TORONTO – The Canadiens have moved on from their last game against the Leafs, but they haven’t forgotten what they learned from it.
Coming off a 45-shot performance against the Senators on Monday night, the Habs are in Toronto playing inspired hockey. Looking to close out a stellar month with a win against their longtime rivals at the Air Canada Centre, there’s still one major blemish on their recent record they’d like to erase.
“We had one horrible game against them. We were bad – we were bad in all areas,” admitted Josh Gorges, of the 6-0 loss to the Leafs on Feb. 9 – the last time the Habs lost in regulation time. “Throughout the course of a season, you’re going to have a couple of those. You never want to, you do everything you can to prevent it, but that’s hockey. Sometimes those nights happen. We have to realize that was one of those games, we put it behind us and we’ve been playing our best hockey since then. I think sometimes you go through those lumps to learn what it takes to win consistently.”
The only team to have the Canadiens’ number twice this season, the Leafs won both games against Montreal at the Bell Centre this year. In town for the first of two games against the Buds in Toronto, the Habs aren’t looking to avenge either loss as much as they’re hoping to maintain their view from the top of the Eastern Conference.
“We need two points. Yeah, we can look at it like we want revenge because we lost 6-0 but I think our focus has been and needs to continue to be on getting two points,” explained Gorges, whose team also dropped a 2-1 decision on opening night to Toronto. “Whatever happened yesterday or two weeks before doesn’t matter. We’ll approach tomorrow’s game as if it’s the most important game of the year and make sure we’re ready to go out and get two points.”
Since the last time they faced the Leafs, the Canadiens have gone 6-0-2 – outscoring opponents 22-10 in the process – Carey Price became the first goalie in the NHL to hit 10 wins this season, and the Habs have found themselves perched atop the Eastern Conference for the first time in two-and-a-half years.
“It was a stinker for us, especially at home,” offered former Leaf Colby Armstrong, who is back in town to face his old team for the first time since signing with the Habs this summer. “I think everyone knew they could be better and we could all be better as a team. That’s been our focus. Right now we’re playing a good team game from the goalies out. That’s how we have success: when everyone’s going. We just have to keep that same mindset no matter who we’re playing.”
Battling it out for northeast division supremacy with just three points separating them in the standings, the Habs are focused on winning the game. Spoiling the party at the ACC against an Original 6 opponent would just be icing on the cake.
“This is maybe the most storied rivalry in hockey. When you have two teams that are good teams, it makes for exciting hockey,” shared Gorges. “Any time you play the Leafs, the games are always hard-fought; they’re always tight. To have two teams that are playing well and are both good hockey clubs, it adds a little bit more. It makes it fun to play.
“Sometimes when you’re on the road, you forget about trying to be cute and making fancy plays and you just play a grind-it-out hockey game,” he finished. “We don’t need to impress anybody or hear the fans roaring; we just need to go out there and do whatever we have to do to win the game.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
To The Point
In the division
24CH Weekly #5