SUNRISE – The Habs wrap their five-game road trip in style, downing the Panthers and holding strong at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
It may be true that there’s no place like home, but the Habs have been making themselves pretty comfortable almost every place they’ve visited this season. With a sequence of games that began with a tilt at home with the Penguins and ended eight days later after stops in Boston, Long Island, Carolina, Tampa and Sunrise with nine of 12 points in the Canadiens’ bank, the Habs are clearly going about their business with the gas pedal pressed firmly to the floor.
“This was an exceptional trip for the team. I told the players today that even before tonight’s game this was already a good road trip for us, but this game was the chance for us to make it exceptional,” said head coach Michel Therrien, who in turn, received an exceptional response, with five goals and 60 minutes of solid play after a comeback performance in Tampa the night before. “I was very happy with the way we dictated the match tonight and played our game at our rhythm right until the very end.”
With a tough schedule on tap since the beginning of March and the conference’s best teams nipping at their heels, the Habs head home riding a three game winning-streak, having failed to collect at least a point in only a single one of their last fifteen games.
“We were well aware that this was a part of our calendar that could be difficult with the long trip and having to play six games in nine nights against good teams,” added Therrien. “This team has obviously developed some very good character. We’re a group that plays with a lot of responsibility and I really like what I’m seeing from our guys.”
Part of the Canadiens dominance on the road can undeniably be chalked up to the stellar performance of Tomas Plekanec’s line, who along with captain Brian Gionta and the once-and-again Hab, Michael Ryder. The trio exploded for 19 combined points since touching down in Boston last Sunday.
“This was a week that could potentially have really hurt us in the standings if we weren’t ready for it,” admitted Gionta, after logging another goal and an assist in Sunrise. “When you have a long trip like this, you want to make sure it’s a successful one. We’re extremely happy with the result.”
Another result the Habs are bound to be happy with is reintroduction of Michael Ryder into the Canadiens fold. After taking a few games to acclimatize himself to his new linemates, Ryder has been on a tear for the Habs, racking up nine points since hitting the road, including two goals and an assist on Sunday night.
“It took me a little while to get adjusted. It definitely feels like I’ve been on the road for a little while,” mentioned Ryder, who nabbed the game’s first star for a second consecutive night and who clearly made the most of the trip in more ways than one. “When I was with Dallas we were traveling, I came back for one game in Montreal, and then we were traveling again. The good thing is that it gave me the chance to get to know the guys a lot better and to start to feel comfortable. I’m getting used to the system now and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable on the ice.”
With the Canadiens next game scheduled for Wednesday against Ottawa, the Newfoundland native will look to pick up right where he left off, but only of course, after the equally important job of find a new place and making Montreal his home once again.
“Hopefully we can keep this going when we get back,” added Ryder. “This trip was good for the team and I think we did a lot of good things. Now that we’re heading home it’s important to make sure we keep playing the same way.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com
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The Numbers Game - March 10, 2013