BROSSARD - It's safe to say Claude Julien's troops are primed to get their first-round playoff series with the New York Rangers going on Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.
After a well-deserved day off, Julien ran his players through an extended workout on Monday morning on the South Shore in preparation for the highly-anticipated matchup that will mark the first postseason meeting between the two Original Six franchises since the Eastern Conference Finals back in 2014.
"It's an exciting time of the year in Montreal. There's a different buzz, a different vibe to the city. I don't think you can really feel that elsewhere," said captain Max Pacioretty, who will begin his fourth playoff run with the Canadiens in just a few short days. "We have to be able to use that to our advantage. We have home ice, so we want to be able to get our fans into the series early, get our fans fired up and supportive like they always are, and just have fun with it."
Video: Max Pacioretty on the Rangers
The best way to do that, obviously, would be to get off to a strong start against the Blueshirts come Game 1, which certainly won't be a walk in the park. After all, New York won 48 games during the regular season and amassed 102 points along the way, one point less than Montreal. They didn't beat the Canadiens en route to claiming the top wild card, though, falling three straight times to their opening-round opponents.
Is that a real source of confidence for Julien's group? Not especially, according to Shea Weber, who took part in the on-ice session alongside the rest of his teammates after missing the last four regular-season games with a lower-body injury.
"That doesn't mean anything. I think once the playoffs start, it's been proven in the past that an eighth seed can win. It doesn't really matter where you finish or what your record was against a team," said Weber, who will be making his playoff debut for the CH. "A lot goes into winning the Cup and obviously we've got to start with the series against the Rangers and try and build our way up against them."
Video: Shea Weber on his first playoffs in Montreal
Getting contributions from players up and down the roster will undoubtedly go a long way towards helping the Canadiens in their quest to send the Rangers packing instead of the other way around.
"I'd say our depth [has been an important asset]. Regardless of who we put in our lineup, we always get positive results. We know that in the playoffs, things can get difficult. All kinds of things can happen when you play every second night. There's intensity. You need depth, so I'm encouraged by the fact that we have good depth with this group," said Julien, before expanding upon the likes of trade deadline acquisitions Dwight King, Steve Ott and Andreas Martinsen. "We know that playoffs are all about grinding. You need big players. We still have speed and talent, but even if those players aren't that big, we need to surround them with bigger guys. We have good balance right now."
It doesn't hurt to have a goaltender in Carey Price, either, especially when you're going head-to-head with the fourth-highest scoring squad all year.
"He's a goalie who can give us a chance to win every night. When you have a goalie of that calibre, your team already has confidence. But, you have to take advantage of it. If you don't score at the other end of the rink, even if he stops everything, it doesn't mean anything," explained Julien. "If we're going to win, we're going to do it as a team. We're lucky to have a goalie of Price's quality. It's a big asset for the team entering the playoffs, but now we have to do the work in front of him."
Video: Claude Julien's press conference
Having already gone the distance with the Chicago Blackhawks and hoisted hockey's top prize on two occasions before joining the Canadiens, Andrew Shaw knows exactly what that means.
"Now, we're in the playoffs. We have a goal. We want to win the Stanley Cup. We've got to go out there and compete, work hard. It makes it fun when there's a light at the end of the tunnel. All the hard work you're putting out there is towards something," said Shaw, who boasts 16 goals and 35 points in 67 career playoff games. "We're going to have to go out there and earn every win we get."