BROSSARD – Not only has the city of Montreal been galvenized by their team’s recent success, but the Habs’ players, too, are feeling the buzz.
With the Habs sweeping a playoff rival for the first time in 20 years, several established veterans on the team suddenly found themselves with a lot of free time on their hands. Two days off earlier in the week gave them plenty of time to engage in rest and relaxation, but when the end of the week rolled around, everyone was chomping at the bits to get back on the ice and start their preparation for the second round of the postseason.
“Of course, practicing hard isn’t quite the same as being in a game, but for us it was important to get on the ice and do things right while we’re there,” indicated P.K. Subban. “Our practices are usually short so we want to be focused while we’re out there. It’s not as tough physically as a training camp, but it’s similar in the sense that you have to be patient and build things up gradually.”
“It’s not so much like training camp, but it is definitely stranger than most playoffs we’ve been through,” admitted assistant captain Josh Gorges, “I think it’s a good opportunity for us to get a couple of days off; to get away from the rink. Today, there was really good energy out there. The guys were flying. You get so amped up this time of year to compete and to get out there every day, but it’s a good thing for us to get the additional rest.”
During his downtime, Gorges did the same thing as many of his fan and caught up on the NHL playoffs on television.
“I’m still a hockey fan. I love this game. It’s such an exciting time. Playoff hockey is fast; it’s intense. As a sports fan it’s great,” said the 29 year-old blueliner, who has played 44 playoff games across five postseasons for the Canadiens. Though Gorges had contributed in three seven-game series wins in that span, he had never seen his team defeat a playoff opponent with such efficiency until the four-game series win against Tampa Bay was consummated this Tuesday.
Gorges’ longtime teammate and friend Carey Price also spent a good part of his evenings this week in front of the TV.
“This is probably the only time in the year where I sit down and watch hockey. The players are competing so hard and the pace is fast. Like everyone else, I’m a hockey fan too, and the playoffs are the best time to watch,” said Price, who has been kept busy by his coaching staff with 65 combined starts this year. The Olympic gold medalist is coming off his first playoff series win since his rookie season of 2007-08 and will be looking to add to his 13 postseason victories against either Boston or Detroit next week.
Though the pressure of expectations will be weighing on the Canadiens’ starting netminder, another member of the team is taking it upon himself to deliver results to the Habs’ many followers.
“Even at practice today, there were lots of fans watching us. Everyone’s got that playoff fever. We love making people smile. We want to win for this city, for Canada, for everybody in Quebec. It’s a big responsibility but we enjoy feeding off the energy of our fans,” offered Brandon Prust, who was part of a long spring campaign with the New York Rangers in 2011-12. That year, his team won its first two rounds in seven hard-fought games before succumbing to the eventual Cup finalists New Jersey Devils in six. On that occasion, Prust notched two points and 31 penalty minutes in a supporting role, playing under 14 minutes a game for the Blueshirts. Against Tampa Bay this spring, he has averaged 16:31 of the toughest assignments for the Canadiens, dueling at even strength and shorthanded against the likes of Victor Hedman, Ryan Callahan and Steven Stamkos.Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.