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Canadiens’ Keys: Stay Focused, Stay Determined

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins — To the Canadiens, the game plan for Game 6 is the same as it would be for any other game.

Just play their game, and they’ll be fine.

“It feels the same for me, anyways — I’m sure all the other guys are the same,” said forward Brendan Gallagher following Montreal’s optional pregame skate on Monday morning. “It’s a normal game day. You’re going to have nerves — I’ve been nervous every single game of the playoffs so far — so nothing’s going to be new. And as soon as the puck drops, it’s just a normal hockey game.”

It’s normal, except for the fact that if the Canadiens lose, it’s the last one of the season. In that sense, the Habs know they must bring a certain element of desperation to the ice on Monday night.

“Tonight — I see tonight’s game as a fun challenge,” said Head Coach Michel Therrien. “We play Game 6 in Montreal — I see that as a challenge, and to be able to achieve a challenge — first of all, we need to have a right attitude, and this is what I feel about our team. I spoke to a few guys [Sunday], I spoke to guys this morning. Everything is about attitude, and I like the attitude of our group right now.”

That attitude is to show up on Monday prepared to get out to a strong start, to play their game and to refuse to stray from it.

“This is not any different, honestly,” Therrien said. “This is not any different from every game. We want to have a good start, and you know what? We always got good start, and this is not going to be different. Tonight, I’m convinced and confident that we’re going to have a good start tonight.

“Most of the time we did it. Our players are really well-prepared. They come to the rink with a good frame of mind, and the game that we’ve been playing — we’re a team that sets the tone early in the games.”

For the most part, the Habs have been able to get out to strong starts. Saturday’s Game 5 was the only exception. For the second time during this series, they allowed the first goal, but for the first time this series, they were unable to regain the lead. They fell behind 3-0 just two minutes into the second period, and although they were able to score twice before the final horn sounded, it was too little, too late.

On Monday, it will be all about setting the tone early in the game and staying strong throughout.

“Aggressiveness is obviously something we’ve been talking about all series long,” Gallagher said. “When we’re at our best, that’s what we’re doing well, so we certainly need to be hard on the forecheck. Our forechecking game is kind of what leads us, so if we get that going tonight, we’ll be able to build off that and hopefully have a good night.”

The Canadiens know they were not at their best on Saturday in Boston. But they also know that they have a top-tier goaltender as their final line of defense, so no matter what, they will always have a chance.

“Everybody’s confident back there, with Price back there making the key saves,” said defenseman Mike Weaver. “He’s a guy that’s able to steal the games, but we got to support him. We got to be better at supporting him and be better in our defensive zone.”

If they can build off the confidence that Price gives them, they know they will be just fine.

There’s no secret to Game 6, as Tomas Plekanec said. They just need to be better than they were on Saturday, plain and simple.

“There’s no secrets — have a good game,” Plekanec said with a smile. “Have a better game than them and go at them right at the start, and we got to play our game and use the speed.”

Stay Focused, Stay Calm

Josh Gorges said immediately after Saturday’s loss that he and his teammates can’t be thinking about winning two games in one night. Their primary focus must be on the task at hand — winning Game 6 — before they earn the right to focus on what comes next.

On Monday, his teammates echoed that sentiment.

“We just got to focus on tonight’s game, and we don’t want to look at Game 7 or anything like that,” Plekanec said. “We got to focus on a good start tonight and go from there.”

Maintaining focus also means playing between the whistles and refusing to fall prey to any distractions that might come with stronger-than-usual emotions.

Last time out, there were nine total penalties called. Contrast that with Games 3 and 4 in Montreal, when there were five in total. Game 6 is not the time to take silly penalties; it is the time to keep emotions in check and just focus on playing hard.

“I thought we’ve been good so far in this series,” Plekanec said. “I don’t think there was any issue from either side. I thought both teams tried to be really focused on that, and it’s going to be the same thing tonight. It’s going to be huge, and hopefully we’ll keep those emotions in the right place and win the game.”

Winning Game 6 is a challenge, but as Gallagher said, nothing is impossible. If the Canadiens win Game 6, it’s back to the drawing board — for both teams.

“It’s really not impossible — it’s certainly a tough task as well, but at the same time, you’re not worrying about two games,” he said. “You’re worrying about one game. If you take care of one game, the whole situation’s different. But you got to make sure you show up and play your best game.”

If the Canadiens let emotions get the best of them, there is a good chance that key guys could end up in the box — Plekanec was in there for both of the Bruins’ second-period goals on Saturday — and if key guys are in the box, that means they’re not playing their game.

That can’t happen if they want to still be playing, come Wednesday.

“Every game is a new game, and you just got to move forward,” Weaver said. “Obviously emotions run high enough in the playoffs, and everybody’s a professional here.

“Play hard and just play your game. I think that’s the biggest thing — we can’t get away from our game.”

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