BROSSARD – After a total team effort yielded an all-important win over the Hurricanes, a date with the Bruins will test the Canadiens’ mettle come Thursday night at TD Garden in Boston.
Head coach Claude Julien’s troops, who currently lead the Atlantic division and rank second in the Eastern conference, are riding a four-game winning streak and have outscored their opponents 18-6 over their last three games, dismantling the likes of the Flyers, Islanders and Panthers during that span.
While those numbers are somewhat intimidating, there was no sense of apprehension about the upcoming tilt inside the Canadiens’ locker room when Michel Therrien’s group convened at the Bell Sports Complex before departing for Beantown. A 3-0 whitewash of Carolina on Tuesday night that snapped a four-game losing streak made certain of that.
“It was good to get the win against the Hurricanes. We wanted a win before heading out to Boston. We’re feeling a little bit more confident now to play a solid game. We always tend to play well at TD Garden,” offered David Desharnais, referencing the Habs’ 21-13-4 record in Boston since 2000. “There’s a good rivalry between us. Earning that win before flying out was perfect.”
That’s something the Habs bench boss emphasized repeatedly on Wednesday afternoon, knowing full well that heading into Bruins territory feeling down on themselves was a luxury his players couldn’t afford. In short, the victory over Carolina provided some much-needed breathing room heading into an often hostile and inhospitable environment.
“Of course we changed the momentum with that win. Momentum can change quickly. You want to keep the ball rolling. You want to make sure that you’re playing the same way, with the same desperation and compete hard. That’s what we did last night,” underlined Therrien, citing the importance of his team regaining a measure of consistency that has eluded them in recent weeks.
“Again this morning, I thought the players had a lot of jump, so we want to bring that spirit for Thursday night’s game,” added Therrien, whose club will battle a Bruins squad that boasts a 20-5-2 record on home ice and currently sits 10 points clear of the Habs. “Every time we play the Bruins, it’s always fun, especially with the rivalry over the years. It should be fun.”
Fun, yes, and by all accounts a fairly physical contest, too. While the Bruins of today aren’t necessarily the big, bad Bruins of old, they still pack some serious punch. Fortunately, so do the Canadiens, who give up on average just one inch in height and only three pounds to their Original Six adversaries. Both squads also rank among the 10 most penalized teams in the league and are among the top-5 in total fighting majors during the 2013-14 campaign.
That being said, Therrien is adamant the game against Boston will be an interesting affair to say the least, one that his side is geared up for.
“We’ve got a physical presence. Douglas Murray on defense. He makes his presence felt. George Parros, too. We’ve got some guys with size and speed. Every time we face the Bruins, both teams are ready to play, and I know that my team is going to be ready to play,” noted Therrien. “Most of the time, they’re exciting games to be a part of. We’re expecting the same thing come Thursday night.”
While handing the Bruins a home loss has been a tall order for any contingent thus far this season, the Habs fully intend on being the next team to achieve that feat. The manner in which the bleu-blanc-rouge plan on picking up their second consecutive victory, however, is anything but complicated.
“We’ve got to focus on playing our game,” mentioned Therrien. “We know that there’s a rivalry with the Bruins. We’re in a part of the schedule where every game is crucial. We have to take it one game at a time, live in the moment, and make sure that we’re ready.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Words From The Room - Jan. 29