BROSSARD – Heading into Game 4 with a chance to sweep a postseason series for the first time since 1992-93, the Canadiens are maintaining their even keel, business-like approach to the opportunity awaiting them at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
Sitting in the driver’s seat in their first round match-up against the Lighting where the Habs not only managed to steal home ice advantage from the Bolts but could actually be the only team in the east to sweep Round 1 in 2014, there’s no premature celebration happening within the confines of the Canadiens’ dressing room. Immune to getting ahead of themselves one day before potentially clinching a spot in the second round for the first time since 2010, the Canadiens are all about living in the moment this spring.
“We understand that we haven’t done anything yet. You need to win four games to win a series and we all know the fourth win is always the hardest,” underlined assistant captain Josh Gorges. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves by any means because we still haven’t accomplished anything. Our focus has to be like it has been the first three games on playing the right way, playing a complete game and doing all the little things well. At the end of the day, we’ll look back on how the game went and move on from there.”
One of just six Habs still with the team from the 2010 group that erased a 3-1 first round deficit against Washington before roaring back from a 3-2 hole against the Penguins, Gorges knows there’s nothing more dangerous than a group of players with no tomorrow. On the ropes and one game away from heading home for the summer, Tampa won’t be doing the Canadiens any favors on Tuesday night and Gorges is expecting Stamkos & Co. to come out swinging in Game 4.
“What’s happened up until now doesn’t matter anymore; it’s in the past. All that matters is one game tomorrow. You’re playing a team where it’s do-or-die,” stressed the veteran rearguard, who has 54 NHL Playoff games under his belt. “They’re going to come with their absolute best. We have to be prepared to play a very solid, fundamental game. We’re going to have to work extremely hard – probably harder than the first three games – and we have to be ready for a real battle tomorrow night.”
Privy to Gorges’ seasoned advice in the room and at home as a teammate and tenant, Brendan Gallagher credits the leadership throughout the lineup for the workman-like attitude currently permeating through the Canadiens’ dressing room.
“The coaches and the older guys do a good job of making sure our focus level is where it needs to be and that we’re showing up every day with that business mentality,” confirmed Gallagher, who earned first-star honors in Game 3 with a goal and an assist and is tied with Lars Eller and P.K. Subban for the team lead with four points so far in the playoffs. “They stress forgetting about yesterday, moving on to tomorrow and doing what we need to do to prepare ourselves for that game.”
Still searching for his first series win after an early exit in his NHL Playoff debut in 2013, Gallagher is sitting on the other side of an elimination game for the first time in his career. Ready to employ the lessons he learned from his first year in the league into his sophomore postseason, the 21-year-old winger has a simple solution for ensuring the Habs don’t prolong the first round any longer than necessary.
“You have to make sure you get off to a good start and make it as tough on them as you can,” he explained. “They’re going to throw everything they have at us. They don’t want their season to end. I’ve been on the other side of it and it’s not a fun place to be. For us it’s just about coming out strong, focused and ready to play.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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