MONTREAL – The Canadiens took to the ice on Saturday morning, a morning like any other when playing on home ice that same night. The buzz in the air at the Bell Centre had nothing to do with the Habs, it was all about the Maple Leafs, who have seen their head coach Ron Wilson fired on Friday night, and a new face behind the bench, that of the Anaheim Ducks ex-coach, Randy Carlyle.
Their distraction: After having gone through a similar experience on a Saturday morning before a home game, on December 17 2011, when then coach Jacques Martin was dismissed and Randy Cunneyworth appointed the title, the players grasp what kind of vibes might be going on in the visitors’ locker room but won’t let that bother their game.
“For us it’s the same. We’ve got to focus on our game,” started off Josh Gorges, who will be facing off the Leafs for a 26th time as a Hab. “We don’t know if they’re going to change their system, that’s out of our hands and we’re not going to focus on that at all. Our job is to make sure we’re playing the way we want to play and dictate our game and make them try to adapt to us.”
One thing the Habs know is that the Leafs will come out strong on Saturday night.
“A lot of player in that locker room are going to want to step up and prove to their new coach that they can play,” stated Max Pacioretty who has scored 15 of his 26 goals under Randy Cunneyworth’s coaching. “We’re going to expect a hungry team; they’re going to come out fast.”
“A lot of people talk a lot about the Leafs. For once it’s not us! It’s less of a distraction that way,” laughed off Montreal’s lead goal scorer.
Let’s get physical: After losing 5-0 to the Canadiens on their home turf, chances are that the Leafs are going to want to come out hungry for revenge.
“It’s going to be an intense game; it always is against the Leafs,” admitted Ryan White, who’s brawls have been the talk of the town, after dropping his gloves twice on Thursday’s game against the Wild. “They got a rugged team and they’re lead by a pretty strong guy over there. We figure they will be coming out hard tonight as always. We’ll try to match their intensity and get back into it.”
“I think that with all our big rivalries, be it Boston or Toronto, we always come out ready,” confessed David Desharnais who jumped the 50-point milestone Thursday night by scoring a goal and logging two assists. “We do need to be ready from the get-go because they surely will be.”
Been there, done that: Filling in for a fired coach can’t be the easiest job to do, especially on a game day, but for Randy Cunneyworth, it’s all said and done.
“I don’t think we need to be concerned about their locker room as much as we need to be concerned with our locker room,” said Montreal’s head coach who’ll be assuming the role for his 33rd consecutive game. “It’s unfortunate, but you move on. As a group you regroup and start fresh, to some degree.
“He’ll adjust quickly. How many changes will he really be able to make?” continued Cunneyworth when taking about Randy Carlyle. “Usually the first time in, you’re kind of putting a system together, you're making a couple of changes but you cannot make too many important ones in such a short time”
What’s most important to Cunneyworth is what will show on the ice.
“We know their line up and their personnel,” shared Cunneyworth. “This time of year, these games are huge. These two cities, these two teams have a long history. It’s an exciting night for sure.”
It all starts Saturday night at 7pm, when the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs take to the Montrea ice for their fifth meeting this season.
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