The Canadiens visit the Ponda Center tonight. It will be Saku Koivu's first crack at the Habs since they released their longtime captain to free agency last offseason. Daniel, players often feel the need to stick it to to the teams that declared them non-essential personnel. Does Koivu have to beat his old team tonight to prove them wrong, or has he done that already this season with the Ducks?
I'd like to see him beat his old team tonight, but not because he needs to prove them wrong. Koivu's 34 points aren't an astronomical number. Still, I think he's been invaluable. If he hadn't anchored that line with Sexton and Ryan in December, we'd be long out of the playoff race. He has made key defensive stands late in games to preserve one goal leads, and he's been a phenomenal penalty killer. His leadership was probably instrumental in the quick development of Dan Sexton. The chemistry between he and Selanne hasn't played out the way Ducks fans had hoped, but I still think he's been a serviceable second line center and has plenty of time to get hot and reach 50 points. I think he needs to beat them to continue to make the case he's making on the Ducks squad, and to make his case for free agency this year, not last year. Koivu would be a valuable addition to any team, and he'll be a major reason why the Ducks make the playoffs this season, you know . . . IF they make the playoffs.
If Saku is going to prove the Habs wrong, he has to do it tonight. I mean, let's be honest. Canadians don't really care that anyone is playing hockey in the state of California. So, as good as Koivu has been-- and he might be the most consistent and valuable player on the Ducks this season --no one connected to the Montreal organization was watching. Maybe not even the pro scouts.
But the Canadiens will be watching tonight, as will the rest of Montréal. If Koivu wants to make his case, this is his chance. This is his chance to look the NEW 8th seed Canadiens in the eye and show them he can beat them one-on-one, he can out chance them and he can out hustle them for pucks. Free agency is the time of year when teams tell you what you're worth, and these games are really the only opportunities players get to make their counter argument.