What was I worried about again?
1. So much for the power play being dead without Souray. Three goals, all on the PP, apparently the Habs learned a thing or two last season about how to exploit a man-advantage that didn’t entirely depend on one player. Of course, various team-members had assured us previously that Streit has an impressive point shot in his own right, but it’s nice to see it in evidence. This guy was played as a forward most of last season, and was very competent at it, but based on his preseason performance and this game, it looks like he might be a revelation in his proper role.
2. Who knows what kind of points they’ll put up, but Kostitsyn and Grabovski definitely win tonight’s eye-candy prize. They’re just plain fun to watch, and I’m grateful for anything that takes some of the sting out of watching Kovalev. Gainey publicly chided him in the press about potentially dragging down his young linemates, but I’m thinking that these kids are so fast and so energetic that Alexei’s going to have to put in a little more effort than usual just to avoid looking embarrassing in comparison. At the very least, I don’t think he’ll be able to complain about having to play with peons unworthy of sharing the same zone with him.
3. Sometimes I think Huet stops pucks with the force of his mind rather than his pads, because there’s no other way to explain some of the things he pulls off. In addition to one mind-blowingly fortunate save where he deflected the puck away at the goal line with his stick while facing back into the net on his stomach, he seemed to stave off an inordinate number of bizarre bounces and ornery rebounds tonight. Then again, Huet has always been good at the improbable. But while his performance was impressive, Ward’s was even more so- the shots on goal were 40-31 in favor of the Habs, and had the Canes’ goalie not played so elegantly, there’s no way they’d have pulled out the OT point
4. And just in case you forgot why he’s wearing the C: Koivu celebrates the opening of the season with two goals that remind us of exactly why we love him. But give some credit to his wings, because both Higgins and Ryder worked frantically to create chances. It always makes me a little nervous when Ryder starts playing fancy, because he seems to have a tendency to overreach and cough up the puck trying to do too much, but tonight he did a bit of showing off and looked fully fantastic doing it. Maybe he’s trying to make Gainey feel bad about that one-year contract.
5. Credit where it’s due: Brisebois is, apparently, capable of playing quite well. I guess maybe Carbonneau does know hockey better than I do. But I’d still rather not see Gorges stuck in the press box all season- the bachche deserves to be on the ice somewhere.
6. And finally, many congratulations to Hamrlik on his 1000th NHL game. Very happy to see him playing it with us.
As a Habs fan, you couldn’t ask for a more reassuring game. Sure, it was an OT win and not a blowout, but this isn’t a season to expect many easy victories. It was a hell of an effort, a well-balanced game where they sustained a defensive awareness throughout without sacrificing their offensive opportunities. Moreover, they simply looked good, confident and coordinated and ready for the challenges ahead. It won’t, of course, last forever. There’ll be bad games, and struggles, and probably all sorts of horrors that’ll have the Habistani masses rending their clothes and tearing their hair and burning Carbonneau in effigy. Still, though, it’s good to know that they’ve got this kind of game in them, so we can start the season with 2 points, and some reasons to be hopeful.