BROSSARD – BROSSARD – Their backs aren’t against the wall just yet, but everyone in the Habs’ dressing room knows what’s at stake on Thursday night.
After dropping both games in Philly on Sunday and Tuesday, the Canadiens headed home to look at some game tape and figure out what went wrong. A 45-minute meeting and optional practice later, and the guys were ready to roll up their sleeves and start rallying out of their 0-2 series deficit.
“I think we’re a confident group because we know we’ve done it before. Is it going to be easy? Not a chance,” stated Josh Gorges
, who played 21:13 on Tuesday night. “It’s going to take a commitment from everybody. The biggest adjustment is just having everybody committed to doing whatever it takes. We have to trust that the guy beside us is going to do his job and you’re going to go out and do yours.”
Shot-blocking and solid penalty killing has been the hallmark of the Habs’ Cinderella story throughout these playoffs. While the Flyers have gone 4-for-10 on the power play so far in the series, Gorges is looking to rekindle the PK spark that saw the Canadiens hold the league’s best power play to one goal on 33 opportunities in Washington in Round 1.
“It’s about doing the simple things, the small details like competing and battling and it’s all those little things that will add up. At the end of the day, that’s what makes this team successful,” described Gorges. “We can’t afford to go down three games to none so we have to be playing desperate hockey tomorrow night. We just have to be harder.
“They’re a team that has some skill, but their skill grinds. They’ll get dirty in there and we have to play that same way,” explained the 25-year-old blue-liner. “For any penalty kill to be successful, you have to out-work the power play and that’s what we have to get back to. There are X's and O's and systematic things we can clear up, but it comes down to out-working them, sacrificing our bodies, clearing pucks and wanting to kill the penalty more than they want to score.”
After seeing his team held scoreless through the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, head coach Jacques Martin will be looking to his veterans to lead the way on the ice in Game 3.
“The leaders have a part to play and I think that they’ll come through,” said Martin. “They have a certain role to play in a situation like this, as much as every player in the dressing room has a role to play. I think we understand the dilemma and we’re confident that we’ll overcome it.
“We’ve earned the right to be here; we know it’s not going to be easy,” continued the Habs’ bench boss. “We know it’s a difficult task, but I have great confidence in the character and the determination of our players. A lot of people after Game 4 against Washington weren’t too optimistic and this group proved everyone wrong. This is another time where we’re challenged and that’s when you see the best in people.
One of those leaders in particular, Brain Gionta, has been putting some of the valuable lessons he’s learned along the way to good use this postseason. Not only has Gionta provided some key offense with 12 points in 16 games, he’s also been more than willing to drive the net and grind it out in the corners to be successful.
“That’s where you draw on that experience of some of the older guys to set the example for some of the younger guys,” explained Gionta, who still has some playoff tricks up his sleeve from his Cup run with the Devils in 2003. “That’s part of playoff hockey. That’s why you try to build teams with guys who have experience, so that in tough situations like this you can keep plugging through.”
While some fans may have gone from planning the pending parade to booking early tee times after just two games, according to the assistant captain, the mindset inside the Habs’ dressing room is status quo heading into Game 3.
“Everyone here is still confident in the team we have. We still haven’t played our best, even if we did do a lot of things well in the last game,” admitted Gionta. “Now, it’s all about focus and making sure we’re at our best Thursday night.” Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.comSee also:Not so fast… Shut out in Game 2 The Numbers Game - May 18, 2010