Jose Theodore looked like it last night against the Boston Bruins in a 5-3 victory — even though it was a preseason game and the Bruins were without Jason Allison, Ted Donato, Anson Carter and Ray Bourque. He let in just one goal in his two periods of play. The goal came courtesy of a mental mistake from the Habs’ 1998 first round pick. Eric Chouinard tried an open ice hit on Ferraro and missed, Ulanov then figured this would be a good chance to teach the kid a lesson. He didn’t knock Ferraro off the puck either, just left prospect Stephane Robidas in a two on one situation. From inexperience, Robidas charged Ferraro, leaving Axelsson wide open for the goal.
Theodore saw the ice well, always knew where the puck was and had confidence. Jose is already a fan favourite here in Montreal. Thibault looks like he will have to fight for his number one job, once again.
Mathieu Garon took over for Thibault in the 3rd period and looked shaky from the get go. Considering he was in the QMJHL last season, that’s a large step. He let in two goals on the night. One by Joe Thornton who jammed it in on a rebound, which made the crowd get on edge. Garon did handle the pressure well after settling down later in the period, he stopped looking behind him on every shot that he was unsure of.
You have to give credit to both goalies — they made the defense look good. Three veterans paired with three rookies.
Brisebois played a steady game, nothing spectacular. Miroslav Guren seemed like a veteran out there, playing a very strong game. A few good shots from the point, a few hard hits and was using his strength in front of the net. Though mistake free, like Briesbois — nothing spectacular, tonight.
Dave Manson and Brett Clark complemented eachother perfectly. Manson delivered the bone crushing hits and got the crease cleared as Brett Clark excelled in everything else. He played quarterback on the powerplay and scored a goal. Finishing the night in knocking Dmitri Khristich off his skates. Standing at 6’0 182 lbs, he could put on some more weight to hit the bigger guys, in front of the net you could tell he couldn’t handle some of the bigger guys. Clark put forth a great effort and will see lots of action in the NHL this season. The Canadiens need a hard working, skilled defenseman on the point.
Igor Ulanov was out of position over and over tonight. He fanned on many open ice hit attempts. The fans laughed, there was even a smile on Vigneault’s face. That defense pair was poor. Stephane Robidas needs to put on about 20 lbs. He looked tiny out there despite being 5’11 190 lbs. When you’re man-handled by Kristich and Mann, you know you must put some weight on. Even Samsanov knocked him over along the boards.
How fast will the future come?
Not very fast at all if you’re talking about Jason Ward, Terry Ryan, or Eric Chouinard. Those three forwards were probably the slowest guys on the ice tonight. One never had the chance to see their top speed — it took too long to accelerate.
Eric Chouinard, the Canadiens first round draft pick in the ’98 draft was out of place all night. He could not skate, handle the puck, pass, shoot and had no vision whatsoever. One of the few times he handled a pass from Brunet, he stuck his head up to see where he was. By the time he figured that out, the Bruins had stolen the puck and was already back in the Montreal zone. Chouinard did not use his size to his advantage and needs a lot of work done to prove that this first round pick was not a waste like most in the past few years. His name probably got him on the Canadiens in the first place. His father, Guy, played for the Habs for a long time and is now coaching a QMJHL team.
Another first round pick, this one from the ’96 draft. Terry Ryan said he would be disappointed if he did not make the big club this season. If Montreal was not having contract problems, he probably wouldn’t. Not with the way he played tonight. He said he did not want to be in the NHL with a goon role. Someone remind Ryan that getting into a fight within the first minute of the first period and the first rush is obviously goon-like behavior. Other than the fight, he looked average and not the big power winger he was expected to be. Just as Turner Stevenson was as a first rounder. The banger, the guy that plants himself in the crease type and doesn’t budge. He was on the top line with Mark Recchi and Vincent Damphousse who both netted a goal and three assists. Though, Ryan did not have a point, he was probably at center ice in all plays, trying to make his way up the ice. Yes, he should spend another year in the AHL working on his acceleration and temper. His coach should keep telling him, just because someone beat him to the puck, they don’t have to be beaten up over it.
Finally, the third first rounder trying to make the team. Jason Ward looked similar to Terry Ryan except he used his great slapshot a few times. Just needs some accuracy and Ward will be a scoring machine. Might need some work on his acceleration as well, though playing with Eric Houde and Martin Gendron (speedsters) may not have been the best for him. He may still have a chance to be that second line power forward, the acceleration is all he needs. Ward demonstrated his defensive skills as well on a few shot blocks. The only inexperience showed up when he was all alone in front of the net, a few more years down the road he won’t be coming up empty handed on an easy pad save. Despite his size, Ward found himself being pushed around quite a bit, maybe some more upper body strength is needed to compete with some of the stronger defensemen in the league to complete his power forward hopes.
Eric Houde was by far the most impressive forward prospect on the ice from both teams. Most hockey analysts say Houde is a future third line center. Maybe he is…for now. In a few seasons things may be different. He makes plays out of nothing, like Carbonneau and Brunet, though he can do more with them since he has some offensive talent. Houde possesses great speed, probably fastest on the Habs. Not to mention impressive forechecking abilities — had two breakaways stealing from Bruins defensemen. Though Houde doesn’t have a great shot, he can pass. Houde was used in all game situations, on the penalty killing especially. Standing at 5’10 and 185 lbs, he is one of the smaller players on the ice. He’s as feisty as Koivu, not to mention stronger. Delivering an open ice hit on Heinze is an obvious sign of talent when you’re only a prospect. Expect to see Houde more often in the Habs lineup with a good hockey sense and strong work ethic like that.
Martin Gendron who was the smallest player on the ice tonight, at 5’8 182 lbs. is the knock on him. He was one of the best playerd on the ice during the first half, he went down in injury. Gendron did shy from the rough stuff, but had a similar game to Samsanov’s. May not be as skilled, but he has great agility and above average speed. A lack of ice vision and size may be why he doesn’t crack the roster. But having a good shot can get you places in the NHL. Just ask Al MacInnis. He can play well next to Damphousse, if Vigneault gives him the chance.
Now, this is all based on a preseason game. But we will see who are the ones who can keep up the good work next Wednesday against a big Flyers team. Tonight’s game against the Bruins was an open game, so the fast guys (Houde, Gendron and Clark) looked good. Watch for Jason Ward and Terry Ryan to do better against a bigger team that does not have as much speed and the pace will be more at their level. Though, Vigneault should not by any means play Stephane Robidas. He is not so much a bad defenseman, he is average. He just does not have the strength — imagine a small Samsanov-size defenseman trying to push around LeClair and Lindros in the corners. Time to get that Kariya helmet, Habs.