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The Notebook: December 20

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
NASHVILLE – In today’s notebook, the Habs discuss testing the team’s leadership, opening the floodgates, and grooming young goalies.

LEADING THE CHARGE: When Max Pacioretty was named the 29th captain in Canadiens history on September 18, it marked a new era not just for the storied franchise, but also for the 27-year-old power forward himself. Pacioretty has already done the “C” proud in his young tenure, rallying back earlier than anticipated from an offseason injury to join his teammates in time for opening night, before helping the Habs get off to the team’s best start in franchise history. Currently sitting on the opposite end of that spectrum, having lost seven of the last eight games and having gone 2-7-1 in the last 10, the Canadiens are looking to rediscover some of the early-season magic that saw them roll through October with a 9-0-0 record to open the campaign. While it’s easy to lead when things are going well, Pacioretty knows that leadership becomes even more important when the goals and wins become a little harder to come by.

“I feel like it’s all on my shoulders. I should take responsibility when things aren’t going well. I have to be better. I have to help out my team by producing and I haven’t done that as of late,” stressed Pacioretty, who leads the team with 14 goals in 34 games, but has lit the lamp just twice in the last 10. “When I’m going and playing my best, obviously it makes the team a lot better. That hasn’t been the case lately. Last night was frustrating because it wasn’t a case of bounces or not burying our chances; the chances weren’t there. We got outplayed and had a lot of mental lapses and that’s what I was most frustrated about. But today is a new day. To get out of this, we have to be positive, but at the same time you have to look in the mirror and know what you have to be better at and put in the work. Setting the example is the most important.

“It’s been the hardest test I’ve had to deal with, not just this year, but in the last two years as a part of the leadership group,” added the eight-year NHL veteran and three-time 30-plus goal scorer. “I genuinely feel like going through these tough times has made me better and made me learn a lot. I’ve already learned a lot from this tough time, but hopefully in the long run it can make me a better leader and a better teammate and a better player.”

SNOWBALL EFFECT: Part of the Canadiens’ struggles to pile up wins over the last 10 games can be attributed to the team’s difficulty in finding the back of the net. Having been outscored by a 29-17 margin during the recent rough patch, the Habs are scoring at a much slower clip than the one that led them to the top of the league standings early in the season. One of the Canadiens’ early season snipers, Dale Weise seemed to have the Midas touch at the beginning of the year, scoring nine goals in the first 20 games of 2015-16. He knows better than anyone that the secret to success can be finding a little bit of confidence and building on it, one goal and one game at a time.

“The way to get some traction is to just start scoring goals and guys start feeling good about themselves. The only way you can get confidence in scoring goals is by doing it. It’s plain and simple,” explained Weise, who matched his career-high this year by scoring his 10th goal of the season on December 15, just 32 games into the campaign. “Once you start scoring, you feel like you can score every time you shoot the puck. You start shooting more and things start going in for you. We just have to stay with it. It’s going to be a breakthrough here where one game we put in four or five goals and then we can get some traction off that. We have to stay patient, stay with it, and once they start going in, the confidence starts to come and it snowballs from there.”

GOALIE GROOMING: The padded tandem currently working under the tutelage of Stephane Waite in the absence of Carey Price counts a combined 53 games of NHL experience under their goalie gear. With the four-time All-Star not slated to return to action for a few more weeks, Michel Therrien reiterated his confidence in his young puck stoppers, who have helped the Habs maintain their second place position in the Eastern Conference standings, despite having been without the services of the reigning Hart, Ted Lindsay, Jennings, and Vezina Trophy winner since late November.

Therrien also offered a reminder that the Mike Condon who has lost his last five games is the same one who lost just once in regulation time in his first eight NHL starts, picking up six wins and two overtime losses in that span.

“We put him in a difficult position. Mike Condon has played half a season in the AHL. He was never drafted,” mentioned Therrien of the 25-year-old Princeton University grad. “He’s progressed well and he was doing well alongside Carey Price. He was playing some great hockey for us when he would come in every 10 days. Now, he’s replacing Carey Price. It’s the same thing for Dustin Tokarski. We’re conscious of that.

“We have two goaltenders who barely have 50 games of NHL experience between them. We’re very aware of that and we know we have to work even harder,” continued the Habs bench boss. “There have been teams in the past who have lost their goaltender and then didn’t make the playoffs. I’m talking about good teams. We’re still in a playoff position and the only thing we’re focused on is making sure we make the playoffs. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played. I’m conscious of it and I’m optimistic.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for

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