Saturday, November 29, 2008

One Kostitsyn rising, one falling

Sergei Kostitsyn really doesn't have a great sense of timing.

While Matt D'Agostini was playing his first NHL game of the season, freshly called up from Hamilton, the younger Kostitsyn brother had two real bonehead moments during Saturday's 3-2 Habs win over the Buffalo Sabres.

I don't think I need to tell any of you that Sergei is one of the only players on the team that can be sent to Hamilton without clearing waivers, and he did nothing to prevent that from one day happening with his three penalties in Saturday's game.

One of the penalties wasn't so bad, it came as a result of working hard in a battle for the puck and he wound up tripping his man in the process. No coach in his right mind would reprimand a young player for that kind of infraction.

But his offensive zone slash in the first - which led to the game's opening goal for Buffalo, one of two deficits the Habs would erase on the night - and his offensive zone slash in the third were beyond selfish. They were stupid.

Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller and Doug Jarvis were not only hard-working players, they were all intelligent players who understood game situations. Sergei Kostitsyn seemingly doesn't, and Saturday night's transgressions were not isolated incidents. The kid has been taking dumb retaliation penalties all year, and getting benched for the rest of the final period Saturday after serving his third minor of the night, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him in the press box Tuesday night.

The fact D'Agostini is now in the picture and, while he didn't set the world on fire, had a pretty good game Saturday puts the younger Kostitsyn in a precarious position.

But his older brother appeared to solidify his standing in the coach's good books with his performance Saturday, and it's in all likelihood because he was playing on a line with Sergei. If only Sergei could stay out of the penalty box, imagine what these two could accomplish.

I'll admit that often times they are too focused on finding each other on the ice, and that sometimes that results in a stupid pass. But Andrei's play becomes so much more aggressive, so much more involved, just so much more everything when he plays with his brother.

Ironically enough, Saturday may also have been the night that Guy Carbonneau found his trigger man on the right point of the power play, with Andrei getting an audition there in place of Sergei. It's a wonderful idea because Andrei probably has the best shot on the team, and he's not shy to let it go.

I'd be interested to see how he did under the increased pressure of a conventional 5-on-4 power play, rather than the two-minute 5-on-3 of his audition, but he's worth a try in that spot.

Finally, the Habs have something to build on with a tough, double comeback victory. But that's what they must do now, build on it. With the lowly Atlanta Thrashers coming in Tuesday night, it's very possible the Habs will play down to their level, much like they believed they'd have an easy go of it against the injury-depleted Capitals Friday night.

With a seven-game homestand in front of them, the Habs have a good opportunity to establish their first long string of consistent, high-energy, intelligent hockey. Should they grab that opportunity, they could possibly ride it right into the spring.

If they waste it, this roller coaster ride could very well continue all season.


pierre said...

It was fun to see a new face in the line-up.... D' Agostini is 6', 200 ponds..... I like that format for a player.... heavier and you lose quickness..... ligther and you lose solidity.... it was a wasted opportunity not to see him in our faked appearance in Washington but you have to question Carbo's unconventional decision to use him in the last minute of a 'must win' game when the lead was by a single goal..... never mind that he was still on the ice at the very end when BUFF had six squaters on the ice..... had he made a fatal mistake during that time Carbo would have looked like a fool and D' Agostini's first game would have turned into a nightmare.... into something even worst for the whole team had we lost the game in overtime because of it..... I cant explain to myself how could Carbo used him in such a circumstance.

It was kind of fun to see Dandenault back on defence..... I especially liked when he tooked upon himself to carried the puck at hight speed from coast to coast..... I missed not seing that more often by the Canadiens' defencemen..... I love what it does to a game but here to often blind conservatisme is prefered..... Its the first thing Gorges learned when he first played here and so did Streit whom Gainey decided not to keep despite the fact that he was a FONDAMENTAL element in our successes of last season.... letting him go at that stage was unnecessarely premature.... keeping him a couple more years and trading him later for a great return would have keeped us strong today and made us stronger later.... anyway I dont like the strain it has putted on or team of being without the stellar PP of which he was a crucial part and of which we are only starting to win without with understandely great difficulties.

Arjun said...

I was at the game and that first period tells all of us everything about the teams' problems this year. This is a team supposedly built on skill and speed. And they didn't display either of those qualities - and that's been the problem all month. They were slow, made stupid passes and were outworked. After the first, that was 5 periods without a goal. It's worth noting that. And Buffalo didn't play well either. It was an unbelievably boring period of hockey.

But D'Agostini? He looked great. You should see him when he's not on the puck. Awesome.