SUNRISE – The Montreal Canadiens know that when it comes to winning games, the journey can be as important as the destination.
One day after handing the Thrashers a 3-1 loss in Atlanta, Canadiens coach Jacques Martin was feverishly putting his trusty whiteboard marker to good use in Florida. The Habs bench boss may have been pleased with the two points his team picked up on Tuesday night, but he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the way they earned them.
“I think we have to work harder and increase our level of compete from last night, but we had a good, intense practice today and we’ll be good to go tomorrow night,” offered Martin, who also took time to field questions and comments from some of the veterans during his on-ice chalk talk. “It’s important for everyone to be on the same page and to have everyone understand the way we want to play.
“I’m also a big believer that it’s important to get feedback from the players,” added the 15-year NHL head coach. “Usually it’s a case of players having questions to clarify some things for them just to be sure they know what we’re expecting of them. We want to make sure we’re prepared for any situation that could present itself in a game.”
Not surprisingly, Martin and his captain were already on the same page after practice. So what exactly was the message being relayed between the players and the coaching staff on Wednesday morning?
“That’s top secret,” joked Brian Gionta
, who notched his 23rd goal of the campaign against the Thrashers. “No, it was mostly just working on our play in the neutral zone and talking about how we want to approach it. We were too passive last night. We backed up a little bit too much and when teams come with speed they can make plays if you’re back on your heels.”
Having won his first Stanley Cup in Anaheim in 2007, Travis Moen
was another vet getting in on the strategy discussion during practice. The gritty winger knows from experience that especially when a team has deadline additions – and re-additions – like Brent Sopel and Paul Mara to bring up to speed, communication is key.
“It’s huge right now that everyone has to be on the same page. We’re just trying to work out some kinks and make sure we’re all going in the same direction,” explained the 28-year-old forward. “I think the coaches like hearing a little bit of feedback about what we’re thinking and it’s good to be able to talk about things out there and learn from each other.”
Losing can often provide the most important lessons to a team, but the Habs are focused on learning even from their wins.
“Well we won and we got two points last night, but it wasn’t exactly pretty,” admitted Moen. “Carey [Price] definitely bailed us out a few times and we can’t play like that if we expect to win a lot of games.
“The message was just that we can’t give up that many chances. Pricey stood on his head for us more than we wanted him to have to,” he added. “It’s getting down to crunch time and every point is important so we know we have to play like we did in Vancouver if we want to be successful.” Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Comments from practice: Gill
, MoenCanadiens 3, Thrashers 1 Price Earns Molson Cup