About last night …

Unsung hero of that ridiculous game: Cristobal Huet.

Don’t laugh. If he doesn’t make a huge save late in the first period, it’s 3-2, Bruins have momentum heading into the second and your fragile Montreal Canadiens are nervous. But Huet made the save, Max Lapierre scored at the other end, it was 4-1 and effectively over.

Equally impressive were some stops Huet made later, once the game had turned into shinny. To stay sharp and focused when your team is romping requires some kind of mental toughness. Chapeau to the man from France.

Other heroes?

How about the whole darn team. As impressive as eight goals were, I was blown away by the passing. I can’t remember more tic-tac-toe plays in a game. The Tomas Plekanec line was magical, of course, but everyone else was into it – to the extent that Michael Ryder made a couple bad passes late in the third period and there were faint boos from spoiled fans.

There were set-ups and open nets my mother could have cashed … and she’d have pounded the snot out of Shane Hnidy.

Some of the posters took me to task for being hard on Mathieu Dandenault in my game blog, accusing me of kicking a guy when he’s down. There’s merit to that criticism. But look, a team that some picked to finish 14th is sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference and playing excellent hockey. It’s not the time to be whining – especially if you’re minus-10, you don’t play physical and you’re not a fighter.

Tom Kostopoulos knows there’s a battle for spots on the fourth line. So Tom the Bomb, making the most of his opportunity, gets the Gordie Howe hat trick – a goal, an assist and a fight, in defence of Steve Bégin, that made "TK", as they call him, a very big hero in the Canadiens’ room.

We’re going to hear more sad music from Patrice Brisebois when he’s ready to play. Josh Gorges has improved steadily since becoming a regular. He blocked four shots last night and made several excellent plays, including a recovery after Milan Lucic steamrollered him.

So does the man from My-my-my-my Kelowna sit in favour of Breeze? I don’t #$%^ing think so. And the situation gets even more complicated when Ryan O’Byrne gets back. Does Mark Streit move to forward, thus ensuring more pressbox nights for Dandenault?

Another big hit in the room was Sergei Kostitsyn’s fight. Brother Andrei said it was the kid’s pugilistic debut. I wouldn’t send him out to take on Georges Laraque, but Sergei did fine, displaying the benefits of playing junior hockey in Ontario under the tutelage of Dale Hunter. And if he’d played for Brent Sutter in the Dub, Sergei would have cleaned Chuck Kobasew’s clock.

I really liked that kid line. Sergei, Lapierre and Gui! could be better in their own end, but they’re a high-energy trio that’s going to tire out a lot of defencemen.

Speaking of exhaustion, how about the poor Bruins who had to watch Alex Kovalev skate around wit the puck last night? After he scored to make it 7-1 seven minutes into the third period, I think Kovy should have celebrated by ragging the puck for the next 13 minutes. Not the least of his talents is a theatrical flair that plays to the Bell Centre crowd.

Also emerging as a fan favourite: Andrei K. A redirect with his back to the net, a one-time laser on a pass from his brother …. the guy is on fire. On CKAC after the game, Dany Dubé said Andrei K proves the virtue of patience. People were ready to write him off as a first-round bust. But as he’s become more comfortable with North America and the Canadiens’ system, the big winger has moved onto the cusp of greatness. Size, speed, hands, shot … Andrei K. has it all. And just wait till he’s on a line with Sergei.

Haven’t mentioned the D. They were superb. Komisarek and Andrei Markov: plus-4. Komisaurus had five hits. Markov on the PP with Kovy and Andrei K. orchestrated the best ballet this side of the Bolshoi.

On to New Jersey, where we’ll find out if last night was a fluke.

132 Comments

  1. showey47 says:

    who knows, but i do hope your right though. I just don’t see it for a fourth liner making 1.75 million who is a -10.

  2. Will Longlade says:

    His versatility may translate into a third round pick. I thought I may have been a little too optimistic.

  3. VancouverHab says:

    Thank-you kindly, gentlemen: much appreciated.

  4. krob1000 says:

    Higgins will be fine….I have noticed him still getting his chances and to me that indicates he is fine. 95 out of 100 goalies wouldn’t have got across to make the save Thomas made on him last night. He is just temporarily snakebitten a la Ryder this year and Kovy last year. Eventually these guys get some breaks and if you recall his last slump like this (when he first returned from his injury at the onset of teh season) was snapped by two ugly goals.

  5. likehoy says:

    higgins is wildly inconsistent.

    he started the season on fire…chances galore and was constantly taking it to the other team. Since later november and early decemeber…higgins fell off the board.

    He had a strong second half finish in his first 2 years of his career…here’s hoping for a 3rd?

  6. likehoy says:

    had faith in mr. markov since 98 and 99 when he won the russian leagues best dman 2 years in a row. Then he played a huge playoffs series against the bruins with murray and thornton consistently running him into the boards but markov would get back up and play and that’s when I knew he’d be something.

    funny how a poster in a previous thread posted up an article where we almost traded a bunch of players, including markov, for ilya kovalchuk.

  7. Ed says:

    Thanks for the great stats. They show that this team is definitely headed in the right direction. There are so many positives about this team. Please keep up your great research, and continue to share with us.

  8. likehoy says:

    we had that nice slump in the middle of november

  9. Kingkomi says:

    gotta hope we keep ryder.watching him the past couple of games i like what i see.he doesnt shy away from the corners finishes his checks and works hard.and dont forget his laser beam of a shot.perfect for our 2nd line

  10. habsfan2442 says:

    Dude,
    Do you EVER post anything possitive???

  11. Kingkomi says:

    im in the flatbush area of brooklyn

  12. ebk says:

    oops, thanks. I can guarantee there are probably a few more.

  13. JF says:

    ebk, interesting and telling statistics. The team started the season looking better than last year’s team, and since the low point in early December has improved steadily. Areas that looked problematical – penalty kill, defensive zone coverage, 5-on-5 play – have been addressed so that we now have more strength, toughness and depth than at the beginning of the season. A team that improves over the course of a season is in much better shape than one which starts strong but does not deal with the underlying problems (as was the case last year). The litmus test will be our performance in the games against Jersey and Ottawa, as well as the March western road trip. Also the games against the Rangers, whom we have trouble beating, and Philadelphia now that Gagné is back.

  14. HabsProf says:

    Interesting post, filled with the sort of stats that I like to collect and play with. Most impressed with the improvement in 5 on 5 and PK.

    Anyone thought that Mark Streit, much as we like him, might wind up putting up more points than Chris Higgins this season? Me neither (not a slam against Chris, more a boost for Streit). And who is hard on both their heels, gaining fast? Andrei Kostitsyn, who I suspect will also wind up with more points than Higgins by the time the season is over (again, not a slam against Chris).

    Minor (but good) correction – Kostitsyn has 21 points in his last 21 games, not 20 points.

  15. krob1000 says:

    Stop thanking us as we should be thanking you (and you make me look bad lol). That was a fanatastic and very informative post and should very clearly outline how we are playing pretty damn well as a team (but you already know that to some it won’t).

  16. The Teacher says:

    I agree with you, we need to crash the net in front of Brodeur to obstruct his vision.

    However your second point of getting the puck out of the zone. Don’t the Devils clog the neutral zone?

    That would seem to suggest that we won’t have as much trouble getting out, the trouble will be in getting it through the neutral zone and get good dump-ins or entry into the zone that will not allow Brodeur to handle the puck as much as he would like to.

  17. showey47 says:

    not even gainey could get a second round pick for dandy, especially now that jfj was fired yesterday lmao. I would say anywhere between a fifth rounder to future considerations.

  18. ebk says:

    December 13, the Canadiens season sat on the brink of disaster. They had just completed a stretch of games that saw them lose 6 0f 8. To make matters worse, they were completely dominated for most of these games and their #1 goalie was out for the next two weeks or so. The franchises’ goalie of the future was now in charge of the team’s immediate future and things were looking bleak.

    In the last 18 games, since December 13, the Habs have gone 11-4-3. Carey Price answered the bell and more importantly, so did the rest of the team. Price played a big part in helping change the fortunes of this team during this period. He only played in the first few but if he would have faltered, the team probably would have been dead. He did not, they are not and they find themselves in the midst of a play-off run.

    Here are some interesting facts, that only maybe interest me
    In the last 18 games…
    The Habs have scored 65 goals and allowed 45
    Their PP remainded solid at 24% but their PK improved greatly up to 88.5%
    The Habs have scored 45 even strength goals, about twice as many per game as earlier in the season
    The Habs have allowed 37 even strength goals, making them a very respectable +8 at even strength
    The Habs have cut their goals against, from 2.9 per game to 2.5
    The Habs have exploded offensively, averaging 3.6 per game, up from 2.8

    Latendresse has a team leading 10 even strength goals
    Without Brisebois, they are 13-3-3

    If there was ever a doubt which line was the #1 line, the question is settled now
    In the last 21 games
    Kovalev has scored 10 goals and has had 22 points.
    Plekanec has scored 8 goals and has had 23 points.
    Andrei Kostitsyn has scored 11 goals and 20 points

    The second line of Ryder,Koivu and Higgins has been more than up to the task of providing the team with a quality 2nd line, despite all the braying about the three.

    Ryder has scored 5 goals in his past 11 games
    Koivu 3 and 10 assists for 13 points
    Higgins 4 goals and 10 assists for 14 points.

    Mark Streit has scored 4 goals and has had 17 points
    Latendresse has 5 goals,Markov has 5 goals
    Smolinski scored his first even strength goal of the season that was not an empty netter

    The team now is deep, fast and dangerous.

    Thanks for reading and I promise that I’m done for the day with the war and peace posts. Gotta get some actual paid work done.

  19. HabsProf says:

    Boone – Your point about patience is well taken. The Habs, of course, have had more than their fair share of first round busts over the last couple of decades, so perhaps we have become a little too quick to write a player off as yet another.

    However, I would think that Andrei K. is not the only reminder. Ron Hainsey is another name that comes to mind, and one that still drives me crazy every time I think of him. I was mad as hell when he was sent down and even madder when he was called up, exposing him to recall waivers (the rest, of course, is Blue Jackets history).

    For that matter, while he wasn’t a first rounder, it wasn’t that long ago that Habs fans thought Andrei Markov was never going to live up to his potential. I remember many calls for him to be traded. (If memory serves, this was around his third season with the team.) Now he is an all-star, and a deserving one at that. He may be our most important offensive player. (I said he may be, not that he is – but what is your opinion on the issue fellow HIOer’s?)

  20. Kingkomi says:

    thanks.i study in ny so i could only go to a few games a year and no more this year so ill take up the offer for next season


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.