently in the face of the opposition's best, and also able to make things happen. Finally, you need a fourth line that's able to go out and stir things up at a moments notice. There are games when we have all four, but it's rare, and something we have to work on and work towards. ~~ Notes: Theo: Tough period, and I think it was fairly obvious from the beginning that he was hurting. There was once, early on, when he tried to move the puck and it looked like his arm was molasses. That second goal, breakaway that it was, was a weak one to concede. Shame about the injury, let's hope it isn't serious. N/A Garon: Always tough to come in off the bench cold and take over, but he did a stand up job. The first goal against him was a deflection from about five feet and the second was a deflection from the blueline - which by all rights he should have had - but the nature of the deflection was such that he completely lost sight of the puck until it was about two feet from his head, and there's not much chance to react then. B+ Bouillon: I'm always amazed when the smallest habs player gives out the biggest hits, and he did again...up to a certain point in the game when the bigger men finally came out. B Rivet: The first goal was Rivet making a blunder, but after that he played pretty consistently and was a solid blueliner. I'm satisfied. B- Komisarek: The third goal was a result of good forechecking when Komi was hit and went down in the corner, his man rushing off to the net to deflect the puck. Other than that, he made his share of errors, for sure, but still played a fairly consistent game. He is getting more and more punishing, though, and is bringing people to their feet more and more often with really nasty hits. Gotta love that. Unfortunately, those mistakes he did make were enough to cut his ice time down considerably, which I'm not satisfied with, since he's got to learn somehow. C Markov: TOugh luck for Markov this year, who was paired with slumping Rivet to start it off, then a Breezer just before he turned his game around, and now Komi. No disrespect to the others, but Markov has had a tough time adapting to all these changes and to trying to bail out his defensive partners of the time. Personally, I think he's acquitted himself fairly well, but there's no denying he's not playing like he was last year. Time and patience, particularly for a young guy like this, is well worth everyone's while, as I think he'll come out of it better than ever. C+ Quintal: It's really hard to notice him when his partner is all over the place all night. Still, he played a consistent if not great game, and I think we can all be satisfied with that. B- Souray: The best part about his night wasn't the three goals or the four points, it wasn't the constant pressure he applied on the Pred defense when he was pinching or holding the puck at the point or even his big body checks, it was the little defensive plays that are hard to notice in the big picture, but which make all the difference. The poke checks, the angling out of his player, and the board wins were the keys to the game. A+ Langdon: When your team is behind and you're a fourth line player, you don't see much ice. He didn't. N/A Kilger: When you're a big man and a former 4th pick overall, you should be giving more, despite ice time - or indeed to force the coach to give you more. D- Audette: Since he was relegated to the fourth, I'll slot him in here. Now, what do I have to say about him. Well, he was smiling and laughing in the third. It's such a shame, because despite what many say, he was a really productive and useful player a couple of years back until that injury, and he's just never been the same since. He's a guy who used to have all the talent in the world, but this year, even when he does get in position to fire off his shot, he usually muffs it. Reminds me of Linden when he was here - loads of talent, but perhaps he just needs a change of scenery. F Sundstrom: Looked better tonight and worked hard at both ends. I like that his game has turned around for the most part, because it really helps out that third line now that Bulis is playing on the first. B Dackell: Have I mentioned that I love this guy? I know, half of you want him gone because he's redundant or some such nonsense, but when he's playing like he's played the last few, he deserves to be there no questions asked. Ward? Even at full steam he's not half the player Dax is - only thing he brings is a more physical aspect and a penchant for overpursuing the puck and therefore getting himself out of position. B+ Juneau: Well, the second goal was partially his fault because of a communication mix-up. And aside from that, he just didn't seem to be looking his best out there. It's such a shame in some respects, but I really feel that he lost his spot to Begin on that third line. What that means for a guy who's still really good at marking out the oppositions best? I just don't know... C- Dagenais: He's a goal scorer, no doubt. When he gets the puck in the slot, he knows what to do to get a shot on net, and that's a good thing. The bad thing is that he's really not much good at doing anything else. He wins some of his board battles, is not very good in his own end, skates poorly, and really doesn't look particularly good in the neutral zone, but when you get him in front of that net - or around it with the puck - he makes things happen. That's great. For filler. Not so good for a real second liner. C Zednik: Boy, can you tell that Ribs really likes passing with Dagenais. I mean sure, he passed to Zed that once when Zed had no one within about fifty feet, but other than that? Not much at all. Then again, it's hard to pass to someone who's play is to grab their stick lower, bend the knees, then try to beat everyone to the outside. C+ Ribeiro: Great vision, and wonderful play on the PP. THe third period was fun to watch as well when he put himself into the game. Shame he didn't show up 5v5 for the first 40 minutes. And that's his real problem, he can't show up for a period and expect that to cut it on the second line, it's just not good enough. Sure, he picked up a plethora of points tonight, and that's great, but had the PP not been scoring, he would have had nothing, and only 20 minutes of solid playing time to show for his game. And that's just not cutting it at all. (For all his points, he was -2 on the night.) B+ (mostly for those lovely passes) Ryder: Okay, I think I've seen enough of him to start to make a determination on what the future might hold. FIrst of all, while he was rickety on his skates early on (and still is now and again) he's infinitely better, has good to very good straight line speed, and an uncanny ability to hold the puck when he's moving. Second, he's got a nose for the net that we've not seen since I don't know when. He's a pure scorer. Third, despite the fact he holds on too long at times, he's trying to make things happen, and I can't fault that as long as when he passes, they're good passes - and when he passes, sometimes they're brilliant. Fourth, he's really *really* picked up his defensive game. He's not great now, but he's good, and still getting better. He's 23, still improving, in his first year in the NHL, playing on the first line. His future as I can see it? I honestly think he can be a real first line player. The improvement I've seen just from the first game of the year is amazing in itself. Just imagine where he'll be at the end of the year, at the end of next year, and in three. Sky really is the limit. B+ Bulis: I think he discovered another gear tonight, lightspeed. Was he flying or what? And he's also discovered a few one-on-one moves that he's used in the past few games and tonight it almost worked for a goal. He's only 25 and his best years are still ahead of him. A- Koivu: I think that line was dominant pretty much every time it was on the ice again - against the Preds defensive best as much as they could muster it with line changing. He was spectacular with the puck, made scintillating passes (thank you Danny Gallivan for that word) and his shot was a rocket and accurate. Looks like he's come out of his mini-slump of three games, and may I just say that with his two points, he's now point-a-game (if you don't count his first five which were the equivalent of his pre-season). Not bad for a guy everyone seems to like to take shots at. A- ~~ At first I would have poo-pooed the idea of putting Sax on the point for the PP, but having both him and Ribs out there to run it, with the cannon Souray on the other point and Zed and Ryder as the others up front? That's a pretty damn good PP, and can rival a great many in the game. Two seeing-eye passers feeding three guys who can put the puck in, or at least on, the net with regularlity is exactly what the doctor ordered. Too bad the second part of the PP is going to be rather lame. Bulis, Markov and whomever they can scrape from the bench - not particularly scary. The PK seems to have really found it's groove. Juneau, Dax, Sunny and Bulis are awesome as the top four, and Sax fills in nicely as the fifth whenever needed. It's an extremely high-energy PK, and that pus the opposition on its heels a lot, and is particularly hard when passes aren't perfect. I believe that was a perfect game in terms of special teams, and when was the last time we can say we were perfect!! The most important thing you can take from this game, though, and the last bunch, is the overall consistency. Sure, there have been a few times where we've not looked good, but overall, I think the improvement from the beginning of the year to now is incredible. This is a team that was a group of individuals to start the year, but has been moulded into a real team that works hard, for the most part, night in and night out and is keeping the fans happy. I think the patience shown by Gainey in the face of derisive elements has been remarkable, and the best thing to happen to Montreal since Courtnall was attained for Kordic. Julien also deserves more than just passing applause for his work at pulling this team together. He's made the tough choices and has really pulled this bunch together to the point where you can almost expect them to play a solid game every time they show up. It's not perfect by any stretch, but the turn-around has begun. Off to the Centre of the Universe where we face Leaf squad that found it's game. My only advice for habs fans is to turn off the sound when you watch if you're going to see it on CBC. Personally, I can't stand Bob Cole and his, "ANd Sundin, up to Roberts, to Nolan and a great save by the Montreal goalie. Puck picked up by the Montreal defender who posses it out to the wing, centred and GREAT SAVE BY BELFOUR! That was a show-stopper folks!" (Puck whiffed off the end of someone's stick into Belfour's waiting glove.) Ahem. I look forward to Cherry's suit and tie. A Concerned Fan.
  15. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, or in this case, the whiny Thornton gets away with beheadings. Every game he shows me why he's a) a superbly talented player who should be considered as one of the league's best and B) why he's a classless prat who occasionally deserves a good swipe upside the head. Okay Dax was on his case at centre, but to take your opponents' helmet and yank it around - with the head still in it no less - is just plain dangerous. Thornton is going to have to watch his step. One day a coach is going to get fed up with him and his antics (typical high stick from him; he's never been able to control his lumber) and send out a good to just pummel him illegally. A game of momentum, swinging back and forth, and I'd say that in the end it came out pretty much even. Good plays on both sides (along with a few dopey plays) made for some good hockey to watch (and without 15 goals? how could it be) and some intense play between two teams that don't like each other. The habs 'waterbug' offense against the giant posts on the Brin defense at one end and at the other the brutish Bruin offense against the pipsqueak Montreal defense. Some serious periods of domination for respective sides when one team took advantage of the weakness of the other. In the end it came down to two goalies playing near or at the top or their games, and that's the way good hockey should be. This Raycroft kid is going to be one to watch; I like his positioning and his confidence. ~~ Notes: (performance) Theo: Excellent game, thought there were one or two times where his rebound control had me holding my head in anguish, but in a game where he makes the kinds of saves he did, I don't think I can hold that against him. A+ Bouillon: While he did play a good game and stayed within his means, more often than not he was out-muscled, particularly by that Thornton line, down low and that led to some very long shifts where he was scrambling. I still love the way he carries the puck and makes things happen, and tonight he did it intelligently, rather than holding on too long and making mistakes. B Rivet: He had an awful first shift, and it was on the tip of my tongue to phone the Bell Centre, get him and tell him to fake an injury. After that, though, he acquitted himself fairly well, though he too was dominated a few times down low because he failed to get control of the puck quickly enough to move it out. B Komisarek: I'm sure anyone who watched will have noticed that huge check he threw against the boards, and if that's any indication of what we're to expect, well I know it had me salivating. He played a good game other than that, still a little slow to make his decisions, but proactive in his many of his plays when he felt the confidence. It's coming much quicker now. B Markov: Except for that play late in the game where he decided to play the puck and not the man, he was right up there in terms of defensive play. As usual, his proactive play and wins of battles along the boards were superior in number and quality, and I'm pleased to see him playing a solid game again. B+ Quintal: Nothing special, but nothing bad either. He was behind a couple of times but really, it wasn't too much of a problem tonight. I thought he played particularly well after taking Thornton's stick to the eye when he came back, settled in, and just did the easy smart plays - and threw a little more body. B Souray: Took one stupid penalty, but other than that, played a strong game and a game where his physical presence on that back line was badly needed. He also made strong outlet passes and is really starting to play the more patient game, I've noticed him working into recently. A- Kilger: Shrug lived up to his name. When you're on the fourth line, you just have to make things happen. He didn't. D Langdon: Is that the first time since Nilan that a habs player has fought more than a couple of times without getting injured for the season? He went to the box and seemed okay, and I seem to recall him playing after that as well. B+ Perreault: Certainly used more often than the other fourth liners for specialty faceoff situations but was really poor in the defensive zone tonight. I found him leaving his man regularly. Offensively he had a chance or two, which is good because he's at least getting them, but didn't really do all that much overall. C+ Sundstrom: Oh dear. Invisible Man strikes again. I'd sing a theme song saying 'watch out' for Invisible Man, but really, his name says otherwise. C Dackell: Good strong game. I think he's really picked it up over the last few weeks and is playing not only strong defensively, but is also kicking in a physical element. He was getting under everyone's skin tonight and really should have drawn a few more penalties, but by that point the refs were either in catch-up mode, or it was late in the game when penalties don't matter anymore. (And what is that? More reffing garbage.) B+ Juneau: *sigh* I was really disappointed with his game tonight. Sure, he helped by stopping Thornton, and did a decent job there, but other than that he was really mistake prone. He had one shift early in the game where he was brilliant, hitting and creating and dominating, but after that.... C+ Audette: Okay everyone, let's all sing the Smurf theme song together. La-la-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la-laaaaaa! C- Zednik: He's just not playing well with Ribs. Had his stick lifted on the one real chance he had, and other than that took low percentage shots which resulted in a whole lot of habs fans (and players) rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. C+ Ribeiro: We need more second line players, because his line can't do anything on the PP at the moment. Ribs is beautiful at the dangle plays, but when he gets the puck by the side of the net with the goalie conveniently absent, he has this habit of waiting while the goalie gets back so he can once again show everyone on the planet that he can deke out said goalie and then roll his eyes when no one gets in position for his 'perfect' (not quite les gars sur RDS) pass. Oh, and where was that perfect pass at the end of the game? *sigh* He's playing okay, but I expect so much more from him. I find his decision making to be atrocious at times and, while he does move well with the puck, off it, particularly in his own zone, he looks like some poor lost waif. B Bulis: More quiet night than usual. He was still skating well, but the puck never seemed to get towards him much. That happens, from time to time, as any team sports athelete will tell you. B+ Ryder: He skated too long with the puck precisely once; the rest of the time he was passing wonderfully (totally underrated passer) and set up the goal really nicely. (That was a great five-man cycle.) His defense is still getting better and better and I love the fact that he doesn't ever give up. He's also getting stronger and stronger on the boards, and is still getting into brilliant position to make great plays. B+ Koivu: Looked much more like himself tonight, though on the broken play where the puck bounced off Bouillon's skate to Rolston, it was, ostensibly, his man. After a couple of games being somewhat off his normal pace, he was skating and moving the puck well tonight - I get the feeling his game is more affected by lousy ice than some others. B+ ~~ A tie against the big bad Bruins, and I think we'll take that and run, thank ya'll very much. They deserved the point, and against a team of that calibre, the result is perfectly satisfactory. I don't think there were many fans that went home unhappy after watching that game. Shame we didn't play like that in the previous two games, we would have beaten Florida and would have handled Tampa a lot more handily than we did. Nashville comes a-visiting on Thursday, and that's going to be a tough game. The Preds might not be the best team in hockey, but they work hard - harder than the Bruins, I'd warrant. As long as we give a concerted effort like we did tonight, though, I think we should come out satisfied with ourselves, and will probably takes some points to the bank. But play like we did in Florida and we'll totally deserve the loss that'll be inflicted upon us. A concerned fan.
  16. Take the Two Points and Run It was a definite improvement over last nights contest in just about every respect, that much is for sure. To think, however, that we deserved to win by the score we managed, to think we would have beaten a team that wasn't in the same kind of funk the Lightning are in, to think we wouldn't have been demolished by a top team would be ludicrous. While our play was better than last night, it still left a lot to be desired. Rarely did we see more than two or three passes connected in a row and rarely did we see sustained and strong pressure from any line other than our checking line. I think I'm going to let out a few guffaws when I hear about how we need to get rid of Dackell, Sundstrom and Juneau tonight - by *far* our best players on the ice. One thing that we can take with us to Boston is this: almost everyone came out to play. Even if it wasn't their 'A' game, even if they could only manage a full effort rather than putting in that second effort, at least a majority of guys decided to show up and make the effort. In that vein, let me say that I admire Ribeiro's effort when he was so obviously hampered by the groin pull - though it would have been better for everyone involved had he made the correct decision to take the night off; but for this Julien is just as much to blame. Not that I'll ever complain about players going when they're hurt...lord knows I've done the same stupid things many-a-time. ~~ Notes: (performance) Theo: I guess we decided that, at least for the first part of the road trip, Theo was going to have to face some rubber, because he was peppered again tonight. He made the saves necessary, though, to keep us in the game - even though tonight's shot quality was far inferior to yesterday's. A Bouillon: Not the greatest performance and I'm starting to see where he's trying to do too much with the puck. Call it overconfidence not that he's 'made' the starting six, or call it bad decision making on his part, either way he's hurting the team when he doesn't dish it off to an open player before he gets crowded out and out-muscled. C- Rivet: Benched for the third, and I can hear the cheers from almost every habs fan out there. I was counting good and bad plays tonight carefully, and as I look at my notes, I see that he had more bad plays in the eleven minutes he played than most players had marks for the entire night. Our big orange Traffic Cone 52 is just not having a good time on this trip. F Quintal: Good effort coming back from a night he probably wants to forget. He ends up plus four for the game, and it was merited. Sure, he was behind on a few plays and sure, he's still slow with the puck and away from it, but tonight he used his head and positioned himself well to minimize those short-comings. B Souray: Big night on the scoresheet for the big man. He had a really solid game, not doing anything particularly spectacular, but not doing anything stupid either. This is the type of game I would expect from him regularly. Let's be honest, the points were a nice bonus, but it's his steady play that we really need night on night. A Komisarek: Perhaps coach Julien was waiting for a large lead to give Komi the chance to play in all situations? Or maybe Komi forced his hand by playing well? Perhaps it was the inability of Traffic Cone 52 to bring his skates tonight? I think a little of all three. Komi was solid. He was beaten to the inside once that I recall, and he has to cut that out completely, but wasn't beaten to the outside, punished his men regularly, and played a quiet game completely within his means. Perfect for the confidence. Also nice to see that Julien had him out on the PP and the PK - that's a *great* sign. Also great is seeing that shot on the PP: low and accurate. He may not have had any points tonight, but he's going to get a pile with a shot like that. B+ Markov: A much quieter game from our other leading defender, but he was careful with his game and didn't cause too many concerns out there. He's got a bit of a confidence problem which rears its ugly head whenever he loses a partner, but I think that should slowly get better with time. B Langdon: Okay, is it me, or is Andre Roy just a little child - throwing his pads at someone on the ice? Come on! Laughable. Good on Langdon to go over there and take a few shots, including that knockout one to the head. Put that little punk in his place. B- Kilger: I'm slowly working on nicknames for everyone, and I think Kilger's is going to be Shrug. That's the way I see him, a big *shrug*. He might show up for a shift or two, but usually is invisible. C- Perreault: Can't complain that much when you score two, but really, it was a matter of right place and right time for the first and an empty net for the second. I don't think he had a bad game, but neither do I think he stood out in any way. C+ Audette: Well, if you compare his skating with Dagenais', then it's no contest and he should be in the lineup 100% of the time. BUT, if you compare the rest of the game? Audette was a busy bee in the offensive zone, made a couple of better than average defensive helpers, but was more often than not just that #82 guy on the ice skating nicely but not really doing anything. Then again, his shots after Rivet's fight were nice to see, perhaps a little team spirit showing through from the guy who's not considered 'team' material. C+ Zednik: Shame for him that Bulis took his spot on the first line (though good for Bulis), and also a shame that Ribs was nigh on useless with that injury, because Zed was a complete non-entity. I didn't write less for anyone else. When his linemates aren't spectacular, I think we need him to step it up and be that way. C+ Ribeiro: As mentioned before, I appreciate his efforts in helping the club, but in the end they did more damage than anything else. He was abysmal in his own end because he couldn't manouver anymore, and did you see when Souray out-skated him - at double the speed? Brutal. D+ Bulis: Another strong game from Mr. Hustle. He's just all over the place and it really makes a huge difference on the PK - our once not-so-special special team. He wasn't as useful in the offensive zone, but I'm not sure it had anything to do with him, honestly. A- Ryder: On the one hand, he didn't get many chances, on the other hand he played about seven minutes less than usual and still had three shots, made a couple of pretty passes and managed to be strong in the offensive zone when he got there....AND still be solid defensively. He made the most of his time, that's for sure. B+ Koivu: Goal and an assist. Wasn't his night at all. He was frustrated with his own game, and the more observant of you out there would have noticed him being really angry with himself over a number of plays, most noticeably when he cursed so loud the play-by-play mike picked it up clearly (it was a lost faceoff in the defensive zone). That he got two points during a game where he clearly struggled is testament to his abilities, but really, offensively he wasn't good at all. On the defensive side, however, and particularly on the PK, he was solid. B- Juneau: *applause* And I'd love it if he could come to the list and give a sweet smile then stick out his tongue at the non-believers. That line totally controlled practically every time they hit the ice. Juneau was excellent. A Sundstrom: Brilliant. Anyone catch the fact that Scotty Bowman was impressed with him tonight? Great game from start to finish, his best as a habs. He was in corners, working the net, cycling intelligently, and best of all was playing stunning defence. A Dackell: Awsome. Anyone notice how he went to the net all the time? He created screens, and havok all night. He was great one-on-one (as usual) winning battles in all three zones regularly. He worked well with his linemates creating numerous chances. And he was the best habs tonight. A+ ~~ A game above .500 again and while it wasn't our best game, I think some satisfaction has to be taken from the fact that Julien took this team by the ear after yesterday's brutal performance and made them accountable, thus coaxing out a much better game tonight. As I said, it would never be enough to beat a team like the Bruins, but it's something we can build on when we go and meet them in Boston in the half-vacant Fleet Centre. This will be a significant test of this club, and should give us a good indication on where we stand in terms of coming back from less-than-great performances. And did anyone catch that commercial with Kovalchuk and Naslund chasing the puck everywhere? Brilliant, and two guys who are extremely talented as well - good faces to put on the NHL brand. A concerned Fan.
  17. I will dispute vehemently with anyone who says that we played a good first period, despite the score. The fact of the matter is this: while the Panthers were unlucky to come out of the first that way, they were the better team all night. They were first to the puck, the passed accurately, and the received passes astutely. The Habs did none of those things tonight. Worst though, was the effort - the Habs were lucky to get a first effort on some plays where the Panthers had two and sometimes three efforts on a play. Pathetic. And this was a team we should have beaten. Now we have to go and play a *much* better team in the Bolts tomorrow night. Sure, there were some thing that can be taken from this game with a grain of salt, including the fact that had the officials had *any* clue whatsoever about what hooking, holding, and obstruction were, Montreal would have been on the powerplay for about 80 minutes. Sure, Theo played a solid game and really held a team that didn't deserve to even be in the rink in the game. And sure, Juneau came back and looked much better than he did when he left and led the best habs line all night. But I don't think Montreal was in Florida for a few moral victories. ~~ Notes: (performance) Theo: "Dear Theo, we're sorry we left you alone, but we thought you were missing rubber." A Bouillon: Tough to say this, but he was one of the better defenders. He still couldn't pass the puck to save his life tonight. C Rivet: Pack it up and go home. You know, the *real* pro athelete would have admitted to his coach that he was just not in the game and should either be benched so as not to hurt the team or used only in places where he wasn't going to cause problems. F Quintal: See Rivet. Downgrade the mark if necessary. F- Souray: "Dear Souray, we wanted to see how you'd do by yourself on defense tonight. Nice try." At least he was physical and brought something to the attack tonight. B Komisarek: Covered Souray's butt once, but there was still a goal against on the play - since he had to leave his own mand to take his partners. He's getting beaten a few too many times on one-on-ones, but I think that's part of the learning curve. At least he wasn't beated on effort, since he was one of the best Habs out there. He's doing a little better with speedster's out wide, and his footspeed is increasing, but there's still a way to go. Then again, he was the best we had on the right hand side. C+ Markov: Two assists does not a good game make. Too many bad outlet passes tonight. He was still decent down low and consistently tied up his man, but it seemed he was a half step out of it mentally. B- Audette: Is there anyone in the world who can explain why he replaced Ryder on the top line in the waning stages of the game? Ryder was demoted to line two and Dagenais was sent to polish the wood at the end of the bench. Ryder was best of the three, Dagenais second best, and Audette should have faked a shoulder injury. He had good jump skating-wise, just didn't do anything with it. C Perreault: Perhaps if we paint the defensive third a fluorescent orange he might be able to find it. No? I didn't think so either. Still, that mullet he's working on must raise his grade a little. Let's see, he played three quarters of a good period. Um... D+ Kilger: And whaddaya know, I give the guy who rarely puts in 60 minutes of effort the best mark on the line. He actually worked and threw the body tonight. I appreciated his efforts. B Dackell: Awsome game. Not only was he stellar defensively tying up his man time after time, but offensively his trio worked the puck wonderfully and were the only line to apply constant pressure in the offensive zone. A- Sundstrom: Two weeks ago I called him Invisible Man. Guess he was insulted, because in every game since, he's gotten better and better. I should start the name calling for everyone else tonight. Strong game in all three zones, but he was particularly effective on the attack - mostly because his line didn't have to defend much because they had the puck so long. B+ Juneau: Well, as much as most of us didn't want him back on that third line, I don't think there's anyone who can disagree (if you're honestly with yourself) that he came in and did a fine job. We missed Begin, for sure, but less than Brisebois tonight. B+ Zednik: He scored a goal-scorer's goal when he went to the net on the first, and it was great to see him do that. Of course, I guess he decided that it was to be his contribution for the night, because he immediately left for Tampa and gave his sweater to some dude in Section 15, Row 12. C+ Dagenais: Tonight he really fit in. When the bulk of the Habs went to sleep as Florida started hitting, Dagenais came out to play and actually carried himself well throughout the affair. He was the best on his line and really didn't deserve the demotion late. B+ Ribeiro: Oh, I could just hear the wails of delight from all his supporters as he made that play for the first goal - though no doubt it was spectacular. Unfortunately, I have a feeling they let it rose-colour their glasses for the rest of the game when Ribs failed to do much else. I've noticed that if the play is in his own zone, he's utter crap, but when the Habs, and particularly he, has the puck, he looks good. Problem with that is when the Habs rarely have the puck. C Bulis: Well, he was working hard, but it was one of those games where nothing went right for him. The puck was bouncing over his stick (did anyone tell the Florida guys that this was supposed to be a hockey game and not a basketball game 'cause that puck was a-bouncin') like there was no tommorrow, and his decisions were just not what we've gotten used to with him. B Ryder: He impresses me more by the game, and thank heavens Julien benched him, because, you know, late in the game when you're down by two, it's always good to have your most offensive players filling water bottles. Okay, he held on to the puck too long and it resulted in a goal, but when he's creating more than everyone else... B Koivu: I don't think he was expecting to play a team that worked, because a number of his passes would have been brilliant against, say, the Rag$ who don't know what work is. Tonight, though, they were picked off regularly. Again, with Sax, it wasn't a matter that he wasn't working hard, because I think he was working as hard as ever, it was his mind that was perhaps slightly out of synch with the rest of himself. B ~~ Pretty sad. Half effort in the first and none for the rest of the game. It's going to be a serious uphill climb to reverse that horrid effort tomorrow night. Somehow they have to come back, forget all about this, and work for 60 minutes, and that's always tough when bad habits come into the play. Tampa, while not having the best of times recently, is a much better team than is Florida, and if the Bolts see the game tape, it's pretty easy to determine that the game plan will be hit, hit, hit, work, work, work. Coming to the peninsula this weekend, I would have expected to see three out of four points considering who we were playing - that would have given me cause to call it a successful weekend. Now, we'll be lucky to get two. A concerned fan.
  18. S'funny. I was thinking Savard the whole time and Houle came to my fingers. Am I obsessed with Houle? WHat's wrong with me? Thanks for the edit and holy cow I need pennicillin!
  19. Hard luck for the Habs who deserved to pull one out tonight. They played with intensity, heart, and intelligence, but when you're playing against a team like Philly, you have to understand that, as with all good teams, they somehow seem to find ways to win. Despite the loss, you can call this a really positive game in almost all respects except one: losing at the end like that can be a real momentum killer, and if the Habs take it to heart, it could be a serious problem for the next game or two. And really, if you look at it closely, the only reason we lost is because we made a few errors, and not because we didn't play well or with intensity. Early in the season, or indeed in most of the last six or seven, you couldn't have said that about the Canadiens. If they lost, it was because they stunk. It's hard to look at any player tonight and say they were a real problem. Sure, some had shifts where they had trouble, but I think, all in all, as fans we have to come away satisfied that we're really playing as a *team*. ~~ Notes: (performance) Garon: He made some stunning stops, most notably on the breakaway, and showed why Hackett says he has the best legs in hockey. He also really whiffed the second goal on a weak shot from beyond the circles. I think he was upset at the third goal, but he had no need to be, since it was a deflection from barely ten feet in front of him. I feel, after watching him tonight, that his game has improved even from the last time we saw him. He was well-positioned and moved much better than he used to. Kudos for working hard in the interim. B+ Bouillon: A good game where, against a much bigger Philly team, he wasn't out-muscled more than a couple of times. His size may only be listed at about 5'8, but he plays more like 6'2, and if everyone played a half foot bigger than they were, we'd be a dominant club size-wise. B Rivet: He was doing so well for the larger part of the game, and anyone who really paid attention would have noted that his improvement over earlier this season is astronomical. It's such a shame that on that third goal he let his man meander in front of the net for an easy tip. I feel bad for him in one respect, and that's that fans will really get on his back for any little mistake he makes. B Brisebois: He only made one really bonehead play from his own zone, but it didn't cost us and he played his mistake well. Other than that, he was solid in both ends and is really gaining confidence in playing that simple game. He's added in a few other improvements, and is starting to look not just like a good reliable defender (worth $1.5), but a reliable defender who can also move the puck effectively, and can even defend proactively - he's chosing his spots much better now (worth $2.5). With any luck, he might end up being worth close to $3 by the end of the year, and we won't feel so bad. B+ Markov: A couple of stumbles, but it still amazes me how proactive he is in defending. And while he may not play the body like bigger guys, when a Roenick-type comes to the crease, Markov ties up that stick far better than anyone in Montreal. B+ Komisarek: I remember Markov's first season, his first few games, and you could just see the little things he did, even though it was rough back then, that would put him above most other defenders. I see the same things in Komi. It's still raw, but it's there. The proactive defending, the brilliant whip passes that create chances immediately. The tough defending and smart positioning. It's not consistent yet, but sooner rather than later he's going to be pushing up the ladder. B Souray: Finally he doesn't have to do all the dirty work. Great pairing with Komi - I certainly wouldn't want to be a forward against them! Souray played another strong game, physically dominating and very good positionally. I see him in a transition period, actually. I'm noticing how he seems to see the game at a slower speed now, he reacts faster than others, he moves more efficiently and with a good patience instead of rushing things... He's making a few mistakes as he transitions, but I think that, sometime after the holiday season, or maybe even as late as the beginning of next year, he's going to surprise some people by being a real leader on defense - for any team, and not just the Habs. A- Kilger: One shift on, one shift off. If there's anyone I really want to see traded, it's him, and that bothers me, since those on shifts are something to behold. C Langdon: If he didn't take those absolutely stupid penalties, he'd be brilliant. Tonight he was rock solid all over the ice, but managed to take a kneeing penalty, or some such nonsense. B Perreault: Tough for a player like him to take fourth line time, however I think he did admirably well with it. I'm really impressed at how hard he's worked over the last few games. Despite those who say he doesn't have NHL-calibre skills, he does - and in spades - his only two real problems have been work ethic and softness. B+ Dackell: To all those of you who think he needs to go, phtphtpht. He's a wonderful guy that I love to see on the ice. Sure, every now and then he makes a mistake, and sure he's not the toughest guy on the planet, but really, are there many in *hockey* that can hold on to the puck by themselves in the offensive zone for as long as he can? Against a much bigger Flyer squad, he was still able to make a dozen great plays - all on his own. A- Sundstrom: Fill in the blanks: Begin is to Sundstrom as oxygen is to _____. If you said life, you're correct. Since being put with Begin on that third line, Sunny's confidence has soared. He's even starting to make those second efforts that weren't in his game as recently as three or four games ago. B+ Begin: Okay, defensively he's not quite as good as Juneau, but man does he make up for that with sheer exuberance and hitting power. Honestly, I wouldn't break this threesome up right now. Begin has given something to that third line that's great to see. In fact, they even have scoring chances every game, and I think you can put that down to Begin's feistyness causing turnovers constantly. A- Dagenais: First, brilliant goal, no doubt about it. Second, he knows how to play with Ribby for absolute sure. Third, with Zed on his other wing, his skating weakness is significantly diminished. Fourth, he'll never be a legitimate 2nd liner, and the jury is still out on whether or not he can keep it up this year, but until one of our youth matures into the spot, I'm happy to see him there for now - *IF* he continues working hard. B+ Zednik: I honestly would have though he'd have been PO'd to be on that line with a couple of players way below his talent level, but he met the challenge and adapted quickly to Ribby's game. He added more physicality as well and that really *really* helped out the Ribs line. A- Ribeiro: The first half of the game was so bad for Ribs I just wanted to see him benched. Then suddenly he made a heads-up play to retrieve a puck and throw it to Z and we score. All of a sudden, Ribs is all there and in the game - the Ribby we need to see out there if he's going to take that second line. If he can continue to play like that, and not a shade less intense, then I'll be happy to have him there until such time as a real second line centre comes along, but the minute he coasts and stops moving... Oh, and is he really a centre? I mean come on! He doesn't even take his own draws anymore! B Bulis: After all the good things I said about him playing defence recently, he goes and blows that first Philly goal by leaving his man alone. *sigh* On the other hand, does he ever play well with Sax and Ryder. There are times when I think he's a better offensive player than Z...right up until you compare shots. Then again, with Bulis on that line, the puck stays in the opposition end far longer than it did with Z. B+ Ryder: Love this kid. Lemme say that again, *love* this kid. Not only is he working hard, but I think he's working *harder* than he was at the beginning of the year. He's constantly creating in the offensive zone, constantly making things happen, and constantly improving. What more can you ask of a rookie? He shoots like someone we haven't seen since (and I hesitate to say this) John LeClair. If he keeps this improvement up... A- Koivu: Remember that year where Sax led the league in scoring before his injury? Yeah, that's him again on the ice. He answered Gainey's call for more from his best players. He looks completely dominant at times, and most of the rest he still looks like a top player on the ice. A ~~ I think it's becoming more and more evident that Gainey's evaluation period is over and Julien is starting to make consistent line combos that play together for more than a period or two. The team is starting to gel in terms of units, but also in terms of complete team play. Once again we saw strong team spirit in defending fellow players, and it's this, more than anything else, which tells me Gainey has had more than just a word or two in the dressing room. In retrospect, I now have to tip my hat to Julien for all those moves that I didn't understand before. It seems they were all done with a strong purpose in mind and has benefitted the team in the long run - that which is most necessary. I'll be the first to admit I was unnerved and annoyed at some of the moves, but I'm pleased I was wrong with those ideas. I guess I still have a lot to learn, particularly when it comes to coaching. Down to Manhatten to play the Rag$, a team that suddenly looks like they want to play hockey rather than shinny on a pond. This is going to be a tough game, make no mistake, so we'll have to play a smart road game - stick to the system, capitalize on mistakes, yadda yadda. It'll be interesting to see if Komi gets to stay in, or if Quintal retakes his place. A concerned fan.
  20. One game over .500, a streak of five games undefeated, and more and more players playing with intensity for the entire 60 minutes. Looks like the coach and GM are finally getting through to some of these guys. Also looks like they're finally starting to gel with the new system. And while there are, of course, still areas the team needs plenty of help with, at the very least, when the best players are playing their best, this team can compete on every night and can steal a few when they might not even deserve it. It was brought up during the second intermission: what will Juneau do now? I think it's painfully obvious to most habs fans that Begin has stepped in and has done a wonderful job on the third line. The problem is, no matter the whining from certain corners, Juneau still does a solid job, and even better, he can teach the younger players how to be improve. While I wouldn't want to see Begin relagated from a position he's obviously growing comfortable with, neither would I like to see Juneau sitting out for some amount of time when he brings so much to the table. Fourth line? Perhaps that's the answer. And congratulations to King Zed who had his first child tonight. I didn't catch the young Zednik's name, but I believe the baby was six pounds and twelve ounces. ~~ Notes: (performance) Theodore: No doubt he's looking like his Vezina self lately. While the one goal he let in was from 60 feet, there was a partial screen and it was a pass across the point that had him moving. I don't think you can ask too many goaltenders to even get close on a play like that one. A+ Bouillon: Much better game tonight since he left the personal vendettas on Carolina ice. He was strong on the puck and made some wise decisions. I still love the way he moves the puck and have no idea why some complain when he's on the point on the power play. Sure, he made a bad pass last game, but in reality, you want your best puck moving defenders on the point, and would you all really like to go back to seeing Quintal there? B+ Rivet: Another good game. I'm really pleased the last couple and feel he might be turning a corner. Perhaps a little talking aside and talking to to convince him to play a more simple game and relax more out there, rather than panicking the puck away constantly? If he keeps this up, we might actually all become happy with the defensive corps. Okay, that's wishful thinking. B+ Quintal: I really like this guy. But he was *way* behind everything last night, and poor Souray probably felt like he was pulling yeoman's duty playing for two. His fight at the end of the game, in my opinion, just looked like a frustration thing; knowing full well his game is on the serious slide at the moment. Shame for him that he might be getting a forced benching from the league after carrying on too long. D Souray: For a while, I was thinking that he was looking more patient out there and was making even smarter plays than usual - wondering if he was starting to take the next evolution in his game. Then I realized, when he took that penalty, that he was just being *too* lax. He had his pocket picked and had to really attack the guy to try and get it back. On the other hand, he really did play a strong game other than one or two overly lax plays. B+ Brisebois: As Pedneault said (and I agree???), Brisebois made a couple of errors tonight that we haven't seen in a long period of time. The best part about saying that, is that it was only two really bad errors, and for the rest of the game, he looked pretty solid again. B Markov: I only wish that more people could appreciate the little things he does. I'm not saying he's perfect, but I am saying that when he rounds out his game in a couple of years, he's going to be something special to watch. He still has so much potential, and for a habs fan, being able to say that is special. B+ Langdon: If he could avoid the idiot penalties, we'd be great. Having said that, he was a hard-nosed hard worker tonight, and I like what he brings to the table. I just wish it was him fighting a little more often. B+ Kilger: One shift great, one shift invisible. I guess I can sum up my comments for him this game with a large *shrug*. C Komisarek: Boy, when he lays on the body, people fly. Shame we couldn't have seen him on the back end rather than Quintal, but I will give Julien the benefit of the doubt at this point. C+ Dackell: The man everyone loves to hate was one of the best Habs on the ice tonight, particularly in the offensive zone. His line was dominant, and he was stellar. His goal was the result of not a second effort, but a third, and really, when you get that, how can you complain in the least? A Sundstrom: He started his first couple of shifts a little slowly, but ended up playing a much better game after that. Invisible Man must have taken the night off. I still think he could be a little more aggressive, particularly on the boards, and could give more second efforts, but I think I'll settle with being happy with his game tonight. (Is he totally suited to the Western game, or what?) B Begin: Wow. He was absolutely flying tonight, and if I had to give a Man of the Match award, he'd get it, no questions asked. He was hitting, creating, marking, and generally being a do-it-all man all night, and you just have to love his constant effort. Personally, I think he's starting to rub off on those around him, and that's just more brilliant. A+ Dagenais: He made a couple of nice plays and was certainly not invisible, but for a second line player, I'd expect a little more. Now, he is the 'size' on that line and he wasn't shying away from using it, but he's just so much slower... It's the AHL speed he plays at that costs him. C+ Perreault: Well, I guess we can say he can't play two really inspired games in a row, sadly. He was okay tonight, certainly decent in the offensive zone, but didn't throw any hits and didn't really give that second effort necessary all night. B- Ribeiro: I get so much heat for what I say about him, but really, aside from a couple of fairly good razzle moves, he doesn't provide much at all right now. His line was by far the worst of the three that played consistently tonight, and, while he was less a permieter player than last night, he was still largely ineffectual. I don't mind him, and I still see potential, but he's nowhere near Koivu's league in any way, shape or form and for those who say he's the best habs, I can only wonder what you're seeing. If there's one trade I'd like to see made, it's him because, on any other team, he'd be basically invisible and then Montreal fans would truly see how good he is. Plus, with him gone, we wouldn't have to listen to the French media slobber everytime he touched the puck - I mean really, when I have to take a kleenex to the TV speakers when Pedneault talks about him, it's a little much. B- Bulis: Well, he sure had a strong game in Zed's place. He may not have the scoring touch, but play-wise, he didn't look out of place at all - quite the contrary, I thought he fit in really well and helped create a lot. I just wish one or two more would go in for him so he could really pick up that confidence. A Ryder: How many years has it been since we had a *real* solid forward prospect? Saku? He's getting better, and that's saying something. He had multiple chances and was working hard every shift. He's even getting better defensively in leaps and bounds and winning the board battle far more often. I notice that line doesn't get bottled up very much at all like it did a couple of weeks back. Now, I know he was told to shoot more, but he's gone too far the other way, but I think Koivu had a tete-a-tete with him. A Koivu: I think that, with the exception of one or two shifts only, Koivu's line had a serious scoring opportunity every time they hit the ice. They probably should have had about four goals tonight. He is so far and away the best skater on this team it's amazing and when his game starts to really go, like it is now that he's in game form after that injury, he's impressive to watch. Sure, he gives pucks away occasionally, but he's the first to move his butt to cover for a mistake. And blocking shots now as well? Gimme a Homer mmmmmmmmm. Anyone else notice him helping out Ryder on the bench tonight? A ~~ Just what we needed, three out of four from the 'Canes, and that pushes us over the .500 mark. Putting aside all differences of opinion, I think as habs fans we should all be pleased that things are starting to look up a little more. And how about this fact to think about: two games in two nights and you can arguably say that the Habs were the tougher team. Shocking, eh? Finally, there's some real team spirit out there, and that's something we haven't seen in years and years. Player after player sticks up for one another, and I think it's starting to roll over into individual games. More and more players are being consistent on the ice and delivering better games. Of course, this is short-term, but with a few more solid games, perhaps we can honestly start saying this team is a solid foundation for our future. On to the Flyers, or rather, they're coming to Montreal, and that's going to be a hard game. We've got to stick to the system and play patient hockey if we're to win that one. But if Theo comes with his 'A' game and Saku continues to fly out there, I see no reason why we shouldn't give even the powerful Flyers a tough game.
  21. I'm not sure when the NHL is going to figure out the reffing situation, but the sooner the better, because tonight's game just plain got out of hand. It's hard to understand what the refs were watching at times as they missed cross-checks, blatant tackles and even someone swiping Markov's stick in OT. I'm not saying they were all against Montreal, not by a long shot, but it's getting to the point where not having refs and going by the honour system might actually make for a better game. The game itself was...all over the place. There wasn't any flow, not a lot of good play, and a lot of silly mistakes from both teams. Unlike last game, there were a few Habs who forgot to make the trip to Carolina, and that's a shame because, despite the 'Canes working harder than Montreal, the Habs had the larger talent base, and probably should have won that game had everyone shown up. Montreal just didn't take advantage of the areas it should have, and instead lost control of tempers and spent half the night sitting in the box. Oh, and thank goodness the PK is finally working well. It was excellent tonight; hustle was unbelievable at times and I really think we've got a fine set of guys who can do a stand up job there. ~~ Notes: (performance) Theo: The Vezina Theo arrived in Carolina ready to retake his mantle, and boy was he good. That was the best I've seen him play in two years by a long shot. He was making stops that nobody had any right to make and I have to say that his play out of the net with the puck has come to the point where I don''t feel like screaming at him and whacking my head. A+ Bouillon: One of those games where he's super-feisty, and it really is too much for him. He ends up over-pursuing the puck, over-pursuing the player, and generally getting totally off his game. I think he spent more time looking for revenge tonight than he did playing hockey. SHame, because he's really earned his spot over Hainsey with strong play, and if he's not careful, games like this will have him on the outside looking in. C- Rivet: You know, I didn't notice him much, and that can't be anything but a good thing. When a defender like that is hardly noticeable, it means they're probably playing a good game. He kept his plays simple, was hard on the puck and feisty on the opposition. Keep that up and he'll be in everyone's good graces far sooner than later. B+ Quintal: Er...can someone tell him he missed the game in Carolina and that there was another guy wearing his shirt on the ice? I mean, he was *that* bad tonight. He was chasing the play all over the ice and ended up leaving poor Souray to fend for himself so often I was beginning to think ol' Sheldon was going to give *him* a two-hander rather than the opposition. D Souray: Did a fine job being two defenders at once. Tough to be extra useful on nights like that, however I think he stepped up and performed admirable well and showed us a game that he hasn't played in a couple of weeks. I like when he gets angry and *intelligently* step up, instead of backing in to the defensive zone, to administer a heavy hit along the blueline. A- Markov: He had a tough, tough night. I thought he fought the puck all night and didn't get himself going until about midway in the third. He could barely corral the puck, and even when he had it, he had a tough time putting out a good pass. It just wasn't his night at all, and it's a shame, because he looked focussed out there. C Brisebois: Who is this guy, anyhow? I mean, is this the same defender that caused us all fits in recent memory? He's really settled down this year to play some solid defence. He's pinching intelligently as well, and that's really helping a rather anemic attack. B+ Langdon: His penalty was of the 'Duh' variety; and I don't think we saw him again after that. I'm getting a little concerned lately that, in all these tougher games, he's not the one dropping the gloves and instead leaves little Bouillon etc to do that job. C+ Kilger: Well, he wasn't awful, but neither was he stellar out there. He finished some checks and made some plays. That doesn't cut it for a guy who has the abilities to bring a lot more to the game. C+ Sundstrom: His PK work was excellent... Other than that, I guess you'd have to say (cue the music) DUM DUM DUM DUM Invisible Man! Donning his robes of white he blends with the ice and skates around the rink making wind and whispering sweet nothings to the opposition! Stay tuned tomorrow night for another episode of...Invisible Man!!! And here's your invisible 'A'. C (all based on the PK) Dackell: Another typical Dackell game, and that's something that any coach loves to have, a guy who's so consistent that every game you know what you're going to get. He was even better defensively than normal tonight, though, as he did a good job angling his man to the boards on numerous occasions. B+ Begin: While I hate to say it, "Juneau who?" Begin has played two fine games at a most crucial spot in the roster. Now, I know when Juneau gets back he'll take over, but in the interim, it's neat to see Begin there skating his buns off and hitting everyone. He's great to have in games like tonight as well, where half the team hides and he give opposition players hits for them. B+ Bulis: Stellar. He's really coming into his own defensively and he's making more and more great plays back there. I'd honestly be tempted to move him to that centre position and give him that checking line. A+ Dagenais: Well, he shoots, anyhow. I can't say that I'm impressed with his play at all, though he's applying the body more than I was led to believe he could do. But I see him as another who's a decent holdover, but when we actually get talent, he's much better suited to the AHL. C Perreault: He was really working hard tonight and even laid the body on a couple of times. I've been really impressed with his game the last few as his intensity has been far higher than much of what we're used to. Put him back at centre. B+ Ribeiro: I absolutely refuse to write down what I had written on my sheet when he scored that goal. Far from useful, he was totally invisible the whole night as he was shoved to the perimeter like so much navel lint. Sure, he's out leading point getter, but do you want to know why? Koivu was injured and someone had to take the first line and when you get that much ice time with decent linemates, you have to get something. I'd warrant (though I haven't checked the numbers) that many of his points are PP points as well. Really, I'm not sure where he fits on this team because the way he's playing right now, he's not good enough to be a second line centre and you can't use him on the first line because he's as hard as a marshmallow. D+ (the plus is for that goal) Ryder: Despite being held off the scoresheet, I felt he played a solid game. He was moving the puck well, he was getting off lots of shots, and he worked the boards well. Furthermore, he keeps moving in that offensive zone, and that makes him harder to cover. Finally, he's learning defence - at a much faster pace than most rookies. B+ Zednik: Can we take a stick to his head before every game? Maybe board him in warmup? He's awsome when he's mad. See him flying around there after that almost fight? He was incredible to the point of me thinking that if he could continue playing like that, he could be considere a really legitimate 1st line player league-wide. Oh, and lucky for that Markov fella that he didn't get his hands free on that fight; hospital smell bothers many people. A- Koivu: Sometimes I wish he'd get more PK time because he's excellent when he plays it. On the 5v3, he was brilliant back there. And while his line didn't get points (he was matched against one of the better shut-down guys in hockey in Brind'Amour) I felt he played just about as well as he did against T-Bay. He was all over the place and it was only a really good defence that stopped the puck from going in a few times. I can't wait to see the game in Montreal when Julien will have the last change. A ~~ We were lucky to come out of this one with a point with the way some guys played. Then again, when your best players play their best, usually good things happen, and tonight Theo kept us in the game for a good PP goal to tie it. Better still, we take home a point and have the chance to get the three out of four that we should really be hoping for in this home-and-home. The key now is to come out flying, get the first goal, then take the game to the 'Canes and come away with those points. Anything less than a win should be considered a minor disaster. And I have a new mantra because otherwise I'll be on the couch. "I did not see those cheerleaders. I did not see those cheerleaders. I did *NOT* see those cheerleaders." See hun? I'm a good boy. A concerned fan.
  22. While all those things previously mentioned are probably are strong factors, I have to believe that the main factor Breezer's game is better is because of coaching. Somewhere along the line someone told him that in order to succeed in this league, he has to stop doing things that are beyond his abilities and start playing within his means. Do the simple things and only try the complicated in the offensive zone. If you watch his game, he's become a seriously low-risk player. His passes are, in general, simple ones only of only a few feet, instead of the monster variety that he used to attempt in years gone past. Also gone are the cross-ice, behind the back from behind the net across the crease passes that started the booing in the first place. Instead, he makes tape to tape passes or, if there's trouble, chips the puck up off the glass - something he almost never did. While coach Green probably has something to do with it, I would guess that Julien stepped in for a meeting with the other two and outlined what he wanted to see from Breezer. Early in the season he was benched for stretches when he fell back into the old habits and it's only in the last ten or so games where he's really come into his own. Full props to the coaching staff for bringing Breezer around. Certainly, he deserves credit himself for working hard to become a better player, but without the direction from above, there's no reason to believe he would have changed his game at all this year.
  23. Tucker isn't necessarily such a bad idea. Worrying about him taking stupid penalties and becoming Sideshow Bob is needless worrying, as far as I can see. While he acts in such a way in Toronto, remember that he's playing under Pat Quinn who is captain of all those who whine. Gainey wouldn't allow any of that crap for a moment. On ther other hand, I just can't see the Habs picking up Tucker at this point. The idea isn't specifically to help this years' edition of the team make the playoffs, but more to gather the necessary components for the kids to grow with starting after the CBA and after many of the present contracts come due. What role could Tucker fill in the near future? He could play on the wing on the second line, something he's been somewhat successful with in Toronto. The question here is how close some of the kids are to making the jump. Of course you can't fill your lineup with kids, but the issue remains that if you put in Tucker - someone you expect to be there for at least a couple of years, is he going to take that spot from a rookie that needs the time in the NHL. The third line is probably more suitable, and since a team should like to have experience on their checking line, it might be more interesting to have him there. I'm not sure I'd like him centreing the line, but I think he'd be fine on the wing. I'm sure having Bulis in between Tucker and Hossa might interest more than a few fans. It gives Hossa a nice place to develop and makes that line a more intense line than we currently have now. I'd say Tucker is the prototypical 4th liner, but unfortunately his salary is disproportionate to that reality. I just couldn't see Gainey spending that much on someone who's going to play approximately 10 minutes a game - particularly on a developping team. As for Montreal and Toronto not being trading partners, well it's a legitimate concern. But in today's climate in the NHL, I have a feeling that if a team really *really* wants to get rid of a player and covets someone else, this is the year to make those changes since, with the impending CBA, everything might be thrown into the wind. ACF.
  24. Sheesh JL, how many boards do I have to try and keep up with you on! As for the Habs sitting back, I was a little annoyed as well. When a power play turns into an exercise in just keeping the puck safely out of your own end rather than a concerted attempt to score, I feel the team is playing at an intensity less than what it takes to be successful. There's nothing worse than changing your intensity during a game. In fact, I think it was a good thing in this game that LeCavalier scored, because they all went back to working hard again - and I hope they look at the game tapes, remember the feelings, and then go out and duplicate that effort again. I don't mind playing concervatively, but it has to be with the same intensity, and I felt for a few minutes there we looked scared, rather than eager to win. Just my thoughts... ACF
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