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Even Steven

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
UNIONDALE – There’s nothing the Habs love more than an even playing field.

 
Currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings alongside Tampa Bay, the furthest thing from the Canadiens’ minds is the lack of production from the power play. That might be because with an NHL second-best 21 even strength goals so far, they know they don’t need an extra man to help them put the puck in the net.
 
“I think our five-on-five success has been a group effort in terms of trying to be sound defensively and then create offense from good defense. That’s what’s been working for us so far,” offered Michael Cammalleri, who has a team-high plus-9 differential through eight games. “As far as the power play goes, we don’t feel like we’re struggling. The stats might not show that, but we feel good, we’re snapping the puck around, our zone entries are good and we’re getting shots. We just have to bear down and bury some of our chances.
 
“Every year, at some point your power play struggles and you get that feeling where it’s almost a frustrating situation,” added the 28-year-old sniper. “Even though the puck hasn’t gone in, we don’t have that feeling right now. We’re all confident that it will get going.” 
 
After finishing the year dead-last with 132 goals five-on-five last year, Cammalleri knows exactly how important those even strength goals can be down the road.
 
“Undoubtedly, we’d be more concerned if we weren’t getting even-strength goals because then we wouldn’t be winning games,” underlined Cammalleri, who has combined with Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec for over half of the team’s even-strength goals this season. “You’ve got to score goals to win and at least now we’re getting them five-on-five so we’re winning. When you’re winning, it makes any struggles seem a little easier.”
 
Another key to getting two points in the standings is secondary scoring. With Mathieu Darche, Jeff Halpern and Travis Moen all lighting the lamp against the Islanders on Wednesday, the supporting cast has a pretty good grasp of what it takes to win games.
 
“We’re keeping it simple. We’re not making fancy plays at the blue line or anything like that. We’re getting the puck behind their defensemen and we’re making it hard on them when they go back to get it,” explained Darche. “That’s what we did last year in the playoffs, too. The difference was that our power play was scoring more, so we could afford to be a little more conservative at even strength.”
 
One of the players generating the most chances for the Habs with five assists already this season, P.K. Subban realizes it’s only a matter of time before he and his teammates start putting up points with the man advantage.
 
“I think we’re playing well. We’re moving the puck well and doing the little things right,” explained the rookie blue-liner. “On the power play, we’re getting opportunities but we’re hitting the post or we’re missing by an inch this way or that way. Five-on-five, I think we’re doing a lot of great things. We’re creating opportunities for ourselves and that’s what you have to do to be successful.
 
“You’ve got to score goals five-on-five and the biggest difference for us this year has been our play at even strength,” continued Subban. “We have to keep that up because the longer the season goes, the harder it is to score on the power play. Teams tighten up and learn systems better and that’s when even strength goals make the biggest difference between winning and losing.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.


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