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Quarterly report

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – With 21 games behind them, the Habs look back on the first quarter of 2011-12.

The current campaign didn’t start the way anyone in the Canadiens’ dressing room had hoped. After spoiling the Jets’ historic opening night party to kick off the season, the Habs had a rough time in October, dropping six-straight games and setting off panic alarms across the city in the process. Now owning a 9-9-3 record and sitting just two points out of eighth in the Eastern Conference, the team knows they still have their work cut out for them in the remaining three-quarters of the year.

“We fell a little bit behind where we wanted to be because of our start to the season. You win one then you lose one; you can’t do that too often,” explained Mathieu Darche. “Every time we get to the .500 mark, we drop a little. It’s important to have a streak where you win three or four games in a row, especially with how we started. We’re not too far off the goal we set for ourselves at this time of the year. We’re three points back; we’ll have to play the way we know we have to in these next three games.”

With the six-game losing streak behind them, the Canadiens bounced back to post an impressive 8-4-1 record in the 13 games that followed, outscoring opponents 35-24 in the process. Despite coming off a loss to the divisional rival Bruins on Monday night, Brian Gionta was happy with his team’s progress to date.

“From where we started this year and where we are at this point in time, we’ve done a lot of good things recently,” admitted the Habs captain, who is third on the team with 13 points. “We have to build on that and keep going on the same track.

“For sure it would’ve been nice to win yesterday – winning a four-point game would’ve been a big help for us,” he added. “We wanted to move up in the standings and be in a playoff position. We played hard; we just didn’t get the result we wanted.”

Just before rattling off four-straight wins to close out October, Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin gave his troops a reminder of what it would take to clinch a playoff berth. That message was heard loud and clear, but Josh Gorges’ formula for hitting the 96-point benchmark his coach set out includes a slow and steady approach to earning points.

“We know where we sit and we know where we have to be,” underlined Gorges, who leads the team with a plus-10 differential so far. “You understand what it takes to get to the playoffs but you can’t look at the end of the season quite yet; you have to focus on the next game and focus on how important the next game is. You can’t focus on the 61 games left; you have to focus on the one ahead of you. We know what’s at stake and we know how we have to play.”

Losing three one-goal games in the past two weeks, the Canadiens have dropped a few close ones that could have gone either way. While he’s happy with his team’s play of late, Gorges also realizes that moral victories won’t get the Habs any closer to earning the coveted playoff-clinching “x” in the standings come April.

“It doesn’t matter what you think you deserve. What we deserve and where we’re at are two different things,” explained Gorges. “We have to face the facts and shoulda, woulda, coulda doesn’t count; you have to win games.

“There have been some games where I thought we deserved to win and we were close, but that doesn’t count,” he added. “We have to find ways to win those games and going forward we’ll have to win those games if we’re going to be where we want to be at the end of the year. We just have to be prepared to do what it takes.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

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