After a game like last night's, it's tempting to say too much about Andrei Kostitsyn. His speed! It's like watching a startled deer leap out of his own zone. His shot! It could be favourably compared to a supersonic jet. His nose for the net? As accurate as a bloodhound's on the trail of The Fugitive. His defensive awareness?! It's as unexpectedly welcome as a million bucks on your birthday.
Among the superlatives, though, are the questions. Chief among them: Where the hell have you been, Andrei? The man is playing like Trevor Timmins was right to pick him ahead of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and all the other really good players who were first-rounders in 2003. Whether it's because his distracting younger brother has been shipped to Nashville as many people theorize, or because he's healthy, or maybe just because he finally feels at home in Montreal, he...at long last...gets it. The only real question remaining is whether he can keep it up. The last four years of tantalizing talent coupled with maddening inconsistency hover in our collective memory and make us wonder.
We'd better hope the magic Kostitsyn has found with Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri isn't going to vanish at midnight. That line continues to be the only productive one the Habs have. The Gomez/Gionta/Whomever line has shown flashes of maybe doing something good, but only flashes so far. The good thing about this situation is the first line isn't stopped as easily by targeted checking as it would have been last year because Kostitsyn is playing a much stronger, tougher game. The bad thing is Gomez is making a ton of dumb passes, not using his speed and generally dragging down whatever linemates he's given. Based on history, we know Gomez will get better. When he does, he needs to have someone who can actually do something with a nice pass on his left side. With any luck, Benoit Pouliot will get his act together a la Kostitsyn and be that man. Last night didn't encourage that hope of him, but it's still early.
On the morning after a game like last night's, it's perhaps too negative to dwell on issues like the Gomez line's continued wandering in the proverbial desert. There were, after all, lots of positives.
Lars Eller is going to be really good. The kid can skate, he's smart at both ends of the ice, he's got nice hands and he's not afraid. Best of all, he's very calm under pressure. Twice last night he deliberately held the puck under pressure until he saw an opportunity to make a nice pass. It was great to see him rewarded with his first Habs point, on the winner no less.
Roman Hamrlik looks like he's finally shaking off the rust after missing training camp. He played a nice, understated game last night and helped mitigate some of the errors of Spacek, who's been dreadful.
Jeff Halpern is a very nice addition for the PK, and knows how to keep momentum going on offence too, even if he's not scoring a lot himself. He's not the type of bottom-six guy who ends up hemmed in his own zone for long periods, putting the defence and goalie under pressure.
Josh Gorges is the epitome of "solid." He almost always makes the right play, and spends a lot of his time covering for Hal Gill's blunders with the puck.
P.K.Subban is showing little of the offensive flash of which we know he's capable, but he's playing solid minutes on the defensive side of the game. His partner, Alex Picard, has been decent, but is still prone to moments of panic in his own end. Subban seems the more confident of the two.
Carey Price is having a very good start to his season, and every time he plays a game like last night's he adds another bit to the foundation of confidence he's gradually building. The talent has always been inside him, and confidence is the key to unlocking it.
The PK is good, and the PP finally popped a goal on that lovely Cammalleri laser. It still needs work, but there are signs of life.
The team is fast. Really fast. Sometimes, team speed can make the difference in a game and help bring in a couple of points against a slower opponent. It's a weapon in a sport in which every advantage is important.
The Canadiens have a lot going for them right now. There are certainly areas that need work as well, but it's early, the start has been good and the season is always a work in progress. The next three games against the Islanders and Panthers offer the Habs a chance to work on some things and perhaps improve their record in a tough week schedule-wise.
Andrei Kostitsyn, though, has been the story of this young season. He's been an impressive surprise, and, we hope, the first of many others this year. Watching him exuberantly throwing pucks to fans chanting his name after last night's win was pure joy. We hope he keeps it up.