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04-19-2004, 11:07 PM
  #304
Guy!
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Ottawa
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The date is September 30th. The Canadiens are struggling and the predictions for the year have been entered by all the so-called experts and a great majority have them missing the playoffs while one or two have them in dead last. Behind the Penguins. Fast forward to today. The Bruins have been vanquished and the Habs are on to round two. Maybe experts don’t know everything.

Since the beginning of the series, many have expected that Theodore would be able to steal one game for the Habs. Well, he saved his best for last and yanked one out from under the Bruins tonight as an out-played Montreal team won the first round of the playoffs in the Fleet Centre in Boston. There are two ways to look at this, though in the end only one really matters.

1. They’ve gone too far. Next season there will be increased expectations and anything short of the Conference Finals will be considered a disaster in Montreal. The pressure has been increased exponentially for any team that follows this one, and if the Habs somehow fail to make the playoffs, players and management will be burned in effigy – and all that despite the fact that Montreal wasn’t even supposed to make the playoffs this season.

2. Who cares about next season or anywhere in the future, we just beat the Bruins. In fact, the rest of the playoffs might be anti-climactic after this win – unless of course we win the Cup.


Notes:

Theo: We expected him to steal a game in the series. We needed him to steal a game in the series. Good choice of games to steal. Rebound control was iffy here and there, but in the end, he stole it. A

Boullion: Solid, if not spectacular play. I like the way he takes the puck and makes something happen if he has space. There were times, however, when he and he partner were a little undisciplined in their commitment to the system. B

Brisebois: In the first and third period he had moments where he was out to lunch. When his defensive play in the third was to hit the puck with his hand and send it to the roof of the Fleet Centre, I was a little annoyed. That it gave us a power play was pure luck. B-

Komisarek: Let us pause for a moment and thank Quintal for his years of good service. I will be very, very surprised to see him in the lineup, barring injury, again after the play of Komisarek tonight. In the most pressure packed of situations he played more than 18 minutes of almost flawless hockey. The changing of the guard is occurring beneath our eyes and Komisarek is turning into one of those players teams dream about. When the pressure was on in his rookie year, you can look back and say he came out to play, that he made almost all the right decisions and played with a poise of a player ten years his senior. This most interesting part of his 18+ minutes? There was no special teams play. That was 18+ minutes that Claude Julien trusted the kid during five-on-five play. 18 minutes where he was up to the task and more – especially since he was run continually in the first. Hab fans, I present to you the future, and the future is now. Anyone catch his interview on the CBC where he actually said, at the end of the session, “Thank you for having me.” You’re witnessing the future captain of the Canadiens when Koivu retires. A

Souray: He still made a few crazy plays and silly manoeuvres, but he was better again than last game. A couple of times he almost cost the Habs, but on the other hand, a couple of times his solid feisty play saved the Habs. What is most interesting to note is that he was, on this night, outplayed by his rookie partner. B-

Rivet: I do believe I saw him make his first serious mistake of the series. On that play, however, he turned around, made himself accountable, and never gave up. As is becoming habitual, he was pretty much outstanding for the rest of the game. A-

Markov: He made one poor play, that I saw, all game, and that was his pinch where he missed the puck early in the first where it lead to Samsonov’s two-on-one situation. Other than that, he’s been the best defenseman in the series. Some day soon, reporters, GM’s and the rest of those watching the game will take notice and see the absolute gem Montreal has on it’s defensive line. Until then, he’s the best kept secret in the NHL. A

Langdon: While he scored last game, I think the best phrase that describes him is this: hands of goat. N/A

Juneau: If you watched him closely tonight, you probably saw, like me, a player on his last legs giving every last ounce of effort left. I applaud him for his heart. I also applaud him for making things happen despite the fact that he’s two or three steps behind. B-

Dagenais: He went from second to fourth line again – very quickly – and I will freely admit that I only remember seeing him on the ice once. Not good for someone who’s there to score. F

Begin: I remember one point in the second (?) where he was rubbed out along the boards behind the Montreal net and a scrum ensued. To prove his worth, the Bruins tried to take him out of the game by knocking off his helmet and rubbing his mouth that had lost a few teeth. Not nearly as effective as usual, but a worry for the Bruins. B-

Bulis: He played a good game, nothing spectacular. He did, however, made a brilliant play in front of Theodore to save a goal – something he does regularly. B

Dowd: There can be no underestimating the positives that he’s brought the Habs since arriving. As well as buzzing around the net time after time, he makes wonderful defensive plays by getting in the right position and angling or taking his player out of the play. Much like Markov, his game is understated, and much like Markov, he’s a key to this team. A-

Perreault: He made a couple of good offensive plays and almost scored – except for the save of the night from Raycroft. I think we can sum his game up this way: he dove, head first no less, in front of a shot to stop a goal. Can you ask for anymore from this type of player? B+

Ribeiro: He had a couple of plays where he made things happen, but as has become typical as the Bruins have clamped down and the playoffs have started, he’s been basically discreet. As a second line presence, he needs to make far more of an impact. C+

Ryder: Slightly more quiet tonight, though he has as much hustle as anyone on the Habs. He didn’t have many chances to put the puck in the net, but he finished all his plays and he played a smart game on both sides of the puck. B

Zednik: When he goes to the net good things happen. Case in point: the wining goal tonight. It wasn’t his best game and there were a couple of times he turned away when he should have fought for the puck, but it was good enough to score two goals. From a goal scorer, that’s key – obviously. B+

Kovalev: There were two plays that put him in the superstar category. The first goal where he fought off a check, made *his* play and caused the rebound. The play along the boards with Raycroft pulled where he beat his defensive opponent which led to the empty net goal. Somebody sign this guy….and fast!! A-

Koivu: He didn’t have nearly as many chances in the Boston zone tonight – yet he still had quite a few chances. What was more important were the two or three brilliant defensive plays which saved goals. When he did have a chance or two, he made them count. Leading point-getter in the playoffs as well as an extremely solid two-way player tonight. A

Julien: Kept the status quo and didn’t worry about getting out-matched too much. He made his changes when he could, made the team play the counter game, and it worked in the end.

PP: If we’re to have any luck against Tampa, someone’s got to revive this power play. D+

PK: On the other hand, there’s no question that the PK had a lot to do with the series win. A-

Team: Honestly, tonight, despite the fact the Bruins played their best game of the series and could very well have won it, the Habs played a solid, if not spectacular, team game. Koivu said after the game that it wasn’t their best effort, and I agree, but it was good enough – with the forwards coming back to help – to win the game and the series. B

~~

Wow. So we’re on to Tampa on Friday after beating our arch-rivals. Tampa will be a completely different challenge, though, as they have more speed and perhaps even more offensive ability than the Bruins. The game plan will have to change a little and guys will have to be prepared for the speed of guys like St.Louis if we’re to have success in the next round.

As a final though ton this series, let’s take a moment to look above the player at the GM level. He brought in Begin, and I don’t think there’s a fan out there who can complain. He brought in Langdon, and again this player has served his purpose with distinction. He brought in Dowd, a high-quality and underrated player who helps the Habs defensively as well as motivationally. And finally he brought in Kovalev for the playoff run. He had a tough start in Montreal, but now he’s golden (I’d love to see him signed). Seems our GM has had the Midas touch in his first year, and really, what could be better than having Bob Gainey come back to bring this team to new heights.

Even if the season ended tomorrow, he and the Canadiens have been unmitigated successes.

A Concerned Fan

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