BROSSARD – After coming up short in the intensity, grit and determination departments against the Flames, head coach Michel Therrien wasn’t about to let his troops off easy with a set of back-to-back tilts on the horizon.
On Monday, the veteran bench boss put his players through a high-octane practice at the Bell Sports Complex that featured a variety of skating and battle drills designed to up their compete level ahead of hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night, before departing for Buffalo to take on the Sabres on Wedensday.
The on-ice session might have been tough, but it’s clearly something the Canadiens needed following one of their poorest showings early on in the 2014-15 campaign.
“That was definitely the practice that we had to have. It’s fun to go out there and battle against each other. I think sometimes it starts off maybe in a bad mood, but once the competition gets going, you kind of joke around with each other and get the intensity going. You see practices like that throughout the season. It was definitely a good time to have it,” offered Max Pacioretty, who went on to admit that practices like these are a good way to break any sense of complacency teams might be feeling after getting off to a hot start. “It’s good not only in terms of battling, but with getting the legs going and remembering what it’s like to work hard like that. Sometimes, you just get satisfied and you get stuck in a groove. I think maybe that’s what we were in. A little bit of adversity forces us to go out there, work hard, and hopefully it translates in a game.”
If anything, Monday’s skate also served to rid the Canadiens’ locker room of any and all negativity that may have reared its ugly head in the aftermath of their first home loss of the season on Sunday night.
“The longer that practice goes on, the more you start to open up with each other, maybe joke around and have more competition. That’s what we’re going for right now. There were tons of battles in the corners and in front of the net. At first, it starts off heated, but as it goes on, you start to joke around and battle with your teammates a little bit more,” explained Pacioretty, who, as expected, skated alongside David Desharnais and Dale Weise at practice. “There was definitely a bad feeling in the room this morning, but I think now after practice the guys are feeling a lot better.”
And, why wouldn’t they? Entering Monday night’s action, the Canadiens sit tied atop the Atlantic Division with 17 points, which has them ranked third overall in the NHL. While they might not be clicking as of late on the scoresheet, Therrien doesn’t intend to sound the proverbial alarm just yet.
“There’s no panic. I sense that people are starting to panic. Every team has bad games now and then. We’re disappointed with Sunday’s game. We’ve made a note of it. But, in the NHL, you have to move on, and make adjustments along the way. The most important thing now is the game against Chicago,” stressed Therrien, who indicated in his post-practice press conference that lineup changes could be in store on Tuesday night. “We’re in a league where parity is important, and you have to show up every night to have a chance to win.”
With that in mind, the Canadiens know full well what they will have to do to in order to be successful going forward.
“I think we have to battle better,” concluded Brendan Gallagher. “We didn’t play good enough last game. I think, to a man, everyone can be better, everyone can show up and battle harder.”
Going up against the likes of the Blackhawks will certainly give the Canadiens the opportunity to showcase that aspect of their game.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Climbing the list
Forget and move on