2:00 PM ET : Thrashers @ Habs
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01-03-2004, 12:49 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
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.
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.
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