MONTREAL -- Following Tuesday’s loss to Columbus, the Canadiens head into the All-Star break hoping to recharge for the season’s final stretch.
Aside from P.K. Subban, who will represent Montreal during All-Star Weekend in Nashville, the Canadiens now have a week off before hitting the ice again on February 2 against the Flyers in Philadelphia.
If a little R&R is just what the doctor ordered for the Habs to get back to their winning ways, then the team’s longest lay off of the season is coming at just the right time.
“It’s important to take a break, especially when you’re going through a tough time like we are,” stressed head coach Michel Therrien. “We just need to be conscious that there’s going to be a lot of work to do once we get back.”
That shouldn’t be a problem for Therrien’s troops, who weren’t exactly having visions of palm trees during postgame on Tuesday.
“I wish we played tomorrow [so we could get out of this right now],” admitted Brendan Gallagher, who registered a pair of shots over 18:48 of ice time against Columbus. “But we need to take a little bit of time off, and then come back, and collectively find a way to get points in that first game back.”
“It’s going to be hard not to think about it,” agreed Tomas Plekanec. “Hockey is our lives and we live it 24-7, but we’ll come back with fresh minds, and that starts now.”
Indeed, two losses in two nights can sting, but the Habs now have five full days to shake them off and focus on the future.
“This one will be tough to swallow, but we’ve got a couple of days here to enjoy the break and then come back ready to play,” insisted Subban.
BATTLING THE INJURY BUG
Having already lost more man games to injury through 50 games this year (102) versus the entire 2014-15 season (88), the Canadiens received more bad news on Tuesday, when it was announced that Daniel Carr would be out for three months with a right knee injury.
Max Pacioretty also gave Habs fans already missing Carey Price a scare when he left the game in the second period and did not return after taking a puck to the face.
Therrien later mentioned during his postgame press conference that the Canadiens captain would be fine -- not that his absence would have been used as an excuse.
“Whether we have him or not, we have to find ways to win without him. Patch is a very important part of our team -- that goes without saying. He’s the leader of this hockey club. He draws a lot of attention from the opposition, but if we don’t have him, we have to move on without him,” continued Gallagher. “Nobody feels sorry for us right now, so we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We can’t well up or sit around. This is the time to stand up and push back. I go to work every single day with that attitude. We cannot take this anymore. This has to be the end of this. Nobody likes this feeling right now. We all hate the results that we’re getting, and it’s up to us to change them.”
DON’T STOP BELIEVING
Most importantly, despite the team’s recent record and injuries, the Habs still believe they are a team that can do damage down the stretch.
“Can we turn it around? Of course we can. I don’t think there’s any question about that,” underlined Subban. “Every game we’re playing well, but we have these mental lapses that cost us -- today it was me. I’ve got to be better than that. I can’t give up those kinds of scoring chances, not me.”
Although the Canadiens’ star defenseman shouldered the blame, his teammates didn’t see it that way.
“We don’t point fingers at each other,” added Plekanec. “We’re thick as a group and we’ll get out of this together.”
And a group effort will be necessary for a Habs team which is treading uncharted waters at the moment.
“Maybe it would have helped if any of us had been through this before, but it’s new to all of us,” concluded Gallagher, who has participated in the postseason every year since making his Canadiens debut in 2012-13. “We haven’t found the answer yet, but that doesn’t mean we won’t find it. Like I said, the guys here still believe and care.”
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
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