BROSSARD -- The Canadiens held an optional skate Friday morning at the Bell Sports Complex before flying out to Boston ahead of Saturday's game against the Bruins.
ALEX THE GREAT
Five players participated in the optional skate, namely Alex Galchenyuk, Daniel Carr, Mikhail Sergachev, Greg Pateryn, and Al Montoya.
That Galchenyuk was at practice on a travel day the morning after an impressive performance is on-brand for the 22-year-old center, who notably dedicated his summer to a rigorous training routine.Video: ARI@MTL: Galchenyuk dekes defender to pad the lead
"I wanted to work on a couple of things and take some shots. It's still early in the season and I was feeling it. I woke up early and wanted to go on the ice," explained Galchenyuk matter-of-factly, just over 12 hours after scoring his first of the season.
The decision did not come as a surprise to his head coach.
"He wants to improve every day. He wants to improve every game, and that's what we've seen from him so far, since the beginning of the year," acknowledged Michel Therrien during his post-practice presser.
And with great work ethic comes great responsibility, as it turns out.
"He's still a young man even though he's been in the NHL for a few years now. But with the role we've given him this year right from the get-go, we trust him and believe he's ready for the challenge," underlined Therrien of the Milwaukee, WI native, who has been centering a line with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher through the first four games of the campaign. "It's demanding to be a number one centerman at such a young age."
SAME BEGINNING, DIFFERENT ENDING
Maturity like Galchenyuk's, as the Habs tell it, is part of the reason this year's strong start is different from that of a year ago.
Despite having not yet dropped a decision in regulation, the team insists the 3-0-1 debut has little in common with last year's 9-0-0 start-gone-sour.
"I think we've only missed one point [in the standings], so we're a confident group right now. We know there are still some things we can work on, but we're happy with the start," said Galchenyuk. "We've moved so far on from last year, that as a group we don't even remember what it was like. We're focused on what we can do this year. Obviously we were happy with how we started last year at the time, but this year we're hungrier because we saw what happened. We know we've got to keep pushing."Video: Galchenyuk on Friday's optional skate
Part of that shift has come from the outside, for a team that has come back with a new look following a busy offseason.
"There are six new guys here, including Al Montoya. That's 30 percent of our team [that has changed], but the thing I like about this group is that we understand it's still early," shared Therrien. "When we practice, there's a purpose -- we want to get better. I like the business mentality of our group, and the chemistry around the team is great. They're a fun group to work with, and when it's time to work, we work."
NEW, OLD RIVALS
So many new faces in the Habs dressing room also means there will be a number of first-timers partaking in one of the NHL's most storied rivalries on Saturday.
"Any time we play the Bruins, it's special," added the Habs bench boss. "Tomorrow, 30 percent of our players will get to experience the rivalry for the first time. We'll need to be ready, because it will be a good one."
While Therrien has yet to announce his lineup in Boston, one Hab in particular would love to soak in the experience as just the latest part of an already special NHL debut.
"Last year I played against London, which was a big rivalry [with Windsor in the OHL]. It was a fast game, but I think this game will be a lot faster, obviously. I'm just looking forward to it," acknowledged Sergachev, who filed the best game of his young NHL career on Thursday, according to his head coach.Video: Sergachev on past rivalries
"Yesterday, I saw a young player who is beginning to look more comfortable on the ice. He wasn't playing on his heels. It was his best game so far, and we'll continue taking things a day at time with him."
REDMOND ON THE MEND
One Hab who will definitely not be in the lineup is defenseman Zach Redmond, who it was announced yesterday would be sidelined for six weeks with a broken foot.
Therrien shared a brief update on the 28-year-old blue-liner's status following practice.
"He injured himself about a week ago," confirmed Therrien. "He felt some pain in his foot, but continued to practice. The medical staff decided to take a closer look and found a slight fracture."Video: Michel Therrien's post-practice press conference