MONTREAL - Nine games into the 2015-2016 season, and the Canadiens have yet to taste the bitterness of defeat.
Though the Canadiens currently sport an unblemished record through the first leg of the regular season, the team is clear they have no intention of becoming complacent. Every member of the team, from the head coach to the players in the dressing room, expects the most out of each other.
“It was a very difficult game. Tonight we were not the best team on the ice. Our special teams helped us win. That and the prowess of Carey Price,” said coach Michel Therrien, who has commanded his team to a record start, while preaching a simple message of consistency and stability. “I felt that the Leafs had a lot of energy, unlike us. Mentally we were not sharp. We made mistakes with the puck and without the puck, and that is not usually the case. The good news is that we found a way to win.”
Although the Canadiens' hot start has undoubtedly placed a target on their backs, the Habs bench boss is excited at the prospect of a heightened level of competition.
“We have to be aware of something: From now on, we are going to see the best from every hockey team. We need to realize that. They’re looking to play against us. That’s a huge challenge mentally to be at the top at this time of the year,” concluded Therrien, who was very complimentary of his power play and penalty kill units, which combined to score three of the Habs five goals Saturday night. “The story of the game is simple. Our special teams units were good and Carey Price was outstanding.”
Despite a remarkable 49-save performance, reigning Hart Memorial Trophy winner, Carey Price, was quick to credit his teammates while characteristically deflecting the spotlight away from himself.
“They were a bit fresher. That’s a good hockey team that put pressure on us. They threw everything at the net. Our guys responded pretty well in the third period when I sat back a little bit. But again, we played yesterday. We’re not going to outplay every team every night. But we found a way to win,” emphasized Price, who earned his seventh win in a row, a feat he accomplished twice before in 2007-2008 and 2013-2014. “A lot of things have gone right. Guys are doing good things. We’re a pretty solid hockey team right now.”
Toronto native P.K Subban opened the scoring with his first goal of the season, beating Jonathan Bernier on the power play with a heavy slap-shot from the point. The Habs' revitalized power-play was firing on all cylinders against the Maple Leafs, converting two goals on four opportunities with the man advantage.
Nonetheless, Saturday’s first star of the game attributed this victory to his goaltender.
“They executed well, but we have Carey Price in net who gives us an opportunity to win every game, noted Subban, who always comes to the rink ready to play against his hometown Maple Leafs. “Tonight you have to give them credit, they came out hard. They knew that we were maybe going to be tired tonight so they pushed the pace. They did exactly what any team on the road would like to do.”
Though the Canadiens' record start to the 2015-2016 season is the talk of the NHL, the players themselves are focused solely on the challenges that lie ahead.
“Our goal is not to break any record. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup so I think we’re going to save the champagne that everybody expects us to break out. Our focus is to try to make the playoffs and then move on from there. I know that as a team we’re not satisfied with where we’re at right now," noted Subban, who continues to build off a career year last season that saw him reach the 60-point plateau for the first time.
“Personally I think that all we’ve accomplished so far is a good start. It’s really all it is. There’s still a lot of hockey left to be played. Everybody will talk about different things in the next few days, but for us we’re just focused on the next game.”
Only time will tell when the Canadiens' record streak to start the season will play its final note, but as long as the Habs remain undefeated, the beat goes on.
- Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com
Game Highlights: Canadiens vs Maple Leafs
The Numbers Game: October 24, 2015
Playing with pride
Brick by brick