Bartlett: Canadiens' Kostitsyn deserves credit

John Bartlett
10/19/2011 6:19:03 PM
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 PITTSBURGH - Some nights you win games you weren't in and other nights you lose games you deserve two points, in which the latter could easily be said for the Canadiens on Tuesday night against the Sabres. And sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due, and Andrei Kostitsyn deserves some credit.

Montreal played arguably their best 60 minutes of the season to date but ran into some bad bounces and a hot goaltender in Ryan Miller. While his stats will show 40 saves, many of them he made look routine, but it was a few key stops that kept the Habs off the scoreboard and out of the win column.

Bouncing pucks were the difference at times for scoring chances by Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec. That's just the way the game goes at times; it can be a game of inches.

The big play of the game came in the final six seconds of the second period on a face-off in the Canadiens zone after an icing call. The Sabres won the draw and were able to feed Thomas Vanek for the go-ahead marker before the siren. While it can be argued that it was a missed assignment by Andrei Kostitsyn that led to the Vanek scoring chance, it would be unfair to put all the blame on Kostitsyn considering he has been one of the Canadiens' best players over the last three games. The goal was caused by a collective group of mistakes from the icing itself, to a lost face-off in the defensive zone. There was also another full 20 minutes of play following the goal to try for the equalizer.

Fact of the matter is, Kostitsyn has been very good; especially since joining the line of Pacioretty and David Desharnais. He is riding a three-game point streak with a goal and pair of assists during that stretch. He took a hit to make the key play at the Sabres' blue line to keep the puck in the zone and feed Pacioretty, who went on to set up Raphael Diaz for his first NHL goal. Kostitsyn has also thrown 11 hits over the last five games, which ranks him fourth on the team in that category, and has fired 10 shots on net while averaging 16:23 in ice time. That equates more hits than Pacioretty and more goals than Erik Cole, Scott Gomez and four other Habs forwards combined.

He is looking like a player that is rising to the challenge as of late and his play should be noticed. Kostitsyn has always been a player under the microscope in Montreal, and right now is playing some of his best hockey. So, while mistakes happened on the ice that led to the go-ahead Buffalo goal, it wasn't all on the one player and Kostitsyn deserves the benefit of the doubt, at least for now, with his current level of play on the ice. 

Jacques Martin was correct in saying that if the Canadiens play like they did against the Sabres every night, they'll win a lot more games then they lose. Tuesday night can be chalked up to one of those nights where it just didn't work out.

It will be a great achievement in Pittsburgh when Hal Gill will play in his 1,000th NHL game in the city where he won the Stanley Cup. Gill will become the 266th player in NHL history to hit the mark, and the 12th player to play his 1,000th game in a Canadiens uniform. Ironically, he made his NHL debut on October 17, 1997 for the Boston Bruins in a 2-0 win over the Canucks in Vancouver. That same night, another Bruin made his NHL debut wearing number 6. It was Joe Thornton, who will also hit game 1,000 on Friday when the Sharks travel to New Jersey.

And there will be a little switch up in the broadcast booths on Thursday night in Pittsburgh, as I will slide over to the TV side to call the game on TSN while Elliot Price will handle the call on TSN Radio 990 in Montreal.

You can follow me on Twitter: @BartsBytes

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