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Stabilizing force

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Carey Price wasn't the only Hab who carved out a spot among the team’s all-time greats this season.

With 26 goals and 60 points, Tomas Plekanec posted his best offensive season since 2009-10 this year, including the seventh 20-plus goal campaign of his career. Having now hit the milestone in 70 percent of his 10 full NHL seasons, narrowly missing out on an eighth with a 14-goal haul in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, the 32-year-old center inched closer to the top of the team’s all-time leaderboard for the most seasons with 20 or more goals in a career in 2014-15.

Only 10 players in Canadiens history have lit the lamp more consistently than Plekanec over the years – a list that includes Maurice Richard (14), Jean Beliveau (13), Guy Lafleur (13), Bernard Geoffrion (12), Yvan Cournoyer (12), Jacques Lemaire (12), Henri Richard (9), Steve Shutt (9), Newsy Lalonde (8), and Mats Naslund (8).

When it comes to his steady sniping, Plekanec insists there’s no magic formula or secret to his longstanding success.

“I’m just trying to do my job. Whatever I’m asked to do, I try to do it and at the same time I try to be a threat offensively,” explained Plekanec, who joined the organization as a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2002-03. “So far, it’s been working well over the years. Early in my career, I would have never dreamed about being part of the Canadiens for that long and being part of the same team for my entire career and being on that list, but my goal isn’t accomplishing 20-goal seasons; my goal is to win the Cup.”

Given his decade-long track record of putting pucks in the net, Plekanec is unsurprisingly uninterested in making major tweaks to his offseason training routine – although this summer, he has made at least one significant change.

“I’m doing the same kind of training, maybe changing a few little things here and there, but the biggest difference is I’m staying in Montreal for the summer. I’m training with [Canadiens strength and conditioning coach] Pierre Allard at our practice facility in Brossard, which is perfect,” shared the Kladno, Czech Republic native, who is one point shy of hitting 500 in his NHL career. “Being in Brossard, I have all the things I need. When I work out in Czech, the setup is different and you have to adjust, so this was the best thing for me. Then I’ll be going back home in August to skate with my hometown team, which for me is the best way to prepare in terms of on-ice workouts.”

One of the league’s leading two-way players for the past few seasons, Plekanec led the Canadiens in faceoff wins for a seventh year in a row in 2014-15, also pacing all Habs forwards in ice time for a fourth-straight season. But when asked to reflect on one of the most productive years of his career at both ends of the ice, Plekanec instead focused on his disappointment about how the season came to a close.

“For me, it’s about a Cup. I’m not a big fan of saying things like ‘playoff team’ or ‘regular season team’. You can be a great team in the playoffs, but you have to get there first. We’ve been pretty good at that. We haven’t missed too many playoffs in the time I’ve been here,” mentioned the veteran pivot, who has 81 career NHL postseason games under his belt. “But I’m definitely looking to get to the Cup Finals to push for that ultimate goal. It’s really hard and you need to have everything come together at the right time and we didn’t have that this year.”

Still a few seasons shy of tying Gordie Howe’s NHL-record 22 seasons of 20-plus goals, Plekanec enters the final year of his current six-year contract poised to earn himself a spot among the Top 20 goal scorers in franchise history. Having spent the last half-dozen seasons happily avoiding the subject, his future will likely once again become a point of discussion when camp kicks off in September. While he’s not ready to divulge his five-year plan just yet, Plekanec isn’t shy about how comfortable he is in the only NHL home he’s ever known.

“I love Montreal. I’ve always said Montreal is my second home. I’m settled here, I’m happy here and I like a lot of things about the city,” he shared. “But it’s not up to me at this point, so I’ll just focus on playing and doing whatever I can to help the team win and then we’ll see what will happen.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

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