PITTSBURGH – It’s been said that to be the best, you have to beat the best. The Habs have decided to beat everyone, just in case.
Capping off a perfect five-game road stint with a win against Pittsburgh on Saturday night, the Canadiens are now riding a six-game win streak heading back to Montreal. Back on top of the Eastern Conference standings after registering their league co-leading 26th win of the campaign, the Habs have outscored their opponents 20-7 over the last six games and haven’t lost to an Eastern Conference rival since November 28, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
“Guys are playing good hockey. Everybody is contributing, everybody is working, and everybody is doing whatever they need to do to help the team be successful,” explained Carey Price on his team’s solid start to the campaign. “It’s really fun to be a part of. We played two back-to-back games [on this trip] and we gave two solid efforts on both nights. Guys were tired, but we didn’t use that as an excuse. There are countless guys who were exhausted by the end of tonight, but they found a way to gut it out and get the job done.”
Getting goals from 12 different players in the past six games while allowing two or fewer against in each of the past nine, the Canadiens have proven proficient at both ends of the ice during their ascent to the top. While they’re still looking for a spark on the power play, their penalty kill has been on point, snuffing out 27 of their opponents’ last 28 opportunities with the man advantage.
“If you’re going to have success in this league, you have to win on the road,” stressed P.K. Subban, whose team is now 13-7-1 on road ice this season. “To win five games on the road like that takes a lot of discipline, and discipline within our system. Coming in here today, playing our fourth game in five nights against a very good hockey team with some great players, I thought we stuck to the game plan and worked hard within our system. That’s why we had success. I thought our attention to detail was spectacular.”
Now going a perfect 16-0-0 when getting on the board first, the Canadiens have also started making a habit of opening the scoring, doing so in each of the last four games. Getting off to one of their best starts of the season with a goal less than three minutes into the night, the Habs had plenty of motivation heading into Saturday’s game – although Price admits it has nothing to do with cementing a spot atop the standings.
“I don’t even know what place we’re in,” admitted the All-Star netminder with a laugh. “We’re in first place? Well, there you go. It’s irrelevant. We’re just looking to the next game. That’s how simplified things are around here.”
Taking things one game at a time may be one of the oldest clichés in the book, but when it comes to the Canadiens’ current rise in the ranks, the strategy appears to be panning out. One of the other intangibles the team has been using to ensure they’re consistent every time they hit the ice is the strong bond they share off of it.
“I think a big part of why things are going so well for us is the team comradery and that we all enjoy coming to the rink,” mentioned Brendan Gallagher. “We have a lot of fun together and we have a great group of guys and love spending time with each other and most importantly, we’re winning hockey games. We’re having a lot of fun and winning definitely helps. We want to keep doing both.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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