MONTREAL – The Habs are playoff-bound.
When coaches say every game counts, they aren’t kidding. It took the Canadiens all 82 games to reach the playoffs. With more than their share of injuries and a truckload of new faces, count Jacques Martin among those not
about to hang his head about the odds his troops ultimately overcame in his first season behind the Habs’ bench.
“It doesn’t matter where you finish, it’s all about getting there. It really is a fresh season with new objectives, new goals and new strategies,” outlined Martin. “Every team starts the playoffs with the same number of wins. We worked 82 games to get to this new season.”
“Worked” is putting it mildly. A Stanley Cup winner with the Devils in 2003, Brian Gionta
doesn’t see having to roll up his sleeves and beat the odds as a bad thing.
“This season wasn’t easy; we’ve had to work for everything we’ve gotten this year and this last point we needed wasn’t any different,” understated Gionta. “We fought through injuries to a lot of key players and we never let that stop us.”
Among those players bitten by the injury bug this season, Gionta battled back from a broken foot that cost him 21 games to still lead the Habs with 28 goals in only 61 games
“This entire season has been a real journey for us,” admitted Gionta. “It took us some time to find our identity but we’re in the playoffs and that’s all that really matters. Everything gets thrown out the window and starts over in the postseason.”
The only member of the team to have savored the Habs’ huge upset playoff wins over the Bruins in both 2002 and 2004, as a No. 8 and No. 7 seed respectively, Andrei Markov
knows better than anyone in the Montreal dressing room that anything is possible.
“All we have to do is prepare,” said Markov, looking like a guy with something up his postseason sleeve. “Nobody knows what will happen in the playoffs. We just have to play our game. We have to play hard every shift and we have to win the battles. We have a good team and just we have to keep moving forward.”Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.comSee alsoWe're in!Playoffs raceThe Numbers game