KANATA - Following a seven-game preseason campaign, the Habs are finally ready to play some meaningful hockey.
Closing training camp with a 2-3-2 record after Saturday’s 5-4 loss in Ottawa, the Canadiens were nevertheless a confident bunch postgame, and with good reason.
“Final scores don’t matter much during training camp. What matters is the way you play, and we played a good game tonight. We controlled the pace of the game once again, and we didn’t give the Senators a lot of room to work with,” underlined head coach Michel Therrien, whose team previously made it all the way to the conference finals in 2014 after starting the year with a 3-3-1 preseason record. “It’s been three games now, beginning last Monday in Quebec City, that I feel like we’re ready for the regular season. I’ve been paying close attention to the way we’ve been playing, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far.”
Photo credit: Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC
Likewise, Wednesday’s season opener against the Maple Leafs in Toronto can’t come soon enough for Therrien’s troops themselves, who battled back from a pair of 1-0 and 3-1 deficits on Saturday night before Ottawa scored the eventual game-winner in the third.
“I think everyone is excited for the regular season. It was good to get this last game in and get one more feel for the team, but we’ve all moved on now and are looking forward to starting the real season,” admitted Tom Gilbert, who managed to end the night on a high note for the visitors, scoring an overtime “winner” of sorts during the mandatory 3-on-3 tune-up which followed regulation.
Another positive for the Habs since the start of training camp has been a power play unit which now appears to be clicking after a difficult 2014-15 campaign. Dale Weise and Alex Galchenyuk each capitalized on the man advantage to end the night with a 0.500 efficiency.
“I think we’re moving the puck better on the power play this year. We didn’t get off to a good start last year and maybe that built up. Teams played aggressively against us and we weren’t able to find answers,” suggested Brendan Gallagher, who tipped a shot by Nathan Beaulieu in the second to tie the game at three apiece. “We’re trying to get off to a good start with each opportunity we get this year, taking shots and creating opportunities. If we can each do our part and execute, then we have plenty of guys in here who can be effective on the power play.”
Indeed, the Habs have proven they have no shortage of offensive options during training camp, as 13 different players pitched in to score the team’s 16 total preseason goals, a fact which bodes well for one player in particular.
“We were looking back at our roster a couple of days ago, and we all realized just how good of a hockey club we’ve got in here. We’re very dynamic, we skate very well, and in today’s game that’s what you need. You don’t want to be relying on your goalie to carry you the whole season -- even if we do have the best goaltender in the world," continued Beaulieu, who added a trio of assists to his preseason tally after also lighting the lamp against the Sens in Montreal on Thursday. "[Carey] Price will always be in the back of our minds since we know he can bail us out of any situation, but we also know that we need to do our own parts too.”
Although held scoreless in Saturday’s preseason finale, newcomers Zack Kassian and Alexander Semin, as well as camp invitee Tomas Fleischmann each found the back of the net at one point or another during training camp -- another promising sign of things to come.“We’ve got four lines that can score, and I think we’re a little deeper this year with the couple of new guys we added over the summer. I think we’re going to score some goals this year,” concluded Weise, whose three preseason goals were good for tops among his teammates. “I don’t know how many 5-4 games we’re actually going to play in though, because teams will have to be making some pretty good plays to score that many on Price.”
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
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