MONTREAL – It took a little longer than usual for the door to the Canadiens’ dressing room to slide open following Saturday night’s loss to the Devils.
Not happy with how they responded after seeing their coach relieved of his duties in the morning, the Habs realized the first place they needed to look for answers was in the mirror, resulting in a closed-door, players-only meeting. While he wasn’t about to reveal all the details of the discussion, Hal Gill wasn’t hiding the bullets he and his teammates went over, either.
“It’s hockey; it’s not a big secret we have to be better in the third and we have to stick to what we do well: getting on our forecheck, working hard in their end and supporting each other,” confirmed the Habs assistant captain. “We have to figure out what it’s going to take to pick up our level in the third and play with more urgency.
“We let ourselves down, we let the organization down and we let the fans down,” he added. “In a game like that we want to come out and we were in a battle and for whatever reason, we backed off. We shouldn’t be doing that and it’s not acceptable.”
Owning a 5-7-6 record at the Bell Centre to close out 2011, the Habs aren’t the only ones frustrated by the team’s performance at home so far this season. Serenaded by a chorus of boos by the Bell Centre faithful again after giving up another late lead, the Canadiens have already begun making their New Year’s resolutions for 2012.
“It’s tough to hear and you don’t want to be booed, but we have to be better. This is a proud city and this is a proud organization that expects to win,” stressed Josh Gorges, who currently leads the team with a plus-11 differential. “We expect to win as a group in here, this organization, the coaching staff and management expect to win and the city and the fans expect us to win.
“More than that, they expect us to play the right way. I think if we put the effort in and play the right way, they’re going to be there to back us up; they always have,” offered the 27-year-old blue-liner. “They know enough about the game to understand when we play hard and just didn’t get the breaks or just had a tough bounce, but when it’s something like tonight, why wouldn’t you boo us?”
Despite missing some key contributors with Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Raphael Diaz, Ryan White, Andrei Markov and Scott Gomez all shelved with injuries, Lars Eller wasn’t about to look anywhere but inside the walls of the dressing room for answers.
“The only thing that counts for us right now is we have to win. No one in here is happy right now,” shared Eller, who scored his fourth goal of the season to give the Habs a 3-2 lead midway through the second period. “It’s frustrating because I know this team can be so much better and we expect a lot more from ourselves than what we showed tonight and there’s absolutely no excuse. No blaming injuries, coaches, nothing. We have to look to ourselves and the bottom line is we have to be better.”
With a rare practice scheduled for Sunday morning before the team flies to Boston for Monday night’s game against the Bruins, the Habs won’t have much time to dwell on Saturday’s performance. That suits Gorges just fine.
“It’s one of those things that’s going to bother us all tonight and it’s going to be tough to sleep tonight but the sun is going to come up tomorrow and we’re going to have to get back to work,” warned Gorges. “We have a huge game on Monday and Boston doesn’t feel sorry for us. Nobody in the league feels sorry for us so we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to pick ourselves up, we have to pick each other up and we have to get to work.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Postgame comments: Gill, Gorges, Eller, Darche, Cunneyworth
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