Pre-Season Game 1: The Habs Review

Well the pre-season has finally started, and I’ve got to say that after last night’s game I am quite impressed.
Now I know it is pre-season, that the games mean nothing and they are often completely irrelevant when it comes to judging a team, but the Habs looked very strong with a rookie filled lineup against a Penguins team that iced mainly starters and veterans.

The first period of last night’s game I spent trying to learn all of the new players’ numbers… a task I quickly gave up because only 2 of those players really have a chance of making the team, Plekanec (obviously making the team) and Chipchura. It was a pretty decent first period for an exhibition game. It had a nice quick pace and even though I felt the Habs were outplayed they went into the intermission tied at 0, thanks to the surprisingly strong play of Cristobal Huet.
I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Huet would play like garbage against such a strong offensive team, and when I saw that stick save I could see the Cristobal Huet who only had to play half a season two years ago. It was a Huet who looked rested and ready to go. That said; Huet should be splitting the goaltending duties with either Halak (50/50) or Price (66.6/33.3). I sat 66.6 to 33.3 for Price because Montreal can not afford to rush Price into the NHL. Look at the way the Rams brought Steven Jackson into the NFL, and you see a perfect example of what giving a player time to develop does. Let the veterans teach the rookies and prospects how to play. Now I’m not saying that Huet is the Marshall Faulk of the NHL, but along with the help of Rollie Melanson Price will become a superstar in a few years.
Now that the whole goaltending thing is out of the way I’d like to get down to my studs and duds. I’m sure you all feel the exact same way about this but I’m going to say it anyways; THAT IS THE ALEX KOVALEV MONTREAL PAYS FOR. I can only hope that somehow, someway, somebody has lit a fire under Alex Kovalev. A fire that when lit can produce these 3 goal games, score under pressure and set up magnificent chances. Last night we saw the Alex Kovalev from Pittsburgh and his early days in New York. I really hope that this year will finally be the year that Kovalev scores 40 goals. Something that he can easily do, but has not had the drive to do since coming to Montreal. When was the last time Kovalev dominated a game like he did yesterday? Whenever he touched the puck, people noticed, and it wasn’t the same attention as in past years, which was a noticeable worry whenever he had the puck near our defensive zone. And I’m sure most of you felt this too, when Streit circled the net, broke out and passed to Kovalev near the blue line, you knew something was going to happen.
I was watching with someone who had never really gotten into hockey, and I was explaining to him about 3 on 3 play. “You’ll see, this is the best hockey there is, lots of odd man rushes…like right now” I told him, just as Streit came out from behind the net with a Penguin trailing after him and created a mini 2 on 1 with Kovalev. And when I saw Kovalev coming over the blue line with that much room I knew it was lights out for Pittsburgh. For some reason, the usual sense I had last year that Kovalev would ring it off the post or send it an inch high was gone, replaced by an air of confidence in Kovalev that I have not felt since he’s been in Montreal. Now all that being said about Kovalev, I know it’s pre-season and it is by NO means an indicator of how Kovalev will produce, but it was a pleasant surprise and one can only hope that he will be to play like that in the regular season.
We’ve probably all been spoiled by the consistently strong play of Mike Komisarek, but I have to give him credit for pissing the hell out of Sidney Crosby, eventually forcing him to take a stupid penalty. With that said I also have to give props to Andrei Markov, simply for his ability to take a punch to the face and not retaliate. That sent off Recchi and led to the 3 on 3 play. Honourable mention goes to Corey Locke and Andrei Kostitsyn.
On to the disappointing players. I really didn’t’ notice Sergei Kostitsyn and Duncan Milroy when they were on the ice. I know they’re inexperienced (especially Kostitsyn) but I was expecting a little more from them. The only other guy I had a problem with was Yann Danis. I know I’m probably biased because I was at the 5-1 shellacking he received against Washington, when people were chanting for Théo because Danis was playing so poorly. I know it was banked off of Komisarek, but if Danis had been playing his position properly and had been quick enough to position himself against the post, we would be talking about that great defensive play by Komisarek to break up a 3 on 1 instead of the Penguins first goal. Overall Danis was not too bad, but personally I do not want to see him as our backup or 1-B goalie.
In all, it was a solid performance by les Habitants, especially on the penalty kill. Montreal took thirteen penalties and only allowed 1 goal, but you should NOT be taking 13 penalties against an offensive powerhouse like Pittsburgh. I can say with a definite certainty however, that if Montreal can consistently play that well during the season, they will do much better than the projected 11th to 13th.
Expect my next review to be a little different because I will be attending the game against Pittsburgh tonight (1st row Red), and I find you always see things differently when you are actually there.

13 Responses to Pre-Season Game 1: The Habs Review

  1. gronk says:

    …I have a feeling that you will have a different outlook after tonight.  Eventhough though Brooks Orpik knocked out his own player.  Not a pretty sight. 

  2. Rico71 says:

    The only thing that was worth watching tonight?

    Latendresse hitting Whitney. Not a clean hit…but he defended himself for the Orpik hit.

    The veterans didn’t play at all. Dandenault…man. This guy cannot make the Habs top 6 defense. He is useless. O’Byrne was good and Côté was not too bad.

    Halak and Price showed that they are rookies. Nothing impressive about them tonight.

    Smolinsky was ok as a new Hab. Beauregard and Lapierre played a good game.

    Overall, we lost against a B team. Though Malkin is totally impressive. Wow.

  3. habsoverserver says:

    It is only one game, but Chipchura played well against the top player in the NHL.  I don't know how they make room for him on the roster.  If he continues his strong defensive play, he will be deserving of a spot on the third line. 

  4. AHLoldie says:

    These are some of the strangest comments from the Habs fans that I have ever read.  First of all, I attended both of the games in Montreal.  Second, the Pens did not play a "b" team on one of the nights.  They merely split their roster.  From what I observed, the Pens totally outplayed Montreal both nights.  The first game went to OT, and they lost after taking some dumb penalties.  Andrews of Montreal was incredibly stupid enough to challenge Laraque to a fight and end up in the hospital as a result.  Last night, the Pens dominated without their first line.  Montreal looked listless and frankly, is not a playoff team.

  5. rojoke says:

    Begin could move to the wing, Streit could move back to the blueline, Murray could be demoted, or Gainey could trade a couple of bodies before camp breaks.

  6. ferron says:

     After tonight the HABS are 1-2-0, The Kostitsyn brothers are the only bright side to this camp. Yann Danis is the best goalie so far in training camp, like i said the habs should of given Danis another chance last year but don't count him out just yet , Price has proven that he needs a full year in Hamilton, Huet looked shaky tonight and Jaro doesn't look anything like the Halak of last year! Ferland will never make the NHL, it's going to take many surgery to fix Archer's face, Chipchura's good defensively but pretty slow same goes for Latendresse, Grabovski will get 50-65 pts at most in is NHL career, if any? Carle is out for a while,Valentenko wasn't that impresive, but the KOSTITSYNS sure showed up! I think Andrei is the next Habs 100 pts man, the other good thing was O'Byrne , he prove that he has a place in MTL's regular lineup, He's huge' He's fast and He hits hard, I hope Carboneau doesn't play bums like Dandy, Briseby, Gorgy and River before O'Byrne! Hopefully our defensive pairing will look like this.


  7. Aetherial says:

    … Yeah because the Habs are such a powerhouse that there is no way they could squeeze him in anywhere. ROFL!

    … Had to zing you back for the constant Leafs criticism 🙂

  8. Aetherial says:

    … well maybe not "you" in particular 🙂

    …. while I am on the subject of the Habs, what are the chances of the Kotsitsyn's starting the season / sticking with the club?

  9. MtlHabs09 says:

    I've gotta say the game I went to was pretty pathetic by Montreal

  10. CaptainAvery says:

    Fans can't get all worried over nothing, its pre-season. As soon as that puck drops opening night its do or die from there, GO HABS GO!

  11. habsoverserver says:

    No, because Gainey stockpiles low scoring defensive forwards like they are going out of style.  There just isn't room for another potential 8 goal 12 assist player. 

    Trust me, I am well aware that evolving the third line center position from Joe Juneau to Radek Bonk to Smolinski to Chipchura isn't going to turn this team into a powerhouse. 

    No offense taken to your comment.  Though I criticize the Habs probably 100x as much as I say anything negative about the Leafs, or their fans. 

  12. habsoverserver says:

    11 of the 12 forward spots are taken by koivu, ryder, higgins, kovalev, plekanec, latendresse, smolinski, andrei kostitsyn, begin, kostopoulos and lapierre.  the 6 defensemen will be markov, komisarek, hamrlik, bouillon, streit and brisebois. 

    barring injury, this leaves one spot for either a defenseman (streit can be moved to forward) like Dandenault or Gorges or a forward like Chipchura, Grabovski, Murray or Sergei Kostitsyn.  At the outset of camp I would have thought Dandenault is a lock to make the team, but Habs mgmt has been critical of his play making me wonder if they don't waive, demote, trade or buy him out.  Assuming Dandenault does not make the team, Chipchura has the best shot so far of making the team.  Chipchura is a first round pick from 2004.  Murray is a third rounder from 01 who has yet to prove himself.  Grabovski is a 5th rounder from 04 and Sergei Kostitsyn is a 7th rounder from 05.  I think management always gives the roster spot to the first round pick.

    the top tow lines for montreal will be made up of higgins, koivu, kovalev, ryder, plekanec and either latendresse or andrei kostitsyn.  there is no point to keeping segei kostitsyn to play on the third or fourth line given that he is first and foremost a scorer. 

    next year, it is likely that kovalev and or ryder will not be with the team.  this will open a couple spots on the top two lines.  unless montreal manages to sign a decent free agent (ha) sergei will get his chance in 08. 

  13. habsoverserver says:

    I can see Gainey dummping Dandenault, but wan't Brisebois assured he would get a roster spot? 

    Grabovski, Ferland, Lapierre, Murray, Kostopolous and Begin are all good energy guys but the team seems stacked with that calibre of player and in the end, they are not the problem.  No team misses the playoffs because of their third and fourth lines.  It's the top two lines that need to improve.  Since it's going to be the same six guys as last year, it's all about them stepping up at even strength. 

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