MONTREAL – Those left scratching their heads when call-up Matt D’Agostini went straight from Hamilton to riding shotgun alongside Saku Koivu surely aren’t wondering any more.
With every reason to tense up upon finding out he would play with Koivu, D’Agostini has instead absorbed his NHL surroundings like a sponge.
“He’s looking more comfortable with every game both with and without the puck,” said Guy Carbonneau. “You could really see in the third period how his skating was better than a lot players out there tonight. Matt knows what he has to do, he plays well defensively and that’s a big asset for a young player.”
His defensive play aside, D’Agostini also flexed some offensive muscle, scoring his first NHL goal. The tally may not have been of the highlight reel variety, but the 22-year-old was glad to see it come much sooner than later.
“Playing with guys like Koivu and [Andrei] Kostitsyn, all you have to do is go hard to the net and that’s what I did,” said D’Agostini after lighting the lamp in his only his third career NHL game. “You always imagine your first goal will be sweet dangle around a few defensemen, but I’ll take it. It definitely feels good to have it out of the way.”
Drafted 190th overall by the Canadiens at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, D’Agostini’s rise through the ranks despite being a low pick is nothing new to the Canadiens. With other draft sleepers like Andrei Markov
(162nd), Jaroslav Halak (271st), and Sergei Kostitsyn (200th) also on the Habs’ roster, the Habs are living proof that no pick should be taken lightly.
His early mentor and current sidekick likes what D’Agostini has shown so far.
“I was happy with how our line played tonight. We scored two goals, but we could have scored a few more,” said Koivu. “It was nice to see Matt score his first goal tonight. He worked really hard and he saw what can happen when he uses his speed.”
Koivu’s impact on him hasn’t been taken lightly by the scrappy winger.
“Saku has been great. He’s always got a pointer here and a tip there for me,” said D’Agostini about having the Habs’ captain as his centerman since his call-up. “After I scored, I was kind of in shock at first, but seeing Saku’s big eyes and smile coming at me after my goal is something I’ll never forget.”
With two wins in as many games since he arrived in Montreal, D’Agostini would be first to deny the existence of any direct correlation in that regard. From the sound of it, his coach would beg to differ, however.
“He’s really doing the job right now,” concluded Carbonneau. “Matt is putting pressure on the other guys to play better and work harder. And that’s just what we needed.” Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.comTo read also:Fly on the Wall - Dec. 2, 2008 Canadiens play with fire, but win