Let the record show that, three games into the regular season, Sergei Kostitsyn has been the best forward on the ice for the Montreal Canadiens.
This 21-year old from Novopolotsk, Russia, is beginning to show a maturity beyond his years, as witnessed by the completely unselfish play he made when he dished the puck to Robert Lang after picking up a big, fat, Martin Biron rebound, with Lang converting on the play. The goal gave the Habs a 4-2 lead at the 13:40 mark of the third period in a game which saw the Canadiens beat the Flyers 5-2 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
The decision to call up Sergie K. from the Hamilton Bulldogs some 20 games into the Canadiens‘ 2007-2008 season has paid multiple dividends. First, it provided Sergie with an opportunity to prove that he was no flash in the pan at training camp last year. As one of the final cuts, it was clear that the Canadiens‘ had themselves a talent on their hands after making him the 200th pick (!) overall 2005 NHL entry draft. He certainly piled up the numbers in junior with the OHL London Knights (40 goals, 91 assists in 59 games in 2006-2007). However, as Corey Locke will tell you (63 goals, 88 assists in 66 games with the 2002-2003 OHL Ottawa 67s), success in the juniors is no guarantee of success at the big-league level. However, Sergie has excelled since being given the opportunity to display his talents at the NHL level.
The second dividend? The fact that Sergei’s appearance in Montreal has meant a direct kick-start to brother Andrei’s career. There is a definite connection between Sergie‘s arrival in Montreal and the improved play of Andrei, who finished last season with 26 goals and 27 assists. Andrei, who opened the scoring 79 seconds in last night, along with Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev, are still looking to find their sea legs in the early going this season. They’ve had their moments, but not enough for what was, by far and away, this team’s best line last season.
However, they’ll get there.
Let it also be noted that the acquisition of Lang in the off-season is paying instant dividends; with Lang’s second goal of the season last night. Lang and Sergie have found instant chemistry on a line with Tom Kostopoulos. However, as much as I love Tom K., (he was, after all, one of the team’s best forwards in the playoffs last season), it remains to be seen whether or not he’s the right fit to complete that triumvirate. The dynamics of Coach Guy Carbonneau’s lineup will change, perhaps in a significant way, when Chris Higgins is healthy enough to suit up for the first time this season, which could come as early as Saturday night vs. Phoenix.
But in the meantime, the Habs return home after playing three games in four nights, collecting five of a possible six points: numbers that add up as the Canadiens prepare to entertain the Boston Bruins tomorrow night.