I realize it’s only one game but you have to be impressed by the way the Canadiens played tonight. For the most part, the team showed intensity and determination throughout the game even outshooting the Hurricane 40-31 (they held an 18-9 shot advantage in the third period alone).
I was also impressed with the playoff intensity of the game with both teams playing a high tempo game (even the Toronto/Ottawa game was like a playoff game) . There were some strong performances by numerous players and lines throughout the match.
The Ryder/Koivu/Higgins line was buzzing all night and outhustled the Hurricane players most of the night. Michael Ryder even showed he can make some nice passes when the shot isn’t there. He made a beautiful pass to Higgins (in the 3rd period) who made a nice move on Cam Ward but was unable to beat him. Saku Koivu had a very good game with two goals and could be headed towards another career year if Higgins and Ryder remain healthy.
Another line that made a strong contribution was the”fourth” line Dandenault/Smolinski/Begin line which had their cycling game going well and numerous times had the Hurricanes pinned in their end with strong forechecking. Danadenault was skating well and Smolinski is such a smart player who is rarely out of position. Steve Begin was his usual self, finishing checks and getting under the opponent’s skin.
The Kovalev/Grabovski/Kostitsyn (KGK) line also played a solid game with some good rushes up the ice. Kovalev didn’t score but certainly made some typical “Kovy” mesmerizing moves. He was hard on the puck all night and appears to have found some chemistry with the talented Mikhail Grabovski and Andrei Kostitsyn. Unfortunately, they did not have anything to show for it as far as points were concerned.
The one forward line that did not have their “A” game was the Plekanec line with Latendresse and Kostopoulos on the wings. They had some trouble breaking out of their zone without much chemistry. Latendresse and Kostopoulos appeared slow and a bit behind the play. I know it’s still early but I haven’t been terribly impressed with Tom Kostopoulos to this point (I thought he was a better skater!!!).
On the defensive end of the ice, Markov and Komisarek played their usual solid game with Andrei Markov showing why Bob Gainey was willing to sign him to a long term contract. He and Mark Streit will help offset the loss of Souray with great passing to open forwards down low on the powerplay. Speaking of Mark Streit, I really thought he had a very good game and controlled the tempo when he was on the ice. He also made some great decisions on the PP with great passing, keeping the puck in the zone and showed that he can shoot the puck with authority (Habs were 3 for 8 on the PP). I would love to see Guy Carbonneau keep Streit on defense for most of the season where he can thrive if given a chance. The pairing of Hamrlik/Brisebois were unspectacular but fairly solid with a couple typical “Breezer” give aways. He will get better with more game action and appeared nibble on his skates.Cristobal Huet played well and made some nice saves when the Habs needed it.
Overall, it was a great start for Guy Carbonneau’s gang and hopefully will be a sign of good things to come throughout the season. We can only hope and pray, folks!!!