KANATA – With one game left to play before the season starts for real, the Canadiens will be using the home stretch to put the finishing touches on their preseason preparations.
In the first game of the 2014-15 preseason, Habs hopefuls outnumbered roster regulars 15-to-five in the lineup. With just one game left on the exhibition calendar, the focus has shifted from providing a proving ground for prospects to honing new systems and nailing execution in time for the regular season opener on Oct. 8.
“I think it’s starting to come around. It takes a while to get back into it, but that’s why you have the preseason,” offered Tom Gilbert, who played a team-high 26:24 against the Senators, including a mammoth 5:33 on the penalty kill. “These games are great to get the feel back and get the rhythm and find chemistry with guys you’re going to play with, but we’re itching to get going for real. One more game.”
Despite having seen action in just three of his team’s six preseason games so far, Alex Galchenyuk has already shown flashes of a potential breakout-year-in-the-making this fall. The third-year forward buried his second goal of the exhibition campaign on Friday night, using the 60 minutes of preseason ice time he’s enjoyed to showcase veteran-level patience and poise with the puck while looking to create offense at every opportunity.
“With two seasons under your belt, you come in with more confidence,” said Galchenyuk, who banked in the Canadiens’ opening goal from behind the goal line in the second period. “You get used to the league more and to the players, but my main goal [coming in to camp] was trying to translate my offensive game from Junior as close as I can to the NHL level. I think I’m on the right path for that.”
Following a Junior career with the Sarnia Sting that saw him light up the OHL to the tune of 144 points in 101 games, the 2012 third-overall pick racked up 27 and 31 points in his first two NHL seasons, respectively. Based on his play this preseason, it’s safe to assume Galchenyuk’s offensive stock will continue trending up when the stakes are raised come Wednesday night.
“I feel like I have the skill to make plays one-on-one. Sometimes it doesn’t work out the way I want it to, but that’s the game of hockey,” he stressed. “You have to try things. I’m not trying to do it for myself. I feel like if I beat the guy, I can create a good scoring chance and fortunately for me, it works out sometimes. I feel confident going into the season and I’m just trying to create offense, skate hard and be as productive as I can.”
Also seeming to be rounding into regular season form in time for opening night, Max Pacioretty made good on his third breakaway of the evening, beating Robin Lehner to give the Habs a 2-1 lead in the second period. The newly-minted assistant captain is happy with what he’s seen from the team through six preseason games, and he’s looking forward to seeing that continue when the six regulars who were missing on Friday – including Carey Price – are back in action when the 2014-15 roster is made official.
“You want to clean up some things here and there. Our systems are a bit different this year and we’re still trying to perfect it, but it’s been really effective when we’ve executed it the right way,” explained Pacioretty, whose team has scored three goals in five of its six exhibition games this year. “If we can get that execution for 60 minutes, I think we’re going to have a lot of confidence in our game plan and we’ll win a lot of games.”
Having spent his three preseason appearances adjusting to everything from new linemates to a new city after arriving to Montreal in a trade this summer, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau helped set the table for longtime friend and newfound centerman, David Desharnais in the third period – a storyline both are hoping repeats itself as often as possible in 2014-15.
“I think it’s coming along. We had some good moments. We played a great second period. I think we were all over them, we just have to be more consistent,” admitted Parenteau. “For the most part, our execution was much better than it’s been in the other games. All these games are important for us to use to prepare. There’s one more game left on Saturday night, and then I know we’ll ready to go for Wednesday.” Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com. SEE ALSO Game highlightsThe Numbers Game - October 3, 2014 Giving it his all
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