BROSSARD – Like the Montreal weather, things are beginning to heat up for the Habs as playoff fever takes over the city.
As far as playoff atmosphere goes, any NHL player would be hard-pressed to find a more raucous building to play in than the Bell Centre in spring. With a Cup-hungry fan-base capable of reaching ear-shattering decibel levels, packing the arena to cheer on every second of their team’s exploits, it’s little wonder the word most commonly used to describe the city’s vibe come playoff time is: electric.
With 35 games of NHL postseason experience as a Hab under his belt, veteran rearguard Josh Gorges should be the perfect candidate to help acclimate his defensive partner, Raphael Diaz, to his first taste of high-voltage Montreal playoff hockey.
“It’s another level. There are different stages of the season when the intensity picks up, but when you make it into the playoffs it’s a whole other story,” expressed Gorges, poised to take part in his first playoff game since 2009-10 after missing the 2010-11 postseason while recovering from knee-surgery. “But when you talk about a guy like Raph, he’s played in the Olympics, he’s played in the World Championships he’s played in a lot of big games and big situations, so he’s aware of what’s at stake and how to deal with the spotlight.
“At the same time, he’s not 21 either,” he continued. “He’s been around for a few years; played pro for a while. He still never ceases to amaze us with his ability to step in and be a difference-maker and we’re going to be expecting a lot from him this time of year as well.”
While being told about something is clearly a lot different from experiencing it firsthand, Diaz is already champing at the bit for the chance to live the home-ice atmosphere in May during his second season with the club.
“I’m getting really excited. I’ve heard that the Bell Centre is going to get even louder than it is during the regular season. I can’t wait to play,” shared Diaz, whose eight trips to the Swiss Elite League’s postseason will likely at least help prepare him for what to expect on the ice if not from the stands.
“I think the game is going to get rougher and more intense. It’s the Stanley Cup and everyone wants to win it,” he added. “There are going to be very hard games, but I’m ready to play them. I’ll be playing with Gorges and he has a lot of experience in the playoffs so I’m sure that will help me.”
In his third stint with the Canadiens, few members of team’s current roster bring more knowledge to the table on what a Habs postseason can entail better than Francis Bouillon. The 13-year NHL veteran is primed for his fifth trip to the playoffs with the first NHL team he ever played for.
“Nothing can beat the atmosphere at the Bell Centre. I’ve taken part in the playoffs as a member of the Nashville Predators and it’s great, but the ambiance is still totally different,” admitted Bouillon, who will be playing in his 42nd NHL postseason contest when the puck drops at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday night, and should prove an excellent asset for his rookie defensive partner, Jarred Tinordi. “Here, whenever you walk out into the streets you see cars with flags on them everywhere you go, and that pretty much tells you what you need to know. The crowds here are incredibly loud – it’s unbelievable. Everyone’s into it and that really pushes us to go to our limits.
“I really like the team that we have now. I think we’re very balanced,” he added.” We have one of the best goaltenders in the league, and you never know what can happen, but I’ve believed in this team since the beginning and I’m going to continue to believe. We’re ready for the playoffs to start.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
Words from the room: April 30, 2013
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