BROSSARD – How important is veteran leadership come springtime in the NHL? Just ask the Montreal Canadiens.
Fans still confused by how the underdog Habs have managed to make history, defy the odds and snuff out the league’s best players night after night should look no further than the leaders lighting the way this spring. With six Cup rings between them, there isn’t much the vets in the Canadiens’ locker room haven’t been through over the years.
“It’s great to have veterans like that in the room. They always have something positive to say,” offered rookie center Tom Pyatt, who scored his first career playoff goal early in Game 4. “They’ve been in the league for a long time and they’ve won Stanley Cups. It helps just being close with guys like that, especially for a young guy like me in a situation where the pressure is higher.”
He may not have had the chance to hoist a Cup just yet in his 17-year NHL career, but grizzled veteran Roman Hamrlik has been a well of experience for the team’s newest Hab to lean on when it matters most.
“P.K [Subban] and I talked about it after the first period and I just tried to help him. I told him to just keep things simple, especially at the beginning of a game,” explained Hamrlik on the advice he doled out to the 20-year-old rookie on Thursday night. “You have to make those good first passes and get comfortable to build confidence. I know he wants to play aggressive and play with the puck but the game went on and he felt better. We just have to keep things simple and play our game.”
After winning his first Cup with the Devils in his first year in the league, Scott Gomez
has now turned from student to teacher when it comes to imparting some of the secrets to postseason success.
“Well it’s a totally different era – different times, different team. We’re trying to write our own chapter here. And the Devils were never underdogs,” laughed Gomez, of the comparisons between his current team and his previous Cup runs in New Jersey. “Like Claude Lemieux said, this is the real season. We got in, so that’s important but whatever you did in the regular season, throw that aside – this is where you want to be playing your best.”
While Game 4 was all about secondary scoring and getting help from some of the team’s unusual suspects, the key according to Gomez is that the Habs don’t believe they have any unsung heroes.
“That’s the way the team is. Everyone’s got to contribute and that’s the way we’re going to be successful. The day you walk into this locker room you’re considered part of the team,” described Gomez. “Pyatt’s been great all year. Darchey doesn’t feel sorry for himself after Game 3 and comes back to play a great game. That says a lot about his character. Everyone’s like that – we’ve got too many guys in the room who wouldn’t let that happen.
“In the playoffs it’s going to be a different guy every night and we expect that from them. They shouldn’t be surprised; we’re not surprised,” added Gomez. “Those guys can score and create. They were doing the job anyway doing the little things and they got rewarded for it.”
Though most outsiders might wonder how he and his teammates managed to erase a 3-1 deficit in Round 1 against the President’s Trophy winners and now find themselves in a good position to dethrone the reigning Stanley Cup champs, Gomez & Co. knew exactly what they were capable of all along.
“We faced a lot this year, we stuck together and we never felt sorry for ourselves. We stuck together as a group and found a way to do it,” explained the 30-year-old pivot. We expect guys to pull their weight and step up until other guys get back and that’s been our motto all year. We welcome guys in right away to the family and that’s what you’re seeing now.
“It’s a cliché, but the reason we’re here is we’re taking it one game at a time. We’re not looking any farther ahead; we’re just doing what we have to do,” continued Gomez. “But we haven’t done anything yet. It’s a fun time right now, we’re having a blast, the city’s having a blast and we’ve got to keep it going. We’re going back to Pittsburgh and there’s a lot of work still to be done.”Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.See alsoFive Keys to the Game: Habs-Pens #5 Playoff CentralHabs square series with win over Pens in Game 4 Best supporting actors