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The awakening

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Things aren’t coming quite as easily for the Habs as they were in the first few weeks of the season, but that’s giving the team a chance to learn some lessons the hard way.



After kicking off the campaign with a 7-1 record, including a four-game win streak on home ice, things seemed to be heading in the right direction for the 2014-15 Canadiens in October. That early-season magic is something the team will be searching for in Buffalo on Wednesday after dropping a second-straight game in regulation on Tuesday night – a decisive 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.

“As a defenseman, I have to say that being in front of the net today, they didn’t make it easy,” admitted P.K. Subban, who played a game-high 25:05 against the ‘Hawks. “They were there every time. Maybe we can take a page out of their book and realize we have to get in front of their goaltender and make it tough. Every time I can remember being on the ice, there was a guy in front of the net. Did they get some lucky bounces in front of the net? Yeah they did, but you have to be there to get those bounces. One goes off a skate, one kind of hits a shoulder and goes in, but that’s playoff hockey they’re playing out there. That’s what good teams do. Maybe we can take a page from them and execute that tomorrow.”

Having now been outscored 14-4 in the past three games, the Habs have struggled to hit their stride on specialty teams of late,  going 0-for-17 with the man advantage in the past six games and sitting 28th in the league overall with an 8.1% power play efficiency. That’s something Michel Therrien knows won’t be an easy fix, but the solution comes down to bringing things back to basics.

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“We’re facing adversity, there’s no doubt about that. The only thing we can focus on is putting three periods together. We didn’t do that tonight. We only played half the game,” said Therrien, who would have preferred a more festive end to his 51st birthday celebration behind the Habs’ bench on Tuesday night. “The power play killed us tonight. Instead of giving us momentum, it hurt us by taking away the momentum, especially in the second period. We’re having trouble getting on the right track because our transition game isn’t there.

“It’s like a relay race – if you don’t pass the baton into your teammate’s hand, you aren’t going to win the race,” he continued. “That’s what’s happening right now. We’re not entering the neutral zone with speed and we aren’t controlling the puck when we do have that speed.” 

The good news for Canadiens fans is that despite the past few nights, the team is still sitting third in the conference and they’ve still only lost four games in regulation time all season. Not exactly cause for panic among the guys in the dressing room.
     
“We have to relax and stop gripping the sticks so tight,” prescribed Subban. “Just do what’s brought us success in the past. That’s moving the puck, using each other and being confident with it. Right now we’re thinking a little too much. We just have to play.

“I feel good because I know we can play a lot better than that. All we have to do is come and play a full 60 minutes. We haven’t done that,” added the newly-minted alternate captain, whose team has yet to head into the first intermission with a lead through 13 games this year. “It’s not good enough. We have a good opportunity tomorrow to just turn around and play another game. I think that’s a good thing for our hockey club.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com

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