Monday, July 07, 2008

Habs Review 2007-08:

Sergei Kostitsyn

The numbers

52 GP: 9 G, 18 A, 27 Pts, 51 PIM, +9, 49 Shots

Career best year
Rookie (same as above)

2007-08 playoffs
12 GP: 3 G, 5 A, 8 Pts, 14 PIM, +5, 22 Shots

Career best playoffs
Rookie (same as above)

Plays of the game: 9

Game pucks: 2

Domes: 11

3 Star selections: 4 Second

The story

Where he started the season
After a 131 point season with London in the OHL, Habs fans, and especially us here at LIW, were excited. There were those who claimed that Sergei was the weak link on a line that featured NHL-ready Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner. Incidentally, Dave Gagner (assistant coach of the Knights and Sam's Dad) would state that Sergei was the most NHL ready of the three. So, whether he was the weakest of the 3 or not was irrelevant to us as all we could see was 40 goals and 91 assists - the kid had to be good to put up those numbers. He was invited to camp, but everyone knew that he wouldn't make the team this season and we may in fact be forced to wait a couple of years for this 20 year-old to be ready. The mission for him was to go to Hamilton and to prove to everyone he could play with the big boys.

The season
His season started well in Hamilton as he posted 22 points in his first 22 professional games. He was getting recognized by a lot of people as a quality playmaker and had most believing that he, not Andrei, was the can't-miss Kostitsyn. In early December (apparently the only time of the year that Gainey is willing to make roster moves), Sergei was called up. What happened then was quite amazing as his arrival in Montreal not only kick-started what will surely be a great career of his own, but more importantly it helped to transform his brother from promising prospect into a bona fide NHL scorer.

Sergei managed 6 points in his first 9 games with the club and that, coupled with the emergence of Andrei over the same period, was enough to convince Bob that he was here to stay. He ended up posting 27 points in his 52 games (just more than 0.5 points/game) and was a +9 – it was truly remarkale for someone we didn't even expect to see play even once in Montreal this year. Even more remarkable was how he ended the year playing on the team's top line with Higgins and Koivu and how he was getting better and better with each passing week. We all remember how he was one of the best Habs in the playoffs netting 8 points in 12 games and finishing at a team-high +5.

Highlights: Good set of plays from this young gun. Looking at them again, I'd say passing is his forte – especially to Andrei...

Sergei Kostitsyn by the numbers:

Lions' links on Sergei Kostitsyn:
Want to see the Belarussian line?
Canadiens Rookie Camp
From Belarus With Love
Gainey's formula: Keep Prices stable, increase Kosts
From 0 to 96 With Time to Spare
The SK74 Era: Lions Reader Sheds Light on Habs Stats Since December

Grade: B+
What Sergei accomplished this year was truly amazing, as making the leap from junior to the NHL is hard enough. Understand now that he did it on the Habs, a team known for waiting it out with prospects. Over his season, he proved that he can play any offensive position, can play on any line in any league.
He played the point on the power-play, centred the top line, penalty-killed – in fact, there wasn't much he didn't do this year. His defensive play was also surprisingly good for such a young player, and he is not afraid to get stuck-in with some of the biggest boys from around the league.

This is one thing in particular that I really liked about Sergei – how he was not afraid of any oponent. Often young players will appear to be timid in their first few years and will back down from more established NHLers, but not Sergei. Obviously he brought what he learned from the incomparable Dale Hunter to Montreal this year. A 20 year-old European who would stand up for himself and his teammates and was not afraid to drop the gloves with anyone – it certainly
turned a lot of heads.

Where we'd have him next season
Sergei should start and last the year in Montreal as he has already leap-frogged such players as Latendresse, Lapierre, Locke and Chipchura on our depth chart. I am hoping that we will have 3 proper scoring lines next year as we hopefully shed players like Dandenault, Begin and Smolinski - all of whom offer very little offensively or defensively. If we are to go with 3 good lines then it won't matter which of the 3 Sergei plays on as I feel he is the type of player that will fit in well with all sorts of players. If we keep status quo and go for 2 good lines, 2 bad then I believe Sergei will be on one of the top 2. I know people love the Kovalev-Plekanec-A.Kostitsyn line, but as we saw this year Sergei is dynamite with his brother – even if it would be nice if one of them was in the passing play for the goal, not the final pass. The other option is of course to play him with Saku and Tanguay – on what would be an improved version of this year's 1st line.

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