BROSSARD - Marc Bergevin says he's happy with the way his roster has performed so far this season, but knows that there's much work still left to be done.
The Canadiens general manager addressed the media at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Wednesday to offer up his impressions on the way his team has played thus far in 2019-20.
Montreal currently holds a 10-5-3 record after 18 games, which puts them in second place in the Atlantic division and just three points behind the archrival Boston Bruins.
According to the Habs GM, the most important thing for his team moving forward is consistency.
"As a whole, we're having a good start to the season," Bergevin explained during his press conference. "We have to keep working on our consistency, from game to game, from period to period, and even from shift to shift."
Claude Julien's troops have indeed been rather consistent this season; the Canadiens have yet to lose two games in a row, and also enjoyed a three-game winning streak from October 26-31 with wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Arizona Coyotes, and Vegas Golden Knights.
Bergevin firmly believes that his club has to keep on keeping on.
"In today's NHL, if you lose three in a row, you lose your spot in the playoffs. It's probably going to be like that until the end of the season. What I'm looking for in our team, and what we're doing right now as a whole, is to be consistent in our effort. There could be 20 or 22 teams who will be fighting until the end of the year for a playoff spot," posited Bergevin. "We have to stay healthy, which helps a lot, and stay consistent in our effort and our approach night after night."
Video: Marc Bergevin's press conference
A team that just doesn't give up
Another encouraging sign, according to the general manager, is the way his team has carried itself when trailing in the third period.
The Canadiens are fifth in the League with 24 goals in the final frame. They've only allowed 16 goals against in the third, giving them a plus-9 differential in the last period of the game.
Montreal has managed to complete two third-period comebacks that have led to wins this season. The Habs currently own a 2-4-2 record when trailing after 40.
Those kinds of numbers are music to Bergevin's ears.
"That shows our team is in good physical shape. Even if we're behind, we have the mentality that we're always able to come back," he explained. "It's very much a positive for me."
His take on Kotkaniemi
The general manager also gave his thoughts on Jesperi Kotkaniemi's situation.
The 19-year-old Finn has missed the last six games with a groin injury. Before heading to the infirmary, Kotkaniemi had two goals for three points in 12 games.
Bergevin recognizes that the Habs' former first-round pick isn't having the start to the season he would've liked, but suggested the injury might have something to do with that.
"He's had a tougher start to the season than we expected from him. We think his injury, which in a way has weakened his body, is one of the reasons he's had some highs and lows this season," outlined Bergevin. "That's why we're being careful with him."
Kotkaniemi has still not received the green light from the team's medical staff.
When he does come back, the center should find his way back into the Canadiens' lineup.
Even if Bergevin could send Kotkaniemi to the American Hockey League (AHL)'s Laval Rocket, it's not what he's looking to do for the time being.
"It's always an option to send a young player to the AHL without having to put him on waivers. But right now, it's not one of the options," expressed the GM.
Poehling back at center in Laval
The Canadiens did send forward Ryan Poehling back to the Rocket right after their 3-2 shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old American was the least-used player in that game, having logged just 7:50 of ice time.
In the three games he's played with Montreal this season, Poehling skated on the left wing on the fourth line.
Bergevin decided to send the forward to the AHL so that he could keep getting more experience, but also to give him a chance to strut his stuff up the middle.
"At the end of the day, Ryan is a center. I agree that it's always easy for a center to play on the wing, but a center who's never played in the NHL, to put him on the wing is more difficult. I know left wing isn't his natural position. He's always played center," concluded Bergevin. "With time, he's for sure going to play center, but he needs some mileage and that's why he's in Laval right now."
The Canadiens play their next game against the Capitals on Friday in Washington.