BROSSARD – 24 hours before taking on the Carolina Hurricanes at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens’ players and coaching staffs used their practice time to get back to basics in an effort to snap a season-high four-game losing streak.
An NHL head coach since the 2000-01 season, Michel Therrien knows about the pressures associated with working in Montreal.
“We know we play in a very passionate market, and that’s something we’ve emphasized with our players,” acknowledged Therrien, now in his second stint with the Canadiens.
“What I keep reminding our players is to stay humble and concentrated when we are having success; you are never as good as people say when things are going well. On the flip side, you are never as bad as you think when things are not going well. You need to stay in that same pattern and to keeping doing the right things regardless of what’s happening. My only preoccupation was making sure we have a good practice today.”Back to basics
On Monday morning, Therrien and his staff led the players through a series of drills designed to hone their abilities to work under pressure. After running his players through an intense one-on-one rush drill, Therrien had his forward lines take turns going head-to-head against his four defense pairings at practice.
“Today we had a good, up-tempo practice. We were flying out there. The coaches are doing a good job of keeping us confident,” offered left winger Max Pacioretty, the team’s leading goal-scorer. “Things could be a lot worse right now. We still have a big part of the season to salvage. We’re in a pretty decent spot right now; we all know we can do better. We have more in the tank and we want to show it.”Showing the way
Sharing Pacioretty’s optimism was defenseman P.K. Subban, who is skated on a pairing with veteran Josh Gorges.
“Gorges and I are comfortable playing with each other. We have that chemistry, and we’re just looking forward to getting the job done. I know it seems that not a lot has gone right for us lately, but I still think we can take some positives out of our play. We need to bear down for each other,” emphasized last season’s Norris Trophy recipient. “The reality is, we’re still in a good position, moving forward, and we can only get better from here on in.”
With seven games left in the eleven days leading up to the Olympic break, Subban talked about the importance of staying in the present and overcoming adversity as it comes.
“Nobody was questioning the coaching staff when we were the hottest team in the league in November. This is a tough business, and as a group we’re not pointing fingers. We’re just focused on continuing to get better,” stressed Subban, a leader both in the locker room and on the ice for the Habs. “[Tuesday against the Hurricanes] is a great opportunity for us. We have a lot of games coming up and we can use them to put everything behind us. I don’t know what could happen next week. That’s how professional sports works, anybody could beat anybody on a given night.”
“The important thing is that we have the right mix of here, not just as players but as people. I’m happy we’re going through this because it’s important that we go through this as a team and to figure this out so that we can have success in the playoffs,” reflected the 24 year-old, already mature beyond his years.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
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