BROSSARD - The Canadiens haven't been playing perfect hockey as of late, but they've still been finding ways to win and picking up valuable points in the standings.
Last Friday night's loss in Columbus aside, of course, Michel Therrien's contingent is off to a remarkable 10-1-1 start to begin the year, which has them sitting atop the league, one point clear of the New York Rangers entering Monday night's action.
While some victories haven't come as easily as others, like their last three - the 2-1 win over Toronto on October 29, the 3-0 win over Vancouver on November 2, or their most recent win on Saturday night over the Philadelphia Flyers - there really isn't any sense of concern in the Canadiens' locker room right now given what they've managed to accomplish already.
"I think it's important for us to be honest with ourselves. There have been times this year when we've certainly won games and maybe we were fortunate to get the result," admitted Brendan Gallagher, referencing the aforementioned wins, in particular, during which the Canadiens were outshot by a 118-69 margin combined. "It's one of those things where we've got to look at our play. We're a pretty confident bunch. We believe in ourselves. We feel good about our group. It's a matter of just continuing to build. I thought last game [against the Flyers] was a step in the right direction. It's something that we can build on. Overall, we felt pretty good about that game. It was a result we were happy to get."
Video: Brendan Gallagher on the Canadiens' confidence
On Monday, the Canadiens got back to work at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard to begin preparing for Tuesday night's matchup against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre. The focus at practice was on trying to fine-tune several areas of their game that have let them down in recent outings, particularly on the defensive side of the puck.
"It's strictly scoring chances. We have a lot of confidence in both our goalies that those shots from the outside, that they're going to save them. Scoring chances and high-end shots from good players is what's going to kill you, so the biggest thing is just eliminating scoring chances," stressed Nathan Beaulieu, who ranks second on the Canadiens with a plus-9 differential so far this season. "Over the last couple of games, we haven't been ourselves. We haven't been as sharp. I don't think it's something to worry about right now, but our last two [games] before our last game, we really struggled defensively. That's probably part of the reason, but nothing to be too concerned about right now."
Getting into penalty trouble - and then paying the price for it - is also something the Canadiens would like to improve upon come Tuesday night. After surrendering four power play goals to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Flyers managed to score twice with the man advantage during the third period on Saturday night to make things close.
"Our discipline [needs to improve]. That's something easy to correct. On special teams, we have to tighten up defensively. It starts with a good forecheck, being good in the defensive zone and good positioning. There are some small things to improve. Shots on goal are going to go down, too," said Therrien, whose club currently ranks 20th on the penalty kill, operating at an 80 percent clip. "We're [one of] the most penalized teams in the league, so we give up power play opportunities. But, that doesn't mean that I'm worried."
Video: Michel Therrien on the Canadiens' strong start
During his post-practice press conference, the Canadiens' bench boss made a point of sharing something that did worry him, though, and it's something that is far bigger than the game of hockey itself.
"What's worrying to me is little Simon, who came into the dressing room on Saturday. After watching the game, he had to go to the hospital and get treatment on Sunday and on Monday, too. That's what worries me," shared Therrien, who had young Leucan member Simon Gauvin introduce the starting lineup directly to his team prior to Saturday night's contest in conjunction with the league-wide Hockey Fights Cancer program.
"When you lead a hockey team and you have one loss after 12 games, am I worried? No, I'm happy. I'm very, very happy. We found a way to win a game that wasn't easy. We played the night before and the guys made the necessary plays to win. Do we have things to work on? Yes. We're not saying that everything is perfect. There isn't a club in the league that's perfect. There are 29 other clubs in the league who have things to work on. We're just at the beginning of November. But, I think we've had a pretty good start to the season," added Therrien, coming off his 250th career win with the CH.
Needless to say, there really isn't any arguing with that.