TORONTO -- Special teams are often the difference in hockey games, especially when a team doesn't get a chance to put them to use.
Despite seeing their league-leading penalty kill shine yet again on Saturday night, the Canadiens have been learning first-hand that the best way to shut down a team's power play is to stay out of the box in the first place. Enjoying just nine opportunities with the man advantage in the past five games, the Habs know what they need to do to start racking up the power play points.
"We have to do a better job of battling through and driving to the net," emphasized Habs captain Brian Gionta
, whose team had just two power plays combined on Friday and Saturday night. "That's how you draw penalties; through offensive chances and driving them back on their heels. We've got to get them kind of fishing and uncomfortable; that's when they take penalties."
Chief among those also in strong support of more Habs power plays is Michael Cammalleri, who still managed to notch a goal and an assist on the team's two-game road trip despite seeing just 2:10 of power play time in Detroit and Toronto.
"We can sit here and argue every call until we're blue in the face and I'm sure many people will be doing that, but that's just not constructive for us," explained Cammalleri, whose goal against the Leafs was the first of his career at the Air Canada Centre. "I'll plead the fifth there and just say we have to be a better hockey team.
"I think if you ask me in a game where we have five power plays I'd tell you that [we can draw more]," he added. "I'm not blaming it on anybody else or making excuses; I'm saying let's drive harder, let's try and create more and let's do things better to create those chances."
The 28-year-old sniper also has the prescription for doing exactly that.
"If you look at it, in the third period last night and probably the second half of the game tonight, we created a lot of puck action offensively and usually that's when calls are made," described Cammalleri. "That hasn't been the case for us the last couple of nights."
According to Habs defenseman and fellow power play aficionado Alexandre Picard, the Canadiens' recent parade to the penalty box has been impacting more than just the team's offensive opportunities.
"I don't know what's been going on the past couple of games, whether it's the refs or not, but we're not getting as many power plays as we want," he admitted. "Whether we wanted it or not, in the last two games certain guys have had to carry too heavy a load on the penalty kill and it's hard for everyone else to get into the flow. We know we have to be better."Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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