BOSTON – There’s no better way to learn about life as a Hab than by starting your Canadiens career with a game against the Bruins.
Just a few hours after arriving at the Canadiens’ hotel in Boston, Bryan Allen hopped on the ice in a Habs jersey for the first time on Saturday morning for the pre-game skate. While he won’t have much time to put faces to names before puck drop at TD Garden, the veteran blue-liner is already starting to feel at ease in his new hockey home, thanks in part to the friends he has manning the team’s Welcome Wagon.
“When I first came into the hotel, [Marc] was the first to greet me,” shared Allen, who played half a season alongside the Canadiens GM in Vancouver in 2003-04. “It’s definitely different to come in under terms like this where I’m still a player and he’s the GM, but he seems to be the same person he always was and he was very welcoming. He’s a great guy and he was a great teammate. He always kept it light. Being a young guy then with him, he was always sort of a legend with his practical jokes and by being such a great teammate.”
|Bryan Allen with the media on Saturday morning. |
Having played with a 38-year-old Bergevin with the Canucks as a 23-year-old back then, Allen will have no problem respecting his elders now that his former teammate has become his new boss. He may have friends in high places in Montreal, but the veteran defenseman will also be able to lean on some former teammates currently on the active roster when he suits up for his 717th career NHL game on Saturday night.
“[Mike Weaver] just said, ‘You’re going to love it.’ He said it’s a first-class organization and they take care of you and your family and that I’ll love it here,” explained Allen, who played one season with Weaver in Florida in 2010-11 and was practicing with him on a defense pairing during the morning skate. “I think it’s great. It makes things a little more comfortable for me and makes the transition a little easier. He’s been great so far.”
Confirming he’s “probably” going with a lineup that includes seven defensemen against the Bruins, Michel Therrien is hoping to ease his new blue-liner into action in his Habs debut.
“We sat down and talked a bit and had a normal conversation to get to know each other. We explained the basics of how our system works without getting into too much detail,” said Therrien. “It’s important to know the basics, but the more he plays, the more comfortable he’ll get with the systems we have.”
Finishing fifth on the Ducks with 121 hits, fourth with 118 blocked shots and third with five fighting majors in 2013-14, it’s no secret to his new teammates what the 6-foot-5, 223-pound blue-liner will be bringing to the lineup against Boston.
“Just from playing against him, I know he’s obviously a big body – that’s the first thing you notice,” confirmed 5-foot-9 winger Brendan Gallagher. “He’s a physical guy who plays hard. Any time you can add depth, it’s a long season and you need guys who can jump in and contribute. He’ll certainly do that and contribute to the team’s success. He doesn’t have to come in and change anything; he just needs to come in and play his game and I think that’s exactly what he’s going to do and he’s going to help us out.”
Looking to make an impact in his first Original Six game, the 34-year-old isn’t worrying about the ins-and-outs of the Xs and Os in his new system; he knows the best way to adapt to his new environment is to bring exactly the same thing that he has through his first 700-plus NHL games.
“They probably know what they’re getting from me and I’m not going to change my game too much,” he said. “I think early on, it’s just getting used to the players, the systems and the coaches.
“This is a first-class organization,” added Allen. “It’s going to be fun. It’s the Montreal Canadiens – there’s no better way to get things started than to play against a rival like this.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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