//
News

 

Canadiens sign Mathieu Darche to a one-year contract

Friday, 10.06.2011 / 8:59 AM / News

Montreal Canadiens

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier announced today the signing of forward Mathieu Darche to a one-year contract (2011-12). As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Mathieu Darche. Mathieu is a classy veteran player who displays great leadership and determination, and we strongly believe he can help us achieve our goals in the upcoming season,” said Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier.

Darche, 34, completed in 2010-11 his eighth season in the NHL. The left winger set personal-highs with 12 goals and 26 points in 59 games. Two of his goals were tallied on the powerplay. He served 10 penalty minutes, registered 90 shots on goals and maintained a +7 plus/minus differential, while averaging 11:16 seconds of ice time per game. Darche added two points (1 goal, 1 assist) in seven playoff games.

Since 2000-01, Darche has registered 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists) in 189 NHL regular-season games. The 6’1’’, 207 lbs forward has scored three of his goals on the powerplay, one shorthanded goal and four winning goals, while recording 40 penalty minutes. Darche has accumulated three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 18 career NHL playoff contests.

Prior to joining the Canadiens, Darche had played with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning during his NHL career. A native of Montreal, he first signed with the Canadiens as a free agent on July 2, 2009.

 

Andrei Kostitsyn inks one-year deal

Thursday, 09.06.2011 / 3:44 PM / News

Montreal Canadiens

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL —  Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier announced Thursday the signing of forward Andrei Kostitsyn for the 2011-12 season. As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Andrei Kostitsyn is an important part of our group of forwards, and we are happy to have agreed to a contract extension with him. As a player drafted and developed by the Canadiens organization, Andrei ranks year after year amongst our point leaders,” said Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier.

Check out Kostitsyn’s goals

In 2010-11, Kostitsyn, 26, ranked fourth on the team in scoring and third in goals, with 45 points (20 goals, 25 assists) in 81 regular season games. He served 36 penalty minutes while averaging 15:53 minutes of ice time per game. Kostitsyn ranked tied for first on the team with six game winning goals, first with 140 hits, third with five powerplay goals and fourth with 196 shots on goal. He added two goals in six playoff contests.

Born in Novopolotsk, Belarus, Kostitsyn will enter his seventh season in the Canadiens’ organization in the fall. The 6’0” and 213 lbs forward has recorded 186 points (87 goals and 99 assists), 155 penalty minutes and a +16 plus/minus ratio in 326 NHL career games, all with the Canadiens. He has registered 19 points (11 goals, 8 assists) in 41 playoff contests.

Kostitsyn was the Canadiens’ first round selection, 10th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He signed a three-year contract with the Canadiens on July 2, 2008.

 

Last Day of Camp

Thursday, 09.06.2011 / 12:38 PM / News

canadiens.com

BROSSARD – Just a few hours away from some well-deserved time off, Gabriel Dumont talks about his week at development camp and what his summer has in store.

After a great postseason run that saw him and the rest of the Bulldogs make it all the way to Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, the young center was back to work this week for the Canadiens’ development camp.

Development Camp Photo Gallery

“We’re here to learn and to enjoy ourselves. We really didn’t get much of a break after the playoffs with Hamilton, so I’m going to allow myself a quiet week after this before I get back to serious training,” explained Dumont who led all Bulldogs’ rookies in postseason points. “I’m going to try and remember all of the little tips and tricks they’ve given us this week and put them to use over the summer so I can get myself in the best shape possible.”

Even if he’s currently attending his third development camp with the Canadiens, Dumont was quick to point out that they are always new things for him to pick up.

“Every year that I come here, I learn something new. Working on my skating with Paul Lawson and my shot with Tim Turk has been a huge help. There’s obviously always room for improvement. You can always be faster, you always have a harder shot,” pointed out the Canadiens fifth-round draft pick of 2009.

Just like the rest of his Hamilton teammates, the young Dégelis native from the Bas-Saint-Laurent region is planning to make the most of the little time off he has before jumping back into his summer training to prepare for the upcoming season.

“I’m going to head back home and enjoy some time there for a while, but I’m definitely coming back to Montreal a few times to keep working on some elements of my game. I have a personal trainer in Rivière-du-Loup, and there’s also Gabriel Bourque from the Nashville Predators organization that comes from the same area I do, so we usually see a lot of each other over the summer,” said Dumont, who will finally get to sit down tonight for the first time in a long time, to enjoy a dinner with his family.


Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com

Meet Joonas Nattinen

Wednesday, 08.06.2011 / 2:18 PM / News

canadiens.com

BROSSARD — Traveling 6072 kilometres to attend a development camp tells you a lot about a player’s level of dedication.

That’s the distance that separates prospect Joonas Nattinen’s hometown of Jamsa in Finland from the Canadiens’ Brossard practice facility where he’s currently attending the Habs’ summer development camp.

After two years worth of visits to North America, the 6-foot-2 Finnish center returned this time around with a freshly signed contract in hand.

“The signing of the contract may have just been a formality, but I think for me it meant a lot more than that. It gave me a boost and the motivation to work even harder over the summer,” admitted Nattinen who inked his three-year, two-way contract with the Canadiens on May 26.

“We discussed it and it looks like I’m going to be coming to play in North America this fall. I’ve been dreaming about this chance my whole life and I’m really excited about it. I want to arrive at training camp as prepared as I can be.”

It’s a certainty that some hard training will be a main priority for the 20-year-old this summer after playing through a tough season in 2010-11.

“It was a really hard year for me. I played about 25 games and had a lot of bad luck. I ended up in the hospital twice with pneumonia. It was tough,” explained Nattinen who, thanks to his pneumonia was only able to get back to working out a week ago. “My cardio’s not at its best right now and it shows when I’m on the ice. Luckily I have all summer to get back to where I need to be.”

In the interim, Nattinen will continue to enjoy his visit with the Canadiens organization.

“It gets easier and easier every time. Now I’m starting to know people by name and my interactions with everyone are a lot better. These are long days, but I’m having fun on ice and getting to focus mostly on stick-handling at the moment,” finished Nattinen, who will be leaving once more for Europe at the end of the week to continue his preparation for training camp over the coming months.

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Notebook – June 7, 2011

Tuesday, 07.06.2011 / 3:42 PM / News

canadiens.com

BROSSARD – In today’s Notebook: The coach makes his rounds, Tinordi’s adjustment period and Palushaj’s next step.

Level up: Of the 33 players attending the Habs development camp, only three were lucky enough to lace up their skates for a few games with the Canadiens in the 2010-11 season. Andreas Engqvist, Brendon Nash and Aaron Palushaj all made the most of their brief stints in the big leagues.

“I feel good – I think I had a solid year and that I played pretty well. Obviously it was nice to get up here for a few games and get a taste of the NHL. I thought I played well for the couple of games I was here and now I’m just looking to have a strong summer and make a good push to make the team this year,” dropped Palushaj who admitted he’ll be looking to bulk up over the offseason.

“Strength is a huge thing for me right now. I’m only 21 so there’s still a lot of room for me to improve – I just have to keep doing what I’m doing, eating well, training hard and improving my all around game.”

Low pressure: While the temptation to start an early evaluation of some of the players at development camp might be hard to resist, Habs head-coach Jacques Martin promised that he’s only here to observe… for now.

“It’s good for these guys to have a week where the focus is more on their improvement and less on their evaluation, so when they come back for rookie camp or the main training camp they’re much more prepared,” explained Martin.

“It’s a great environment for these young players to come train in, and if you look at the things they’re working on this week the concentration is on their agility, power and skating technique. They’re learning skills that are very specific to the positions that they play.”

Learning Curve: Making the jump from the USHL to the OHL doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges and it didn’t take long for Jarred Tinordi to realize it was time to make some adjustments to the way he approached the game.

“I wasn’t used to playing as many games as we played during the week and playing back-to-back three or four games on the road, so it took a little adjustment figuring out how I’m supposed to prepare for games and what I’m supposed to eat and stuff like that,” explained the young defenseman while discussing how his 63 games in 2010-11 stacked up against the 26 he played the year before.

“It was definitely a bit of trial and error figuring out the best way to take care of my body and stay in good shape throughout the year.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Triple Crown

Tuesday, 07.06.2011 / 10:09 AM / News

canadiens.com

MONTREAL – Third time’s a charm… just like the first two for Carey Price, winner of his third-straight canadiens.com Play of the Year.

This season’s Play of the Year bracket kicked off with 32 spectacular plays set to battle it out for the title – and just like in 2008-09 and 2009-10, reigning-champ Carey Price topped them all again for the third consecutive year. The last non-Price Canadien to snag the title was forward Andrei Kostitsyn back in 2007-08.

Check out the 2011 canadiens.com Play of the year winner

This most recent honour caps off a truly incredible season for the 23-year-old netminder – a season that saw him wow fans with a slew of show-stopping saves – none better than his leaping glove-save on Chad LaRose.

After crushing every play in his way in the first two rounds of action, Price eventually found him self up against another fan favourite in P.K. Subban. Price’s save went on to beat out Subban in two different contests to earning its way into the finals where he squared off one more time against his triple low-five partner for the grand prize.

A huge number of votes were cast by Habs fans trying and tip the scales for their favourite play, but at the end of the day Carey Price emerged as the winner pulling down 57,4% of the vote. Despite walking away with silver, rookie P.K. Subban provided some of the contest’s best highlight-reel material, popping up four times in the quarterfinals alone before also appearing in the final, courtesy of his bone-crunching hit on Brad Marchand.

After playing the best year of his career, count on Price to be already hard at work getting himself mentally and physically prepped to come back stronger than ever and give fans even more to cheer about in 2011-12.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

The Big Three

Monday, 06.06.2011 / 4:29 PM / News

canadiens.com

BROSSARD — After playing through a shoulder injury for most of his season with the Montreal Juniors and then going on to post seven points in seven games for Team Canada’s under 20 World Junior Hockey Championship team, Louis Leblanc finally took a much needed break to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder and begin the recovery process. While Leblanc won’t be ready for action anytime soon, he spoke to the Montreal media during Day 2 of the Canadiens’ development camp on the process of his road to recovery.

“I’m here every day, all summer, working to get my shoulder better and working out. Obviously it’s not fun, but I’m just trying to concentrate on the positives right now. My only concern is getting back to being 100% healthy and making it to the start of camp in the best possible shape to earn my spot,” explained Leblanc, his arm still cradled in a heavy brace.

“As of now I’m able to do leg workouts, I’m in the gym for about two hours a day. For shoulder stuff we have the therapist here, he’s helping me with assisted-help movements and I’m just doing little exercises to help get it stronger. I have to wear the brace all the time except for a while when I’m doing shoulder exercises. I even have to wear it when I sleep. It’s not much fun.”

Across the room, Danny Kristo, another of the Canadiens’ top-prospects stood in front of his locker, fielding questions – but unlike his friend and former teammate, Leblanc, Kristo had no intention of spending time discussing his most recent injury.

“It’s in the past now. I told my story once already and now I’m moving forward. I’m back to 100% so I’m just focusing on camp this week and looking forward to next year,” said Kristo referring to a bout of frostbite to his foot that sidelined him for part of the winter. “Right now I want to make the most of this experience. You can always learn so much when you come to Montreal and when you come to camp. I just try to come in and work really hard with an open mind and pick up as much as I can to better my game.”

“I think I did a good job at getting better when it comes to my two-way play this past year, but I also think there’s still a lot of room for improvement. If you look at the great players in today’s game, a lot of those guys can play both ends of the ice and that’s something I want to be able to do and something that I take pride in.”

Rounding out the list of the Habs’ first-round draft picks from the last three years, the most recent, defenseman Jared Tinordi was looking to prove he’d come a long way from his showing at last year’s development camp. While at that time, the talk was of Tinordi heading to the United States to play for an American university, he wound up instead spending his last season in the OHL as a member of the London Knights.

“My decision to go and play in the juniors was the right one for me. With all the ice-time I was able to get, along with the chance to work with the great coaching staff in London, I really feel ready to challenge myself this week,” dropped Tinordi, who also got to try his hand at fighting for the first time in his career.

“It’s always a good thing to be able to defend your teammates. I’ve watched enough hockey that I had a pretty good idea how to go about it, plus, I got a few tips in that department from my father too,” finished the young defenseman whose father, Mark Tinordi dropped the gloves a total of 72 times over 12 seasons in the NHL.

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

No pressure

Sunday, 05.06.2011 / 8:00 AM / News

canadiens.com

MONTREAL – The weight of the “C” didn’t seem to slow down Brian Gionta this season.

Being named captain of any NHL team brings an added level of responsibility, but when your predecessors have names like Beliveau, Richard, and Gainey, there’s a little extra pressure that comes with the title. When Gionta became the 28th captain in Canadiens history in September, he used that added incentive to help pot the second-most goals of his career.

“It’s an honor to wear the ‘C’. You never know how long that will last for so you have to make sure you enjoy it and do the best job you can. For me, it’s about just going out and competing every night and trying to lead by example,” explained Gionta of his team-leading 29-goal campaign. “I thought we had a great bunch of guys here this year and to be a part of that is special. It’s not about one guy influencing the team; it’s the way guys come together and the way guys play for each other that makes the biggest difference.”

While the 32-year-old had one of his best statistical seasons in 2010-11, Gionta measures the success of his season in more than just goals and assists.

“You’re never satisfied unless you win. There are always things you can do to improve and that’s what this process is all about,” described the 2003 Stanley Cup champ. “This year was a disappointment with how early it ended, but how we competed and the maturity some of the young guys showed are definitely huge positives for us going forward.

“We have a lot of young guys on the team and it was great for them to be able to experience things for the first time in the playoffs,” continued Gionta after helping three Habs rookies make their NHL playoff debuts this spring. “It was a great series intensity-wise and it was a good way to learn how playoff hockey needs to be played. It was a good example of what it’s all about and how little things add up to big things in a series.”

Having arrived in Montreal in the summer of 2009, Gionta knows the kind of changes July 1 can bring to a franchise. Instead of dwelling on the 18 restricted and unrestricted free agents his general manager will be looking to lock down this offseason, the Habs captain preferred to focus his attention on the players who will definitely be back in bleu-blanc-rouge next year.

“I think the core is strong. We have guys in the room who are the building blocks of a great team and we have a lot of pieces in place here,” he underlined. “With the players we have, I think we had a good shot. But there are going to be changes every year – it’s what this business is all about.

“That’s why you choose to come to a place like this because you know the organization is going in the right direction and their main focus is on winning,” added Gionta. “For us, the offseason is about looking at what you can do better next year and then hitting the gym and working as hard as you can to make sure you’re ready to go in September.”

Spoken like a true captain.

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Jean Béliveau to undergo surgical procedure

 

Friday, 03.06.2011 / 2:19 PM / News
canadiens.com

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL– The Montreal Canadiens announced Friday that longtime Canadiens legend and current Team Ambassador Jean Béliveau is scheduled to undergo a preventive surgical procedure next week to repair abdominal aneurysms. The procedure known as endovascular surgery will be performed using the most recent techniques which are minimally invasive.

Mr. Béliveau, whose general state of health is very good, will need a few months to fully recover from the surgical intervention. As of today and for the duration of his convalescence Mr. Béliveau humbly asks for everyone to respect his privacy and that of his family.

“We are pleased that Mr. Béliveau is under the good care of Head Team Physician David Mulder. On behalf of all of our fans, players and the entire Montreal Canadiens family, I would like to wish Mr. Béliveau a prompt and complete recovery”, stated Canadiens team owner and CEO Geoff Molson.

P.K. or Carey?

Friday, 03.06.2011 / 11:00 AM / News

canadiens.com

VOTE HERE !

MONTREAL — There can be only one. After some tight battles over the last couple of weeks, the Habs’ two most spectacular plays, as voted by you, clawed their way to the top to compete for the canadiens.com 2011 Play of the Year.

While they may be the last plays standing, the road to the top certainly wasn’t an easy one. Here’s a little recap of what unfolded en route to “All You Need is Glove,” and “Sub-bang!” butting heads for the title.

The undisputed fan-favourite of this past season, Carey Price came into the Play of the Year competition already with an edge over the rest of his team. Going for the three-peat after snagging the crown the past two years running, the 23-year-old goaltender kicked off the judging with a whopping nine highlights in the first-round bracket. In the second round, “All You Need is Glove,” managed to beat out another highlight featuring netminder’s handiwork, grabbing 90,5% of the vote.

In his first full year as a member of the Canadiens, defenseman P.K. Subban put his stamp on the season with style, accounting for seven of the first round’s 32 plays. Out of those plays, it was two of his biggest hits that drew the majority of fans’ attention – particularly Subban’s bone-crunching check on the Bruins’ Brad Marchand. Making it past the first round after beating out one of Price’s more “routine” saves, the young defenseman went up against himself in the second round of competition. In the end, even Subban’s hat-trick goal crumbled in the face of the devastating check, gathering only 36,8% of the vote.

Come the quarterfinal round, eight plays were still in the mix – four of them belonging to P.K. and the other four to Price. “All You Need is Glove,” stood tall, moving on with 72,5% of the vote and then 66% to get the nod into the finals, beating out Subban on both occasions to do it.

On the other side of things, with a slightly less lopsided road to the finals, “Sub-bang!” went up against other P.K. highlights both times, nabbing 63,2% of the quarterfinal votes and 55% in the semis, paving the road for him to face Price for the title.

Now all that’s left is for you to decide whether it’s Subban or Price that gets to claim the bragging right’s as this year’s canadiens.com Play of the Year champion. Vote now! Vote often! You have until Monday to help tip the scales.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

33 players to take part in the first session of the Canadiens Development Camp

Friday, 03.06.2011 / 9:00 AM / News
Montreal Canadiens

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens announced Friday that 33 players will participate in the first of two development camp sessions, set to take place from June 5-9, at the Bell Sports Complex, in Brossard.

The list of participating prospects includes several players drafted by the organization, players from the Hamilton Bulldogs as well as players invited as try-outs.

The second part of the development camp, to include players to be selected at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft to be held on June 24-25 in Minnesota, will take place from July 5-9, also at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. The first edition of the Canadiens development camp took place in 2001.

The Canadiens prospects will first take to the ice on Sunday, June 5, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The development camp session consists of two on-ice trainings daily on both ice surfaces at the Bell Sports Complex (7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.). All practice are open to the public. Off-ice conditioning sessions are also scheduled each day.

14 of the 33 players at camp are Canadiens draft selections, including the club’s first selections from the past three NHL Entry Drafts: Jarred Tinordi (2010), Louis Leblanc (2009) and Danny Kristo (2008).

Hal Be Back

Wednesday, 01.06.2011 / 3:15 PM / News

canadiens.com

BROSSARD – “I’m sorry… I didn’t prepare a statement,” kidded Hal Gill who was all smiles for his Wednesday morning press conference.

The 36-year-old defenseman can look forward to calling Montreal his home for at least another year following the signing of his latest contract with the Canadiens.

Hal Gill highlights

“There were a lot of factors that played into my decision. I had to think about my family and my career. I really like my role on this team and obviously the city itself too. In the end, these are all positives that helped me make my choice,” explained the 6-foot-7 blueliner. “This is a competitive market that plays to win every night and I love being a part of that.”

As the first of the Habs’ free-agents to reclaim his spot on the Canadiens’ roster, Gill admitted his surprise at having a deal inked with the team as early as June 1st.

“It seems that Pierre Gauthier has a plan. He has a tough job to do and he has to do it one player at a time,” expressed Gill when asked if he was surprised to have been signed before even Andrei Markov. “I’m just really happy to have a contract and to get to be able to keep playing hockey here.”

Had he heard his teammates’ comments on the final media day that followed the end of the season, he might not have been quite so surprised. Defensive partners Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban were among the players quick to point out how much Gill brought to the group – compliments that were much appreciated by the hulking rearguard.

“It felt really great to be recognized like that by my own teammates and it was great to hear their comments. I’ve always worked hard to be a team player and to know that that’s how I’m viewed makes me happy,” finished Gill who will get set to kick off his 15th NHL season come October.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for Canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

Canadiens sign defenseman Hal Gill to a one-year contract

Wednesday, 01.06.2011 / 7:45 AM / News

canadiens.com

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier announced wednesday the signing of defenceman Hal Gill for the 2011-12 season. As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Hal Gill highlights

“Hall Gill has played a key role since he joined our team two years ago. He brings leadership and determination on and off the ice, two very important components to the success of our group. He is an experienced veteran and his contribution to the development of our young players is extremely valuable,” said Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier.

Gill, 36, registered nine points (2 goals, 7 assists) in 75 games with the Canadiens in 2010-11. He served 43 penalty minutes while averaging 19:49 minutes of ice time per game. Gill ranked second on the team with 151 blocked shots. He added 10 hits and 16 blocked shots, with an average of 23:21 minutes of ice time per game, in seven playoff contests.

The Concord, Massachusetts native will be entering his 14th NHL season in 2011-12. He played in a total of 994 career regular season games in the NHL with Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Montreal recording 171 points (35 goals, 136 assists), and served 911 penalty minutes. Gill played 98 NHL career playoff games. He was a member of the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Champions.

The 6’7’’, 244-pound defenceman was an 8th round selection by the Bruins, 207th overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. He joined the Canadiens as a free agent on July 1st, 2009.

Under the Radar

Sunday, 29.05.2011 / 10:00 PM / News

canadiens.com

MONTREAL – Start hitting as hard as you shoot – such was the mandate handed down to Andrei Kostitsyn in his most recent NHL campaign.

In his fifth season in the league and his second under Canadiens’ head-coach Jacques Martin, Kostitsyn found himself called upon to take his game to another level. Following a receptive one-on-one mid-season meeting with Martin, the Belarusian forward was saddled with a clear directive by his coach: continue to make use of his speed and shot while also using his 6-foot, 214 lbs frame to establish himself as one of the Habs’ most imposing physical presences on the ice.

Check out Kostitsyn’s goals

The result? Without drawing much attention to the fact, Kostitsyn managed to dish out a total of 140 hits over the course of the 2010-11 season, eclipsing Travis Moen’s 129 checks, for the most of any player on the Canadiens’ roster.

En route to upping his physical game, the Habs’ 2003 first-round draft pick also found time to surpass the 20 goal mark for the third time in his last four seasons, with only Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta lighting the lamp more times in 2010-11. Kostitsyn’s only year registering less than 20 markers came in 2009-10 when he recorded 15 goals after being sidelined by injuries that kept him out of action for 23 games.

Kostitsyn wrapped up his first full season since the departure of his brother, Sergei by setting a few new personal records for himself by playing in 81 games and racking up six game-winning goals along the way – a team high he would share with captain Brian Gionta.

The 26-year-old, whose three-season contract with the Canadiens expires this summer to make him a restricted free-agent, also added 25 assists to his 2010-11 tally, finishing the campaign with a total of 45 points. His latest numbers rank AK46’s recent season as the second most productive of his career, trailing only 2008-09 in which he amassed 53 points, spending the full season on a line with Plekanec and Alex Kovalev.

The lack of steady linemates this time around certainly didn’t stop Kostitsyn from answering the call.

Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

Canadiens sign centreman Joonas Nattinen to a three-year contract

Thursday, 26.05.2011 / 11:15 AM / News
Montreal Canadiens

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier announced Thursday the signing of centreman Joonas Nattinen to a three-year, two-way contract. As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Joonas Nattinen. Joonas is a promising young player with size and skills. Despite his young age, he proved to be a very good player in a competitive professional league in Finland for the past two seasons, and also was a key member of the Finnish national team at the World Juniors last year,” said Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier.

Nattinen registered two assists and served 12 penalty minutes in 21 games with Espoo and Hämeenlinna of the SM-Liiga (Finland) in 2010-11. Nattinen, 20, added two assists in four games with Espoo (Junior A SM-Liiga) and Suomi (Finland2).

In three seasons with Espoo and Hämeenlinna in the SM-Liiga, the 6’2’’, 186 lbs centreman totalled 5 assists with 20 penalty minutes in 58 games. Nattinen recorded 55 points (16 goals, 39 assists) in 51 career games in the Junior A SM-Liiga.

Nattinen was part of the Finnish team at the last three World Junior Championships (Ottawa – 2009, Saskatchewan – 2010 and Buffalo – 2011). He registered 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in 18 contests, including three goals in six games at the 2011 Championship.

A native of Jämsä, Finland, Nattinen was the Canadiens’ second pick (third round, 65th overall) at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Hitting his stride

Thursday, 26.05.2011 / 8:00 AM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – Most hockey players don’t reach their prime at age 34. But Mathieu Darche has never been like most hockey players.

When Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier rewarded the hard-working winger with the first one-way contract of his professional career this past June, even he couldn’t have realized what a steal Darche would turn out to be.

Check out Mathieu Darche’s goals

“Honestly, for me it was an honor to finally get that one-way deal with the Canadiens,” explained the Montreal native, who made the most of the 40 regular season and playoff games he spent with the Habs last year to earn a full-time spot with his hometown team. “I just wanted to prove that what I did last season wasn’t a fluke.”

Darche followed up his debut with the Habs by posting career-highs across the board, finishing the 2010-11 campaign with 12 goals and 26 points in 59 games.

“Maybe when you make the league minimum, no matter what you do, people think you’re exceeding expectations,” joked Darche, who enjoyed his longest season in the NHL since his 73-game campaign with the Lightning in 2007-08.

In 2010-11, the gritty forward spent as much time bolstering the top two lines as his did adding some depth to the bottom two. The veteran winger also added power play duties to his workload, averaging 1:21 of PP time per game and notching 26.9% of his points with the man advantage.

After seeing his tenacity and years of perseverance pay off this season, the icing on the cake came when Darche was voted the Canadiens’ candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy this April.

“There’s no set age where you stop improving,” warned Darche. “I’m 34 years old, but next year, I’m going to want to keep getting better. I want to do even more and that’s the attitude I had coming into this season from the start.”

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.

Bulldogs hit the end of the line

Wednesday, 25.05.2011 / 11:30 AM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – The Bulldogs’ Calder Cup quest came to an end Tuesday night in the final seconds of their do-or-die game against the Houston Aeros.

Winning their way into the Western finals for a second consecutive year, the Bulldogs finished their season coming up just short against an Aeros squad that gave them all they could handle. If not for the ‘Dogs’ grit, however, the series could have been over much sooner, as Randy Cunneyworth’s troops clawed their way back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a deciding Game 7 against Houston courtesy of a clutch double-overtime goal from Nigel Dawes. In the 75 history of the AHL only two other teams managed to equal Hamilton’s feat with the 1960 Rochester Americans and the 1989 Adirondak Red Wings enjoying similar comebacks.

Check out the controversial goal

The Dogs’ series against the Aeros proved to be a battle every inch of the way, with five of the teams’ seven games played being decided by a single goal. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the last of those markers belonged to Houtson who snapped the 3-3 tie with a controversial goal with 73 seconds left in the game to advance to Calder Cup finals.

Despite the loss, the Bulldogs can finish their season with their heads held high after managing to forge a successful campaign following the loss of several of their best players – most notably David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Ryan White – to the Canadiens.

While Nigel Dawes stood out as one of the Bulldogs’ best since joining the team during the regular season, it was his playoff performance that earned him the most attention. The 26-year-old lit the lamp 14 times in 20 playoff games with Hamilton, managing to set a single season record for the Bulldogs in the process.

The 2010-11 season also marked a high-point for the Bulldogs’ Aaron Palushaj who in addition to getting a taste of the NHL thanks to a three game stint with the Canadiens, also posted the best numbers of his AHL career notching 57 points in 68 regular season games before going on to add another 19 in the playoffs.

Goaltender Drew MacIntyre, initially brought in as reinforcement for the injured Curtis Sanford, also enjoyed a brilliant postseason performance, emerging as one of the leagues top netminders. He posted an average of 0,930, allowing only 1,95 goals per game, ranking him among the AHL’s playoff leaders.

Following back-to-back appearances in the AHL’s Western finals, the Bulldogs will be gunning for the three-peat in 2011-12, hoping the third time’s the charm.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

Stepping Up

Tuesday, 24.05.2011 / 2:00 AM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – David Desharnais’s season may not have started out in the NHL, but you can bet that his next one certainly will.

For a player who was passed over for the NHL draft and signed with the Canadiens as a free-agent, it didn’t take Desharnais long to prove he had what it took to compete at hockey’s highest level. Before the Quebec native was even called up from Hamilton to join the big club, his former Bulldogs’ teammates in Montreal were already heaping on the praise, with Max Pacioretty in particular attributing much of his recent AHL success to Desharnais’ skill as a playmaker.

Check out Desharnais goals

After another dominant season in Hamilton that saw him rack up 45 points in 35 games and post a plus-14 rating, Desharnais was introduced into the Canadiens lineup on Jan. 2, for the Habs’ first game of 2011. By the end of his second tilt against Pittsburgh four days later, Desharnais had picked up his first point of the season, assisting on Benoit Pouliot’s tying goal to help the Habs send the game into overtime and eventually nab the win. Less than a week later when the Penguins returned to the Bell Centre, he scored his first goal in the NHL.

Desharnais would end the season as one of the Habs’ most pleasant surprises of 2010-11, scoring eight goals and adding 14 helpers for 22 points in 43 games with the Canadiens.

“I’m pretty happy with the way my season went. When they called me up, I knew it was the chance I had been waiting for and I knew I had to make the most of it,” expressed the Canadiens’ No. 58, who at times drew comparisons to small-statured superstars the likes of  Martin St. Louis and Brian Gionta over the course of the season. “I feel good with what I ended up accomplishing. I took a big step this year.”

Beyond simply putting up good numbers in his first campaign with the Canadiens, Desharnais’ dedication and work-ethic made for consistent improvement that helped earn him the trust of head-coach Jacques Martin, resulting in increased ice-time and responsibilities for the 24-year-old.

Desharnais’ season ultimately came to an end two games before the rest of his team, when a knee-injury sustained in overtime of Game 5 against the Bruins shelved the 5-foot-7, 177 lbs center for the final two games of the series.

“There’s obviously never a good time for something like that to happen, but it made it even tougher since things were going well playing with Gionta and Gomez at the time. It was overtime, we all knew how important it was – I just wasn’t able to finish the game,” admitted Desharnais, who despite the less than ideal ending, can walk away from his rookie season, head held high.

“I think I succeeded in proving to a lot of people that I’m capable of doing well in this league, and at the same time, it felt good to prove it to myself as well.”

Desharnais will have the summer to heal – and to work on getting himself a new contract for the 2011-12 season. With any luck, he shouldn’t have much trouble doing either.

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Czech Mark

Sunday, 22.05.2011 / 2:00 AM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – Money might change some people, but Tomas Plekanec obviously isn’t one of them.

After speculation that signing the most lucrative contract of his career might cause him to rest on his laurels, Plekanec instead kicked off the Canadiens 2010-11 campaign ready and willing to prove his critics wrong. Following a league-leading nine points in seven preseason games, the 28-year-old went on to reprise his role as the Canadiens’ calm, consistent center amid the storm of changes surrounding the team over the last two years.

Check out Pleky’s goals

For the second consecutive season, Plekanec stood out as the Canadiens’ top scorer with a total of 57 points in 77 games and finished the year with a plus-8 rating despite the revolving door of wingers flanking him over that time. It wasn’t long before being sent out onto the ice alongside the Kladno native became recognized as a reward of sorts for Jacques Martin’s forwards as in nearly every circumstance Plekanec’s game-play seemed to elevate that of those around him.

Continuing his tenure as one of the Canadiens’ top offensive guns didn’t stop Plekanec from showing his Selke-stripes with more solid two-way play. An indispensable commodity on the Habs’ penalty-kill, the Czech center registered the most ice-time of any Canadiens’ forward averaging 2:49 when his team was stuck with a man in the box, and often single-handedly eating up valuable seconds playing keep away with the puck in the offensive zone.

With his 77 games played in 2010-11, Plekanec also proved once again that he’s a tough guy to keep down for any extended period of time. After a slew of the Canadiens’ top-players were shelved with long-term injuries at various points in the season, Plekanec’s durability became more important than ever with the 5-foot-11, 198 lbs center having notably taken to the ice for 401 out of 410 regular season games for the Habs over the past five seasons.

Plekanec also ended his season with bragging rights as the only other member of the 2010-11 edition of the Canadiens – other than Carey Price, of course – to have the distinction of being able to call himself a Molson Cup winner. While Price may have walked away with the trophy every other time it was presented, Plekanec’s five goals and four assists along with a plus-4 rating let him nab the honors for the month of January.

With the number of personnel changes that could be taking place over the coming months, the Canadiens can rest a little easier knowing they have at least one very reliable piece of their 2011-12 puzzle already figured out.

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Anchorman

Thursday, 19.05.2011 / 2:00 AM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL — After two years with the Canadiens, it’s clear that Hal Gill’s contributions off the ice have become just as important to the team as the work he does on it.

Over the course of a season that saw injuries pile up for the Habs and an influx of rookies ushered in to fill the gaps, leadership qualities became more important than ever in the Montreal dressing room. While it’s certain that all the first-years took something away from what Gill and his 14 seasons of NHL experience brought to the table, there was no one who benefited more from the veteran’s knowledge than P.K. Subban.

“I think a major reason for his progression – and he’ll tell you the same thing – was playing with Hal,” mentioned Josh Gorges in praise of his teammate, whose mentoring allowed Subban to develop into the Canadiens’ most used defenseman, squaring off alongside Gill to face the opposition’s top lines on a nightly basis.

“He has a lot to teach and really makes coming to the rink and playing fun because you know everything he does or says is always in the best of spirits.”

When not busy giving a hard time to the slew of rookies, the 36-year-old blueliner was back to business, building on his playoff performance from 2009-10. His most recent campaign saw him pick up right where he left off, posting a total of 151 blocked shots on the season – one more than last year – before going on to add another 16 in the playoffs, good enough to rank second among Canadiens in that department, behind only Roman Hamrlik.

Gill also distinguished himself by devouring minutes on the penalty-kill, averaging a team-high 3:47 during the regular season, and 2:37 in the playoffs where the Habs stymied the Bruins on every one of their 21 power-play opportunities for a league-best 100% efficiency rating. The Concord, MA native even found time to chip in on the scoresheet along the way, potting his two goals of the season in consecutive games – the offensive outburst briefly vaulting his name to a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.

Listed among the Habs’ nine players set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, Gill will be hoping that his 2010-11 performance along with his reputation as an anchor in the team’s dressing room will be enough to earn him an extended stay with the Canadiens. His teammates are clearly hoping for the same thing.

“One of the first things I said to the staff was, ‘Whatever happens, we need to make sure we get Hal back,’” continued Gorges. “What he brings to this team is really something you can’t quantify. You would lose what Hal brings to everyone’s attitude and to the room in general, and you lose a huge portion of what makes our team work so well together and be so special.”

And what’s Gill’s take on the subject of staying in Montreal?

“Would I still like to play here? Yeah, I’d love to keep playing until they kick me out,” grinned Gill. “I’d love to take another run at the cup.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Canadiens sign Emelin to a one-year contract

Tuesday, 17.05.2011 / 3:55 PM / News
Montreal Canadiens

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier announced Tuesday the signing of defenseman Alexsey Emelin to a one-year, two-way contract (2011-12). As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Alexsey Emelin. Alexsey is a steady, physical defenseman with strong skating ability. The experience he has acquired in the KHL over the past few years will make for a smooth transition to the NHL,” said Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier.

Alexsey Emelin in action

Emelin registered 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists), leading his team defensemen in goals, playing 52 games with the Kazan Ak Bars of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in 2010-11. Seven of his goals were scored on the powerplay. Emelin, 25, recorded 110 shots on goal, while averaging 21:18 seconds of ice time per game. He displayed a +17 plus/minus differential and served 92 penalty minutes.

In three complete seasons with the Kazan Ak Bars, the 6’2’’, 223 lbs defenseman totaled 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) with 200 penalty minutes in 149 games, while maintaining a +22 plus/minus differential. Emelin totalled 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in 38 career KHL playoff contests.

Emelin, who was part of the Russian team at the 2011 World Championship in Slovakia, was a member of the Russian team that captured silver at the 2010 World Championship in Cologne, Germany and participated in the 2007 World Championship in Moscow. He was on the Russian team that won the silver medal at the 2006 World Junior Championship in Vancouver.

A native of Togliatti, Russia, Emelin was the Canadiens’ second pick (third round, 84th overall) at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Wiz the Warrior

Sunday, 15.05.2011 / 2:00 AM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – While it’s safe to assume James Wisniewski likely knows the meaning of the word “quit”, you wouldn’t able to tell from watching him play hockey.

Before arriving in Montreal via Long Island at the end of December, Wisniewski’s career had already been dealt its share of setbacks with the defenseman having undergone three knee surgeries heading into the 2010-11 season. None of them, however, proved enough to stop the tough-as-nails blueliner with the booming slap-shot. On February 17, 2011, Wiz took a puck to the face that opened up a sizable gash directly below his left-eye. Twenty-two stitches and three days later and the Wiz was back in action for the Habs’ very next game, sporting a full cage. If that’s still not enough to convince you of the 27-year-old’s dedication to his team and the sport, his performance in the 2011 playoffs should be.

Check out Wiz goals with the Habs

In Game 2 of the Canadiens’ opening-round series against the Bruins, Wisniewski dropped the gloves to go toe-to-toe with Boston’s Shane Hnidy. In the process he severely injured several tendons in his hand.

“It was a pretty serious injury,” admitted Wisniewski. “I had to undergo a lot of treatment to help deal with it. They were doing a lot of work on the muscles in my neck and in my shoulder because I wasn’t even able to hold my stick. Eventually we realized that it was the muscles in my hand that were the causing the problem and then spent a long time working on those until I was able to grip my stick well enough to play.”

Wisniewski ultimately battled through the pain, going on to play in the next three consecutive games of the series – even making an unexpected return to action in overtime of Game 5 after leaving for the dressing room in the first period. While his injury may have forced him out of the Habs’ lineup for Game 6 in Montreal, there was nothing anyone could do to keep Wisniewski off the ice for the all-important Game 7 in Boston. The risk of aggravating the injury and hurting his chances of potentially signing the most lucrative contract of his young career was nothing more than an afterthought in the rearguard’s decision to suit up.

“The only thing that mattered to me was winning,” expressed the Habs’ No. 20 who is poised to be one of the most sought-after free agents set to hit the market on July 1st. “The team’s medical staff did an absolutely incredible job of getting me back to the point where I could play. They treated me for close to four hours the day of our last game and thanks to their help I was able to come back and play.”

While the outcome of the match wasn’t a happy one for the Habs as they fell 4-3 to the Bruins in overtime, the American defenseman will be taking some indelible memories away from his time with the Canadiens and their fans.

“It was incredible watching and hearing the atmosphere at the Bell Centre crank up a few notches from the regular season,” explained the six-season NHL veteran. “It was amazing to get to live that experience and to play for such a great organization with all the history that surrounds it. To have the entire city support us the way they did, even after we lost, telling us that we gave everything we had and that we left our heart and soul on the ice was something really special.”

But it was the relationship forged between him and his Montreal teammates that made for some of Wisniewski’s fondest memories in his five months with the Canadiens.

“The camaraderie in that room was incredible,” continued Wisniewski. “We were going to war together. There was a lot of adversity to deal with considering all the injuries we had over the course of the year, but we still stayed focused and didn’t let ourselves get off track down the stretch. It was a real pleasure to play in a market like Montreal with all the media attention the team gets.”

It was likely even more enjoyable for the defenseman with the now famous white stick since he also happened to be spending the 2010-11 season eclipsing every one of his personal records, registering 10 goals and 41 assists for 51 points in 75 games.

“I was speaking about it with my wife and family. Going from Anaheim to Long Island where I had the chance to get a lot more ice-time on the power-play was really helpful for me,” said Wisniewski whose 31 points in 43 games with the Habs was good enough to rank him fifth overall in points among NHL defensemen. “Then, around Christmas when Garth [Snow] traded me to Montreal, I had the chance to have the same opportunity but at a higher level, on a bigger stage, with a better team, and I was able to make the most of it. Everything synched up perfectly for me to be able to have the best season of my career.”

So with the year at an end, what’s the next step for the Wiz?

“Go home and get some rest – my hand is still in pretty rough shape – and take the opportunity to spend some time with my family, take a vacation with my wife and get back to training in July and August.”

And, of course, sign a long-term contract along the way.

Alex Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

Raphael Diaz signed by the Canadiens

Friday, 13.05.2011 / 9:00 AM / News

canadiens.com

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier announced Friday the signing of free agent defenseman Raphael Diaz to a one-year, two-way contract (2011-12). As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Raphael Diaz, who we strongly believe has all the attributes to play in the NHL. Raphael is a defenseman with excellent offensive and defensive skills, who constantly improved his play over the years. We look forward to seeing him at training camp,” said Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier.

Diaz registered 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists) in 45 games with EV Zug in 2010-11. Diaz, 25, displayed a +14 plus/minus differential and served 26 penalty minutes.

In eight complete seasons with EV Zug, the 5’11’’, 194 lbs defenseman totaled 118 points (33 goals, 85 assists) with 212 penalty minutes in 352 games.

Diaz, who is part of the Swiss team at the 2011 World Championship in Slovakia, collected four points (3 goals, 1 assist) in six games. He maintained a +3 plus/minus differential, while playing 20:52 in average per game.

A native of Baar, Switzerland, Diaz played for EV Zug (junior) from 2001-02 to 2003-04. He was part of the Swiss team at the 2005 and 2006 World Junior Championships, and at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Sic ‘Em

Wednesday, 11.05.2011 / 10:27 AM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – The Bulldogs bared their teeth in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Now it’s time for them to bite.

After coming out on the winning end of an epic triple-overtime battle on Monday night, the Bulldogs were left to anxiously await news of who their next opponent would be. Yesterday, they got their answer.

Check out Dustin Boyd’s 3OT winner

The Houston Aeros, the Minnesota Wild’s AHL affiliate, have advanced to face Randy Cunneyworth’s troops in the Western Conference finals, slated to kick off this Friday in Texas.

The Houston squad was able to move on after besting the Milwaukee Admirals by a score of 4-2 in the deciding Game 7 of their series.

Both teams head into the conference finals without much history with one another, the clubs only having met on two occasions over the course of the regular season. Of those two encounters, each team walked away with a win, with the Areos claiming victory in their Dec. 14 matchup, and the Bulldogs doing the same six days later.

Curtis Sanford earned the shutout in the Bulldogs’ win, while Dustin Boyd, the triple-overtime hero in the Dogs’ Game 7 versus the Moose, potted the winning goal in the 5-0 rout.

The last time these teams crossed paths in the postseason was during the 2003 Calder Cup finals, when the Bulldogs’ were still part of the Eastern Conference. The second game of the series saw the teams play a marathon tilt that extended into quadruple overtime, marking the second longest game in the history of the AHL. The Bulldogs were finally rewarded for their efforts, winning the game 2-1, but ultimately lost the series in seven games.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

Back in Quebec City

Tuesday, 10.05.2011 / 4:26 PM / News
Montreal Canadiens

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL — evenko is thrilled to present the final NHL preseason game of the 2011 -2012 season between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Colisée Pepsi in Quebec City on October 1st.

It will be the third consecutive preseason game the Canadiens have played at the Colisee Pepsi and they want to keep this tradition alive in 2011 for Quebec City fans.

The Lightning who will faceoff against the Bruins for the NHL’s 2011 Eastern Conference Final, will be playing their first-ever game at the Colisée Pepsi.

Come live the excitement at the Colisée Pepsi on October 1st!

Tickets available at the Colisée Pepsi box office
By phone: (418) 691-7211 or 1 800 900-SHOW
Order online: http://www.billetech.com or http://www.evenko.ca

Quebec Hockey Summit unveiling

Tuesday, 10.05.2011 / 2:15 PM / News
Montreal Canadiens

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL – Leaders from the hockey world in the Province of Quebec were on hand Tuesday in Montreal to unveil details of the first ever Molson Export Quebec Hockey Summit, a two-day event to be held in Montreal on August 26 and 27, 2011.

The Molson Export Quebec Hockey Summit will bring the leaders of the Province’s hockey community together as Hockey Québec, Hockey Canada, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Montreal Canadiens and Molson Export are partnering and taking lead roles to further the development of hockey.

Pierre Gauthier speech

“The development structure already in place contributes greatly to the success of our teams at the national level, but with a growing client base we need to put the appropriate questions on the forefront to define our future actions. The Quebec Hockey Summit will be a conduit to some important discussion between the participants,” said Sylvain B. Lalonde, General Manager, Hockey Quebec.

“The Quebec Hockey Summit brings together an excellent partnership group all with the goal of addressing important issues in today’s game,” stated Scott Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Hockey Canada. “Adding the dimension of public involvement gives the community a voice in how many of these challenges can be addressed.”

“I am truly excited by the opportunity to have the leaders of the hockey community together for some open discussion,” said Gilles Courteau, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Commissioner. “There are a number of challenges facing the growth of our great game and I look forward to addressing them with our partners.”

“As a professional hockey team and member of the sports community in Quebec, our organization looks forward to being actively involved in the Quebec Hockey Summit and contribute to the growth of our game among the youth,” said Pierre Gauthier, Montreal Canadiens General Manager. “Alongside the other leading members of the Quebec hockey community, we intend to offer our support to further develop the game of hockey across the province.”

Molson Export is an iconic brand that has a rich history of supporting hockey in Quebec”, said David Bourget, Director of Events & Sponsorship, Molson Coors Canada. “As such, we are proud to participate in the summit and encourage the development of the sport Quebecers are so passionate about. Molson Export will leverage this event by bringing people together to ensure that fans are given a voice among hockey decision makers.”

The Molson Export Quebec Hockey Summit’s theme is to address the challenges facing hockey in the Province of Quebec today. Discussion will revolve around four main topics:

• Long term player development: Exploring opportunities for development based on age; analyzing the development arc; actions currently being taken in Quebec; challenges facing development in Quebec.

• Player development through the Program of Excellence: Development opportunities for 16 year-old players and older; options following their internship; actions currently being taken in Quebec.

• Creating a safe environment through positive behaviour and attitude: Issues facing player health, including concussions; studies on hockey injuries; impact of rules; importance of adequately utilizing body checks and how players can better protect themselves on the ice

• Recruitment and retention of players: Presentation of the demographic statistics from the Province of Quebec; Hockey Québec membership; new activities and initiatives; women’s hockey.

The event will be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal. It will be open to the public. A full schedule of events and activities as well as details surrounding the registration process, including the number of entries available and cost, and the launch of the official Molson Export Quebec Hockey Summit website will be announced at a later date.

Finally, honorary chairpersons, full line-up of speakers, panellists and moderators will also be announced at a later date.

Making history in Hamilton

Tuesday, 10.05.2011 / 10:20 AM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – Bulldogs fans who stuck it out until the end of Game 7 against the Moose definitely got their money’s worth.

Three hours and fifty-one minutes.  That’s how long fans in attendance at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton had to wait to see Dustin Boyd seal the series for the Bulldogs in triple overtime on Monday night. Still tied 1-1 after the first two overtime periods, Boyd banged home the winner six seconds into the third OT, ending an evening that saw the ‘Dogs outshoot the Moose 57-30.

Check out Dustin Boyd’s 3OT winner

The epic game isn’t one the players, coaches or fans in attendance will be forgetting any time soon, but they can always peruse the AHL’s record books in case they need a reminder. In the league’s 75 year history, no Game 7 match-up had ever gone to a second overtime period – let alone a third – prior to Monday night’s game.

After ousting the Oklahoma City Barons in the Western quarterfinals and the Moose in the semis, the Bulldogs await the winner of the Milwaukee Admirals and Houston Aeros semifinal match-up to find out who they will face in the Western Conference final.

This marks the second time in as many season that the Bulldogs will be advancing to the Western final. Last year, the ‘Dogs beat the Moose in Round 1 and the Abbotsford Heat in Round 2 before being knocked off by the Texas Stars in the conference final in Game 7. Hamilton will be looking to move on to the finals for the first time since 2006-07, when Carey Price led the Habs’ farm team to a Calder Cup championship.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.

Good as new

Tuesday, 10.05.2011 / 8:00 AM / News

canadiens.com

MONTREAL – The 2010-11 season wasn’t an easy one for Josh Gorges, but it might just prove to be the most important year of his young career.

After taking a Mike Green slap shot to the back of the head last February, Gorges didn’t even consider missing practice the next day let alone sit out a game. It takes more than that to keep rugged blue-liner out of the lineup, so when the Habs announced that Gorges’ Iron Man streak would end after 150 consecutive games in December, you knew it had to be serious.

Check out Josh Gorges highlights

Forced to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL he had been playing through for the past seven years, Gorges spent the second half of his sixth NHL campaign on the shelf.

“First of all, sitting there and watching is tough enough, but you can also see the disappointment and frustration of losing on the guys’ faces. As hard as that is to deal with, it’s even harder to not be able to stand beside the guys and go through it with them,” revealed Gorges. “No matter what the outcome is, you want to be out there standing beside them and being a part of what they went through. Not being able to be a part of that was tough.”

Watching the playoffs in a suit instead of his usual No. 26, Gorges was determined to improve his game any way he could this spring.

“There are a lot of little things you learn – I think you definitely learn how to deal with frustration. And watching games on TV or even from the press box, it seems very easy. You realize that you can see all the mistakes from there,” explained the 26-year-old defenseman. “You forget that when you’re on the ice, it’s a lot faster than it seems. Being able to watch, I think I learned a lot about timing or what other guys do that makes them great.

“I got a different perspective on how Hal [Gill] kills penalties,” continued Gorges on his D-partner. “Or you learn from watching P.K. [Subban] even though he’s young, because you really see how he can protect the puck and the angles he takes or how he uses his body. There are a lot of things you can learn by watching.”

Gorges can’t wait to put those lessons into practice as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Kelowna, BC native will be spending his vacation the way he does every offseason: in the gym preparing for another season of sacrificing his body.

“It’s been a long time and there’s still a little ways to go yet [in the rehabilitation process], but things are progressing and moving along pretty well so I can’t complain about that. I have a long summer of work ahead of me to get myself ready for September,” described Gorges, who finished fifth in the league with 55 blocked shots during the 2010 Playoffs. “I’m looking forward to having a knee that’s going to work properly – I don’t know what that’s going to feel like because it’s been so long since it hasn’t.

“I’m excited to know that if everything goes according to plan – which it has been – that I should be that much better of a player coming out of this surgery,” he added. “I should be stronger and faster and a more efficient skater. That was the whole plan coming into this.”

Eager to skate with two healthy ACLs for the first time in his career, Gorges is hoping the contract he’s set to sign this summer is the last one he’ll need to worry about for a while.

“This is where I want to be. I don’t want to go anywhere else; I want to play here as long as I can,” underlined the pending restricted free agent. “Obviously it was a huge turnaround being traded here [from San Jose] because it’s something you don’t get anywhere else. To have a taste of what it’s like to win in the playoffs, I don’t think there would be any other place you’d want to go to win. This is the city you want to win the Stanley Cup in.

“It would be great to win it anywhere else, but to win it in Montreal with the history and the fan support and the outlook of hockey here in the city, as a player, you couldn’t ask for more than that,” he added. “Being an RFA, I know that I’m going to be back and that’s great because this is where I need to be. Now it’s just a matter of getting the deal done and being ready for next year.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Mr. Versatility

Tuesday, 03.05.2011 / 10:00 PM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – Yannick Weber proved to be quite the multi-purpose Swiss Army knife for Jacques Martin this year.

After starting the season in Hamilton, Weber didn’t wait long to re-pack his bags for a one-way trip back to Montreal. When All-Star Habs defenseman Andrei Markov went down with a season-ending injury this November, the 22-year-old blue-liner was called in for reinforcement and never looked back.

Check out Yannick Weber highlights

“When I was called up, I knew it was going to be really hard to make my mark in this league and crack the Top 6,” admitted Weber, who suited up for 41 games for the Canadiens this season. “On top of that, everyone here was playing really solid hockey. I just had to wait for my opportunity to come. When I did get my chance to play, I think I proved to the coaches that they could have confidence in me and they could use me in any situation out there.

“As the season went on, I got more and more time on the penalty kill and on the power play,” he continued. “It was great to have that opportunity and I think I proved I belong in this league.”

Weber didn’t just make his case for full-time tenure in the NHL this season; the lifelong defenseman also discovered a few special talents he had hidden up his sleeve.

“I think it worked pretty well using me as a forward at times this year. It wasn’t an easy role for me, but I was just happy to be playing,” explained Weber, who scored two goals in three postseason games as a forward this spring while still manning the point on the power play. “I’m not the best forward, but it was nice to be able to be out there helping the team.”

While the Morges, Switzerland native isn’t interested in making the move up front on a more permanent basis, he still relished the opportunity to show off his versatility.

“I’m first and foremost a defenseman and that’s where I want to play, but I think it was good for them and good for me to see that if something happens over the course of a game or during the season that I can change hats and play forward,” reasoned Weber, who likened his ability to play either position to fellow Swiss blue-liner and former Hab Mark Streit.

“I feel more and more comfortable as an NHLer every day and I think I proved that to the team and to everyone else around the league this year.”

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.

Only the beginning

Saturday, 30.04.2011 / 8:00 AM / News

canadiens.com

MONTREAL – You only get one chance to make a first impression and Lars Eller made the most of his NHL debut this season.

With just seven games on his NHL resume heading into 2010-11, few people knew much about Eller other than who he was traded for. Dealt to Montreal in the offseason move that sent 2010 playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis, the 21-year-old didn’t exactly get to slip in under the radar but Eller didn’t put any extra pressure on himself in Year 1.

Check out Lars Eller’s goals

“I didn’t come in with any exact goal in mind of how many goals or assists I wanted to get. I wanted to establish myself as a player in the National Hockey League and on this team,” explained Eller of his preseason expectations. “That was pretty much my only goal and I think from that standpoint, it was a successful year for me.

“I also think I’ve developed as a player and I finished the season the way I wanted to,” he added. “I think I’m a better player now than I was at the beginning of the season. There’s still a lot more I can get better at and that I need to learn, but I’m confident in how things are going.”

Part of the development process for any young player is being able to get advice from savvy veteran teammates. While Eller had plenty of help from the vets in the Habs dressing room, the words of wisdom that meant the most to him came from two-time Stanley Cup champion Scott Gomez.

“There are a lot of good veteran guys here and they’ve been really great with me this year. It’s just a good group of people all around. I spent a good amount of time off the ice with a lot of players, but I’d say especially Scott has really been great for me this year,” he mentioned of the 11-year NHL veteran. “He treated me really well and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from him which really helped me develop.”

Eller’s coming out party culminated in a team-leading plus-1 performance in the playoffs despite being saddled with the responsibility of shutting down the Bruins’ top line. The rookie center finished third on the team with 18 hits while helping stymie Boston’s offense, but perhaps the most impressive part of Eller’s postseason performance was that he was playing through a dislocated shoulder after a hit early in Game 6.

“Of course it was a little bit painful, but the biggest problem was that you just don’t have the amount of strength in your arm that you want,” he admitted. “It might have affected me a little bit, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse. I think I’ve been growing the whole year and I felt like I had a good playoffs. I played like the player I want to be and I played the way I want to play in the future. But there are still a lot of things I want to get better at, too.”

While Eller proved his worth as a shutdown forward this spring, the young sniper isn’t ready to be tagged with the “defensive forward” label just yet.

“I want to be a player like [Tomas] Plekanec,” shared Eller, who finished with 17 points in 77 games this season. “He plays on the power play, he kills penalties and he’s on the ice when we need to win a draw and the game is on the line. I think this year I’ve been developing my defensive skills a lot more than I ever have and maybe my offensive skill has shown as much as it has in the past, but I’m confident that’s going to come next year.

“This year was a good start for me and the playoffs were a nice way to finish that,” he explained.  “I found a way to be at my best at the right time and that’s something I’ve always tried to do. You want to be at your best when everything is on the line and now I want to pick up where I left off. I’m confident I’ll have a good summer and I’ll come back even stronger next year.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Final Thoughts

Thursday, 28.04.2011 / 5:00 PM / News

canadiens.com

BROSSARD — Canadiens general manager, Pierre Gauthier addressed the Montreal media along with head-coach Jacques Martin to reflect on the 2010-11 season and discuss the team’s future.

“It’s of course a tough day because of all the emotions running through the team at the moment,” began Gauthier. “Emotions on the side of frustration and disappointment – we felt that we could have won this series.”

With Wednesday’s Game 7 overtime loss to the Bruins still fresh in the minds of the players, coaching staff and management alike, the Canadiens’ GM was quick to express his belief in the team’s promising future.

“We’re at the same time extremely proud of our team at the moment,” he continued. “We take pride in the way they fought back through adversity all year long, as well as in the playoffs, and it gives us a feeling of optimism moving forward. This is a team that we believe in, a team with a good core of veterans as well as a good core of young players that we feel we can go very far with.”

While some might think that summertime marks a break for anyone working in hockey after the season comes to an end, the Habs’ GM will tell you that his upcoming summer – just like the ones that came before it – promises to be as busy as ever.

“Last year we had a big decision to make regarding the fact that we had two talented No.1 goaltenders that were both ready to take a starting job somewhere,” explained Gauthier. “Carey Price is a player we’re very happy to have with us. He’s enormously talented, battles hard and is still very young and continuing to improve. We’re extremely proud to have him as part of our club.”

“The year before that, in 2009, it was also an important summer where a lot changed. Every summer is a big summer for us, and I can promise you this one will be too.”

With a number of question marks already looming over the Habs defensive core of 2011-12, the Canadiens management will have some tough decisions to make in the coming months. With pillars Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges falling to injury early in the season and the Habs forced to end the year with 11 defensemen listed on their roster, Gauthier will be looking to avoid a repeat come next season. He’ll be forced to choose from among a long list of restricted free agents that include the likes of Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Paul Mara, Brent Sopel and James Wisniewski.

“Not a single one of our players has told me they don’t want to return next year,” stated Gauthier. “It makes our job that much more difficult because we know all the guys we’re dealing with care about the team and have its best interest at heart.”

The Canadiens general manager went on to mention that he and his staff hope to have a plan of action in place within the coming weeks, while also taking a moment sound off on the topic of underachieving center Scott Gomez, and his plans for how the veteran will fit into next year’s team.

“While we have some players that obviously didn’t live up to the expectations of their salaries, we had others that went well beyond the expectations of what they were paid. Scott is under contract and we expect him to have a better performance next year, but if we know one thing, it’s that everyone on this team cares and we’re going to do everything we possible can to help them and make sure they come back stronger.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Ryan White assigned to Hamilton

Thursday, 28.04.2011 / 5:00 PM / News

PRESS RELEASE

MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens announced Wednesday that centreman Ryan White has been assigned to the Hamilton Bulldogs. White was recalled from AHL affiliate team on February 10.

The 23-year old, 6’00’’, 198 lbs centreman suited up for 27 regular season games this season with the Canadiens. White tallied five points (two goals, three assists), including his first NHL goal on March 20 against the Wild at Minnesota. He recorded 30 shots on goal, 70 hits and 38 penalty minutes, while maintaining a +5 plus/minus differential and averaging 8:55 minutes of ice time per game. White was held pointless in seven playoff games, registering three shots on goal and 24 hits, with an average of 6:35 of ice time.

White totalled 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) in 33 games with the Bulldogs during the 2010-2011 regular season. One of his goals was tallied on the power play. He collected 61 shots on goal and served 77 penalty minutes. White missed 14 games earlier this season due to a lower-body injury incurred on November 19 at Rochester.

A native of Brandon, Manitoba, White was the Canadiens’ fourth pick (third round, 66th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

Looking ahead

Thursday, 28.04.2011 / 12:00 AM / News
canadiens.com

BOSTON – Coming just one goal shy of a first-round upset over the Bruins, there were plenty of positives to take away from the Canadiens’ 2011 playoff performance.

While the Habs weren’t looking to discuss the silver lining immediately after their Game 7 overtime loss, some of the major bright spots of 2010-11 rose to the surface anyway.

“Especially when you battle that hard and you know you have a team that could’ve won the series, it definitely hurts,” admitted captain Brian Gionta, who notched two of his team’s three game-winning goals this spring. “I thought we played hard and we showed a lot of character.

Highlights Canadiens – Bruins: Game 7

“We had the lead in the series and we lost it, but we played great in Game 6 and again tonight,” continued the 32-year-old winger. “We were down two goals tonight, showed character and battled back again at the end to tie it up. We definitely never quit. We worked hard until the end and unfortunately we were just a little short. It definitely wasn’t for a lack of effort.”

Watching P.K. Subban rifle the tying goal past Tim Thomas with just 1:57 remaining in regulation, it might be hard to remember the 21-year-old is still just an NHL rookie. Averaging an astonishing 28:33 of ice time through seven games this spring, Subban played with the poise of a veteran throughout the series, and he wasn’t alone in that department.

“I think we’re proud of the effort we put forth in here,” offered Subban. “If you look at our team all year, as soon as we got rolling, we’d have an injury to one of our key guys – we had some amazing injuries this year to some really key players.”

“Look at the Ryan Whites and the David Desharnais’ and the Lars Ellers and some of the other young guys who have stepped in and played some really key roles for us and gotten us to this point,” he underlined. “I mean, if guys don’t step up, maybe we don’t even have an opportunity to be in a Game 7 – or even be in the playoffs at all.”

One of the factors that helped the sixth-ranked Habs bring the No. 3 ranked Bruins to a do-or-die Game 7 situation in the first place was their ability to stymie a Boston offense that led the league in 5-on-5 goals in the regular season. After watching his teammates combine for an NHL-high 144 blocked shots in the series, Carey Price was proud of what he saw from his fellow Canadiens.

“Our guys were battling the whole time. We had guys out of the lineup and guys who were banged up and playing hard. We have every reason to hold our heads high,” shared the All-Star netminder, who finished the playoffs with a .934 save percentage. “We all said at the beginning of the series that it was going to be a long, hard-fought, close series.

“We have a really good locker room. We have a lot of guys who care a lot for each other and we have a lot of guys who would do anything for each other,” revealed Price. “That’s good to see because that’s how you build good teams: through chemistry. I’m looking forward to next season.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

The Numbers Game – April 27, 2011

Wednesday, 27.04.2011 / 10:10 PM / News
canadiens.com

BOSTON — Here’s a numerical look at Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup between the Habs and the Bruins at the TD Garden on Wednesday night.

10 – Number of points racked up in the 2011 postseason by Michael Cammalleri, becoming the first player to hit double digits this spring with an assist on Yannick Weber’s opening goal.

29 – Number of points piled up by Cammalleri in 26 playoff games as a Hab to date, good enough for 54th behind Denis Savard on the Canadiens’ all-time postseason scoring list.

69 – Combined number of Game 7s played by the 20 players in the Canadiens lineup on Wednesday night.

6 – Number of  goals scored by the Habs on the power play in Round 1, six more than the Bruins managed in 21 opportunities; the Canadiens’ penalty killers posted a perfect 100% efficiency while adding a short-handed marker in Game 7.

4 – Number of players who have scored a short-handed goal so far in the 2011 NHL playoffs, including Tomas Plekanec who added his name to that list on Wednesday night.

144 – Number of shots blocked by Canadiens players in Round 1, leading the league in that category.

6 – Number of times the Canadiens have played at least one overtime period in a Game 7 situation over the years.
-canadiens.com

Game on!

Wednesday, 27.04.2011 / 2:00 PM / News
canadiens.com

BOSTON – There’s a reason no one grows up dreaming of scoring the winning goal in Game 54 of the regular season.

The Canadiens have been through plenty of elimination games in the past two postseasons. Down 3-1 in their first round series against the President’s Trophy winners last April, the Habs rallied back to win three-straight do-or-die games. One round later, they did it all over again, erasing a 3-2 series deficit to oust the then-defending Stanley Cup champs. About to take part in his third Game 7 in four playoff series in Montreal, Travis Moen feels a familiar story line building in Boston.

Check out Moen’s shorthanded goal in Game 7 against the Penguins last May

“The approach is no different than it was last game,” explained Moen of his team’s 2-1 win over the Bruins to force Wednesday’s Game 7. “We knew our backs were against the wall in Game 6 and we came out and had a great game and Carey made some big saves for us. We have to come out tonight and do the same thing.”

The architect of the 2007 Stanley Cup-winning goal for Anaheim, Moen is no stranger to high pressure situations. But despite owning a perfect 2-0 record in Game 7s in his career, the 29-year-old winger still feels the same butterflies he did while imagining this moment on his outdoor rink in Stewart Valley, SK.

“I don’t know if you’re ever comfortable. It’s a pretty intense time of the year but we thrive on that,” admitted Moen, who scored a shorthanded goal against the Penguins in his most recent Game 7 tilt last spring.  “It’s still tough to go to sleep; you’re on edge and nobody wants to go home.

“You want to move on to the next round and the next city and all 20 guys on our team are trying to fight for that,’ he continued. “It seems like guys raise their levels and we’ve had great goaltending – there’s lots of pressure but I believe in our guys that we can do it.”

Fresh off earning a championship ring of his own with the Blackhawks in 2010, Brent Sopel can still taste the celebratory champagne he sipped from the Cup last June. Although he and the ‘Hawks never faced elimination during their run to the Finals, the 34-year-old blue-liner still managed to carry over one of the biggest lessons he learned in Chicago.

“You have to realize where you are and enjoy it. This is fun,” stressed Sopel, who has two assists in three career Game 7 opportunities.  “Coming into the season if they said ‘You’re going to be playing in Game 7 in the first round’, you’d take it. Obviously we all know what the outcome could be: we could be going home or we could be moving on. You’ve got to enjoy it or you’ll just hinder yourself.

“As a hockey player, you want to be part of games like this,” he added. “You have to just take advantage of it – go out there, soak in the crowd, have fun, relax and enjoy your time on the ice.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Bruins #7

Tuesday, 26.04.2011 / 11:08 PM / News
canadiens.com

Keep the good times rollin’: Unable to decide a winner after six games, the Canadiens and Bruins get set to clash once more for the eighth Game 7 in their long playoff history. While the Habs have the lock on winning final games at home, walking away with the three that took place in Montreal, they were only able to steal two of four on Bruin ice, with the most recent coming when the 2004 edition of the Canadiens stormed back to erase a 3-1 deficit for the first time in team history.

Second chances: The 2011 Canadiens will get another stab at accomplishing a feat that has only been done four times in the club’s 100-plus years: winning three road-games in a single playoff series. A Wednesday night win would knock the Bruins out of the postseason in similar fashion to the 1966 and 1951 Red Wings, the 1989 Flyers and of course, last year’s Washington Capitals.

Ready for Round 9: With two Stanley Cups to his name, Canadiens’ veteran center Scott Gomez has more playoff experience than any other member of the Habs roster when it comes to do-or-die Game 7s. In eight such matchups to date, the Habs No. 11 has notched six wins with only two losses, posting four assists along the way, with two of them coming against the Penguins in 2010, ultimately helping the Habs sink the Pittsburgh squad to move on to the Eastern Conference finals.

Killer instinct:  Firing on all cylinders since the beginning of their series against the Bruins, the Canadiens’ penalty-kill has been perfect every time they’ve hit the ice in the postseason, having yet to cough up a goal with a man in the box. To date, the Habs PK unit has managed to completely shut down the Bruins’ power-play on all 20 of their attempts, while Jacques Martin’s troops have registered a 17.4% success rate with the man-advantage.

Dueling netminders:  Even if Carey Price wasn’t counting on the Canadiens-Bruins series being all about the goaltenders, the two men between the pipes have still been a huge deciding factor in the outcome of the games. Price has so far posted a save-percentage of .942, ranking him 3rd overall in the league, while Tim Thomas sits in 6th with .927.


Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

Spring King

Tuesday, 26.04.2011 / 10:49 PM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – What’s the best recipe for success in do-or-die situations in the playoffs? Get the puck to Michael Cammalleri.

Staving off elimination in the postseason is nothing new in Montreal. Having rallied back from 3-1 and 3-2 deficits last spring, the Canadiens were back to their old tricks in Game 6 against the Bruins on Tuesday night.

“We packed last night for tonight and three other games,” offered Cammalleri, who is leading the league with nine points in six games. “That was the plan and that was the mindset. It was nice to get that win tonight.”

Highlights Canadiens – Bruins: Game 6

A big factor in earning that win was some vintage clutch play by Cammalleri, who now has seven goals and three assists in seven elimination games with the Habs.

“It’s nothing in particular for me. It’s got to do with how we play as a group,” understated the 28-year-old sniper, who notched a goal and an assist to earn first star honors in Game 6. “There’s not much to get excited about that right now to be honest with you because in less than 24 hours, we have to do it all over again. Tonight gets forgotten really quickly depending on the result of tomorrow night.”

With another elimination game pending in Boston on Wednesday night, the only win Cammalleri & Co. wanted to focus on was the next one.

“As soon as we got in the room tonight after the game there was pretty much zero talk about tonight’s game. Talk quickly went to ‘Let’s go get some rest and let’s roll into the next game and roll it over like it’s the same game,’” described the Richmond Hill, ON native. “The mentality for us is the same. We go and get as much rest as we can and before we know it, we’re going to be putting on our gear and trying to do the same things all over again.”

Despite having led all forwards with 25:03 in ice time on Tuesday night, Cammalleri isn’t worried about finding a way to give an encore performance in Game 7.

“Drink lots of BioSteel,” joked the winger on his plans for recovery. “No, if you can eat and breathe I think it’ll be easy to get motivated for that one tomorrow. We’ve started to earn a little bit of that reputation [of winning elimination games] and that’s a good one to have. We’ll plan on another one in less than 24 hours.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com

The Numbers Game – April 26, 2011

Tuesday, 26.04.2011 / 9:39 PM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL — Here’s a numerical look at Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup between the Habs and the Bruins at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.

3:27 – Amount of time needed by referee Chris Lee to be serenaded by a chorus of boos from the Bell Centre faithful after calling back a Brian Gionta goal in the opening minutes of Tuesday’s game.

7 – Number of goals scored by Michael Cammalleri in elimination games with the Canadiens, opening the scoring for the Habs on Tuesday night after notching six of his 13 goals last spring in do-or-die situations.

50 – Number of playoff wins registered by Habs head coach Jacques Martin in his career, becoming just the 20th NHL head coach to hit that benchmark.

728 – Number of days since Paul Mara last suited up for an NHL postseason game, dating back to Game 7 between the Rangers and Capitals on April 28, 2009. The heavily-bearded blue-liner made his presence felt on Tuesday night, dishing out four hits in the outing.

9 – Number of times Cammalleri made his way into the faceoff circle on Tuesday night, with the left winger holding his own winning 56% of his draws.

100 – Percentage of Bruins power play opportunities snuffed out by the Canadiens’ penalty killers so far in the series, the only team to remain perfect on the PK through Round 1.

8 – Number of game-winning goals scored by Brian Gionta in his nine-year NHL career, forcing Game 7 against the Bruins with a second-period power player marker on Tuesday night.

0 – Number of times in five opportunities that the Bruins have managed to eliminate the Habs in Game 6 after earning a 3-2 series lead, with the Canadiens forcing a Game 7 in each of those instances.

3 – Number of years since Carey Price last enjoyed a home playoff win on Bell Centre ice, putting an end to the seven-game drought with a 2-1 win on Tuesday night.

– canadiens.com

Down to the wire

Tuesday, 26.04.2011 / 1:03 PM / News

MONTREAL — The Habs get set to put it all on the line as they prepare to face the Bruins and the possibility of elimination in Game 6 at the Bell Centre.

Hours away from their first must-win game of the 2011 playoffs, the Habs will be hoping to recapture some of last year’s success when it came to suiting up for must-win matchups. They may, however, be forced to do it without the services of James Wisniewski and David Desharnais who head-coach Jacques Martin listed as being game-time decisions come Tuesday night.

Gameday: Michael Cammalleri

“We’ve been without key players at a lot of points in the season and it won’t be the first time we’ve had to deal with something like this,” pointed out Lars Eller following the Habs’ morning skate. The rookie, playing in his sixth career playoff game, logged an assist on the Habs’ only goal in their Saturday night 2-1 double-overtime loss at the TD Garden.

“We unfortunately haven’t been able to capitalize on all the scoring chances we created to this point, but if we keep doing the things we’ve been doing, I know things will start to go our way. It’s the time for everyone to look in the mirror and visualize the way they want to play and the things that they want to go out there and accomplish.”

Ryan White, another Habs’ rookie enjoying his first foray into the NHL postseason will be looking to take a cue from some of the Canadiens’ veterans who battled through similar circumstances with the team in 2010.

“Leadership in this room has always been huge and the feeling in here right now is that everyone understands this is something we can do,” promised White, who has stood out as one of the Habs most consistent physical presences against the Bruins in their first-round series, posting 21 hits over five games.

“The games have all been really close and the last two could have very easily gone our way. As much as that momentum carries over, it’s a new day today and we want to get this win tonight here in Montreal with everyone behind us.”

Michael Cammalleri, who currently leads the team with seven postseason points, made it clear that while he hopes his rookie teammates can take something away from the Habs veterans when it comes to dealing with high-pressure games, it’s a dynamic that works both ways.

“In a team dynamic like this, you get the younger guys looking over to see what the older guys are doing and maybe they can find some comfort in watching and following, and at the same time the older guys can get inspiration from the younger guys and the effort they’re able to put forth. It’s really a relationship where one feeds off the other,” explained the Habs’ sniper.

“The best thing you can do when going into an elimination game, especially one where the other team isn’t facing elimination too, is to go in with that kind of liberating feeling that lets you just go out there play the best hockey you can and let the chips fall where they may.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Bruins #6

Sunday, 24.04.2011 / 12:50 PM / News
canadiens.com

Canadiens Territory: When it comes to Bruins-Habs playoff series, the Canadiens have the market cornered when it comes to winning those best-of-7 matchups four games to two. The Habs have eliminated Boston in six games four times in NHL history while the Bruins have never done the same. The four times the Bs have had a chance to oust the Canadiens in Game 6, Montreal has forced a Game 7 and eventually eliminated the Bruins in three of those rubber matches.

Not a first time for everything: There are a lot of things the Canadiens have been the first to do over the years, but there’s one accomplishment in this series in particular the Habs want nothing to do with: becoming the first team to lose to the Bruins after leading 2-0. In the 26 previous times in franchise history that Boston has trailed 2-0 in a series, the Bruins have been on the losing end of the handshakes on all 26 occasions to date.

Party like it’s 2010: For the third time in the past two years, the Canadiens will be facing elimination in front of their fans in Game 6.  Last spring at the Bell Centre, the Habs posted a 4-1 win over the Capitals before winning the series in Game 7 two days later in Washington, following that up with a 4-3 win over the Penguins in Game 6 in Round 2 before sending Sidney Crosby & Co. off on summer vacation on May 12.

Work horse: After seeing 40 minutes and 43 seconds of ice time in Game 5, P.K. Subban brought his 2011 playoff average up to a whopping 29:32. The 21-year-old defenseman has enjoyed more ice time than Bruins top blue-liners Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. Hal Gill is second on the Habs with an average of 25:04 minutes per game.

Time and a half: Suiting up for his 89th career NHL game – playoffs and regular season combined – Lars Eller broke the 20-minute mark for the first time on Saturday night. In addition to dishing out six hits in his 21:43 of ice time, the 21-year-old Dane also set up Jeff Halpern’s third period goal to register his second point in three games in Boston this postseason.

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com

Familiar Territory

Sunday, 24.04.2011 / 1:00 AM / News
canadiens.com

BOSTON — If last year’s playoffs proved anything, it’s that the Habs know how to handle do-or-die situations.

After being edged out in double-overtime of Game 5 at TD Garden, the Canadiens may find themselves down 3-2 in their series against the Bruins, but after already overcoming worse odds in their last trip to the postseason, don’t look for the 2011 edition of the Habs to be giving up any time soon.

“It was a hard fought game. I thought we did everything we needed to do, but we can’t change the outcome now,” expressed Carey Price following his 49 save performance over four-and-a-half periods of hockey against the Bruins. “We’ve got our work cut out for us at this point, so we have to refocus and get to it. We haven’t lost yet and we have to come back with the exact same effort next game.”

Part of last season’s push to the Eastern Conference finals that saw the Canadiens stave off elimination five times over the course of two series, Brian Gionta was well aware that while the Bruins may have come out on top in Saturday’s battle, the war has yet to be won.

“No one feels it more than the guys here in this room. We obviously wanted this win, but we still remain confident that we’re a better team, and we have two more games to prove that,” stated the Habs’ captain who was denied by Tim Thomas on one of the Canadiens’ best scoring opportunities in the second overtime after rocketing a one-timer at the Boston netminder.

“As soon as the puck left my stick I though it was going in. But he’s a good goalie and he made a good save on me. Both teams were battling hard tonight, it was tough to get chances and when we did, both goalies played extremely well.”

While the loss may be a tough one to swallow at the moment for fans and players alike, Canadiens’ head-coach Jacques Martin was quick to point out that while his squad may have come out on the wrong end of their tilt against the Bruins, it wasn’t for hack of heart or effort.

“We battled to the end, credit to all the players. Both sides had their chances and both teams fought all the way. We showed a lot of perseverance and determination and all the guys that dressed played hard tonight,” expressed Martin before rapidly changing focus to the task that lies ahead.

“We gave all we had and now we have a few games to recoop and get ready to win one in front of our fans at home. It’s a tough situation, but last year’s experience is going to be a big help in getting us through it.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Big picture

Friday, 22.04.2011 / 1:20 PM / News
canadiens.com

BROSSARD – Carey Price may not have been nominated for the Vezina, but it was the furthest thing from his mind on Friday morning.

Despite finishing the regular season tied for the league-lead with 38 wins, Price was left off the Vezina ballot in favor of Roberto Luongo, Pekka Rinne and Tim Thomas. He won’t be bringing home any goaltending hardware this June, but the two-time All-Star is more focused on helping his team collect the biggest prize of all in the meantime.

“It is what it is. The guys who were nominated really deserve to be there and I’m not going to take anything away from those goaltenders,” shared Price after learning he wasn’t among the Final Three before shifting his focus right back to playoff-mode. “At the start of this series, if you would have told me it would be 2-2 after four, I think we would’ve taken that. It’s a best-of-3 and it’s a sprint to the end of this one.”

One of Price’s many spectacular saves

After seeing the Bruins and Habs combine for nine goals on Thursday night, Price and his teammates will be looking to revive some of the defensive, shut-down brand of hockey that helped them hold the Bruins to just one goal in the first two games of the series.

“Yesterday was definitely a spirited game. Both teams were playing really well offensively. It’s bound to happen when you have a bunch of talented players on the ice,” explained the 23-year-old netminder. “It seems both teams want the road advantage now. I guess as a team when you go into an opposing rink, it’s a lot easier to keep your game simple. That’s why road teams are successful in the playoffs.”

For just the 31st time in NHL history, the visiting team has walked away with each of the first four games to open the series. Heading into Boston for Game 5, the Habs will be looking to spoil the party at TD Garden for a third-straight time this postseason.

“They came out with two wins, but for the majority of those two games I thought we played better. They could’ve gone either way,” suggested Price. “We’re confident in our room. They played really well, no doubt, and they earned everything they got. But I thought we played pretty strong as well so we’re not concerned; we’re not going to press any panic buttons yet.”

“They were facing adversity and now it’s our turn,” he added. “It’s pretty much all the quotes they were saying two games ago for us. We can’t kick ourselves now – we just have to cowboy up and do it.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Bruins #5

Friday, 22.04.2011 / 12:01 PM / News
canadiens.com

Turning point? Not exactly: Anyone who thought Game 4 was the most important in the best-of-seven series clearly wasn’t looking at playoff history between the Bruins and Habs. Since 1943, the two Original 6 teams have faced off 26 times in the postseason and in those matchups, winning the fourth game has hardly been a indication of series success. With the exception of the six series that ended with a sweep in Game 4, only four others have seen the team who wins Game 4 go on to win the series. The team who loses Game 4 has won the series the 15 remaining times.

Getting offensive: Fans looking for another goal scoring clinic may be in for some disappointment on Saturday night. The nine combined goals scored by the Habs and Bruins at the Bell Centre on Thursday were hardly indicative of how the two teams usually fare on the scoresheet in playoff outings. In the 166 previous postseason tilts between Boston and Montreal, only 20 have seen the teams score that many goals.

Playing the hero: The Canadiens have racked up 101 playoff wins against the Bruins over the years with winning-goals coming off the sticks of 60 different players. Hall-of-Famers Dickie Moore, Maurice Richard and Bernard Geoffrion have all sealed playoff wins for the Habs against Boston and Brian Gionta and Mathieu Darche added their names to that list so far in the current series. Tied with Gionta for the team lead with six game-winners this season, could Andrei Kostitsyn be next?

Another level: After compiling an impressive 19 points in the playoffs last spring, Michael Cammalleri picked up right where he left off in the current postseason. With seven points in four games already, Cammalleri jumped to the 58th spot on the Canadiens all-time playoff scoring leaderboard. The 28-year-old is one of seven current Habs who have played at least 20 postseason games for the Canadiens, averaging over a point-per-game in that span.

Road warriors: The Canadiens and Bruins seem to be a lot more comfortable on the road in this series, with both teams going 0-2 on home ice to date. This series marks just the 31st time in NHL history that the visiting team has won each of the first four games and the first time since the Montreal-Carolina series in 2006. Habs fans won’t be disappointed if that trend continues on Saturday night.

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com

Best of 3

Thursday, 21.04.2011 / 11:12 PM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – The road team has won every game of the Montreal-Boston series so far and the Habs are looking to keep that trend alive.

After a slow start on Monday night, the Canadiens were determined to explode out of the gate in Game 4. Taking an early lead in the first period and outshooting the Bruins 15-8 in the opening frame, the Habs did exactly that, looking like a team that would be heading back to Boston with a 3-1 series lead.

Highlights Canadiens – Bruins: Game 4

“We were excellent in the first 30 minutes but we made too many turnovers and that cost us,” explained Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin, who saw his team give up 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3 in Game 4. “That’s what the playoffs are all about. Momentum swings even during the game. We had the momentum with our play in the first half of the game and they took it away with their play in the second half.”

It may not have felt like it to the 21,273 fans who witnessed the game in person, but the overtime loss on Thursday night isn’t putting any added pressure on the Canadiens heading into Game 5.

“Before the series, if we would’ve said that we’d be tied 2-2 after four games, that’s something a lot of people wouldn’t have thought we’d be able to do,” mentioned Martin of his sixth-seeded Habs. “Now it’s a best-of-three so we’ll have to regroup and be prepared to be at our best on Saturday.”

While Tomas Plekanec realizes the opportunity his team let slip away in the outing, he also knows the series is far from over.

“That was a huge game, obviously. Being up 3-1 is different than being tied 2-2 going to Boston,” admitted the 28-year-old center who assisted on Andrei Kostitsyn’s second period marker. “We showed a lot of character during the season, we have a good team here and we’re going to keep our heads up. For sure after winning the first two in Boston we would’ve liked to come back and win at least one at home, but at the same time, the series is still 2-2. Now we just have to go win a third one over there.”

A few stalls down from Plekanec, another Czech Republic native was equally eager to take the lesson out of Thursday’s loss.

“We maybe started watching them play and back onto our heels a little bit,” offered Jaroslav Spacek. “Little mistakes cost us the game. We were playing well and had a lot of chances. We gave up the lead three times – to lose that game was a really tough one.

“All season long we’ve played well and we’ve proven we can bounce back from losses like this,” added the 37-year-old blue-liner. “We just have to settle down. You make little mistakes and we paid the price today. Hopefully we’ll learn from that and we’ll be better on Saturday.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Pushback

Thursday, 21.04.2011 / 12:43 PM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL — The Habs will be gunning to get the momentum back in their corner in Game 4 against the Bruins.

Following a short practice and a team meeting on the morning of their fourth against the Bruins, the Habs took a moment to talk about keeping their emotions in check, getting back to strong starts and some possible lineup changes for Thursday night’s game.

Gameday Comments: Lars Eller

“We addressed some things from Game 3, both good and bad,” dropped Brent Sopel on the focus of the Habs team meeting leading up to Thursday night’s game. “Now we’re going to try and build off our third period performance and get back to the same consistency that helped us win the first two games of the series.”

“What we want tonight is to make sure that we stay even and focused and not have our emotions get too high or too low,” added the veteran defenseman who has total of nine blocked shots to date in his team’s series against the Bruins. “They’re going to come out with a lot of energy and try to build on their win and we have to make that hard for them by starting off as well as we possibly can.”

One boost the Canadiens are hoping to get is the return of Jeff Halpern to their lineup when the puck drops at 7:00 p.m. After being sidelined for seven games with a lower-body injury, Halpern could make his playoff debut with the Habs in Game 4.

“There’s a pretty good chance that Jeff will be in the lineup tonight. When you look back at the experience and leadership that he’s brought to the team this year, we know that he’ll be a big help to us,” expressed head-coach, Jacques Martin on the status of the Habs’ faceoff specialist. “

“When it comes to faceoffs, Eller being a left and Halpern being a right while playing together should allow us to use their strengths on the ice in the right situations.”

One positive that the Canadiens will be looking to take away from their Monday night loss, is a strong third-period finish that almost saw them climb back from a 3-0 deficit in the game. But as Habs sniper Michael Cammlleri was quick to point out, performing well for one period is no way to win a playoff game.

“We played better and did some things well in the third period, but we could have made things a lot easier for ourselves by getting off to a better start. We want to get back to the style of play we had on the road that basically comes down to not making a lot of mistakes and limiting their chances,” mentioned Cammalleri who has been a major offensive catalyst for the Habs in their series against the Bruins, posting four points in their last two games.

“Having a series at 2-2 or 3-1 sound like very different stories, but worrying about what those implications are does us no good. We just need to stay focused on the present. No one can predict what’s going to happen – that’s why we’re fans of sport, because you really can’t call the outcome and every game is different. As a fan of the game, the first round has been tremendous all around the league.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

The Notebook – April 20, 2011

Wednesday, 20.04.2011 / 2:07 PM / News
canadiens.com

BROSSARD – In today’s playoff notebook, the guys discuss down time, the race to four and road ice advantage.

Refreshed and ready: With an extra day between Games 3 and 4 thanks to a Rush concert taking place at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night, Habs head coach Jacques Martin decided to give his team the day off on Tuesday to relax and recharge for Thursday night. Knowing better than anyone what a grind the playoffs can be, Hal Gill chose to spend the day enjoying some of the comforts of home.

Highlights Canadiens – Bruins: Game 3

“You want to be comfortable, you want to be rested and you want to be ready to go. It’s about knowing what you need,” explained the veteran blue-liner, who is second on the team with eight hits so far in the 2011 playoffs. “There are distractions at home and sometimes you don’t need those distractions. Sometimes you do need those distractions.

“It was nice yesterday to be at home and to be with my kids and get away. Now, today you get back into it and tomorrow, you’re ready to go again,” added Gill. “You recharge a little bit. If you’re locked down, your brain fries out. There’s a healthy balance there. If you need a mental break or you need to gear it up physically and stay sharp mentally, it’s a personal thing.”

Doing the math: Rookie defenseman P.K. Subban may be new to the NHL but he still knows you need to get three wins before you can get four. The best way to get there is making sure his team plays as well on the first shift as they do on the last.

“It’s an important game. The last one is over and the next one is just as big. 3-1 is a lot different than 2-2,” described Subban, who is third among all NHLers averaging 27:01 of ice time so far in the playoffs. “Our focus now is just on getting ready for that opening shift and playing a solid 60 minutes. We know if we do that we’re confident the outcome is going to be what we want.

“We have to find a way to get out and be ready to play right from the drop of the puck,” he added after seeing Boston take an early 2-0 lead in Game 3. “We can’t afford to get behind the 8 ball – we have to be ready to go right off the hop. They’re a desperate team and we have to make sure we play desperate hockey against them.”

Road ice advantage:
Playing on home ice hasn’t worked out well for the Habs or Bruins so far in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. After winning both games on the road in Boston, the Canadiens came back to the Bell Centre only to see the Bruins steal Game 3 in front of the Montreal faithful on Monday night. 2010 Stanley Cup champion Brent Sopel wouldn’t mind breaking that streak on Thursday night, but he’s not about to stop there.

“It’s the playoffs; it doesn’t matter where you are – home or away – you’ve got to win,” offered the 34-year-old defenseman. “It’s always nice to be at home in front of your own fans, but you need to get the job done whether you’re at home or on the road if you want to go far.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Bruins #4

Tuesday, 19.04.2011 / 3:20 PM / News
canadiens.com

Stay Perfect:: With a league-high 327 penalties handed down to them over the course of the 2010-11 season, it’s safe to say the Habs have had no lack of practice playing shorthanded. Thankfully, all that practice seems to be coming in handy so far this spring. Over their first three games against the Bruins, Jacques Martin’s troops have managed to stifle Boston on all 11 of its power-play opportunities. As nice as it is to still be perfect on the penalty-kill, staying out of the box altogether is an even better alternative to keeping an opponent off the scoresheet.

My Favourite Team: Since making the trip across the Atlantic to jump-start his North American hockey career, Andrei Kostitsyn has been bent on putting his mark on the historic Canadiens-Bruins rivalry. With already 22 points in 27 career regular-season games against the Bruins – a personal best out of any team in the NHL – Kostitsyn tacked on a seventh point in 13 playoff games against Boston on Monday night. Out of 24 games against the three other teams he’s faced in the postseason, Kostitsyn has registered a total of 11 points.

Rest is Overrated: The Canadiens current playoff schedule sees them “benefiting” from a two day hiatus before their next matchup against the Bruins. Hitting the ice too well rested, however, hasn’t always spelled success for the Habs over the last 15 years. Luckily, the 2010 edition of the Canadiens were finally able to put an end to a series of six consecutive losses, spanning all the way back to 1994, that came when the team had a two day break between two games in the same series.

Take a Cue from the Past II: In last year’s semi-final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jacques Martin’s squad managed to also snuff out another troubling trend that had been lingering since 2004 – losing games 3 and 4 of a playoff series at home. After getting swept at home five times in a row, the 2010 Canadiens managed to turn the tables on the Penguins, posting a win in the fourth game of their series at the Bell Centre. A repeat this year against the Bruins would be very welcome.

Reap What You Sow: With the first 23 games of the 2011 playoffs already in the bag, it’s quickly become obvious that the initial 20 minutes of play are where games are being lost or won. Out of the 16 times a team has gone to the dressing room with the lead after one period, only twice has the opposition come back to steal the victory.

Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

Road, Sweet Road

Monday, 18.04.2011 / 11:21 PM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL – The Canadiens will be looking to play the way they did on the road at home in Game 4.

After watching the Habs come in to TD Garden and steal Games 1 and 2, the Bruins turned the table on Montreal in Game 3. Coming into the series as sixth-seeded underdogs, the Canadiens played a relentless shut-down game in Boston, but that’s not what All-Star netminder Carey Price saw from his team on Monday night.

Highlights Canadiens – Bruins: Game 3

“I think it started in the morning. Guys were horsing around in the pregame skate and weren’t ready to play,” described Price, who has stopped 86 of the 90 shots he’s faced in the series. “I thought we got what we deserved in the first period. After that, we came back in the second half and played like a focused hockey team and played like we should.”

The Habs fired 28 of their 36 shots in the second and third periods to help mount a come-back with goals by Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec. Despite the late surge, the three-goal deficit turned out to be too much for the Canadiens to dig their way out of.

“It definitely makes you aware of the real situation,” admitted Price. “They’re a good hockey team and if we don’t play like we did in Boston, we’re not going to win hockey games.

“Mistakes are going to get made and goals are going to get scored,” he added. “We weren’t expecting to sweep Boston going into it, so we’re still happy with where we’re at. Tonight, we’ll think about this game and tomorrow we’ll refocus and get prepared for the next one.”

No stranger to the ups and downs of playoff hockey himself, Hal Gill knows the secret to success in the postseason isn’t as complex as it seems.

“Boston is a good team and if we don’t play a desperate game with focus and urgency then we’re going to get beat,” explained the 36-year-old veteran, who now has 101 career playoff games under his belt. “We have to recognize what we do well and stick to it. That’s not making plays in the middle; it’s grinding it out and supporting each other. If it means taking three more steps to get into position, then that’s what you do. You don’t take the shortcut and we did that too often.”

A defensive pillar for the Penguins during back-to-back runs to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009 – winning it all the second time around – before leading the Habs to the Conference final last spring, Gill knows better than anyone there’s no such thing as an easy ride in the playoffs.

“It’s going to go back and forth. It’s all momentum swings and that’s playoff hockey. You have to ride that wave and try to stay on top of it as much as possible,” prescribed Gill. “The next one is going to be a hard-fought win. We have to go out and work our butts off to get that win. We’ll get some rest now and regroup, look at tape and we’ll talk to each other about what we do well. Then we’ll go out and do it well on Thursday.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Home Turf

Monday, 18.04.2011 / 1:10 PM / News

MONTREAL — After winning their first two playoff games of 2011 on enemy ice, the Habs come home ready to give 21,273 fans at the Bell Centre even more to cheer about.

The Canadiens may have landed back in Montreal up 2-0 in their series against the Bruins, but even with the momentum on their side and the home crowd in their corner, the Habs know that adding another win Monday night will be their toughest challenge yet.

“Our goal is going to be to play with that same urgency that we had in the first two games while still managing to stay calm and focused in front of our home crowd,” explained Habs’ defensive pillar, Hal Gill who registered a game-high five blocked shots in Game 2, which also marked the 100th playoff game of his career. “The real challenge becomes to play the same way every night and keep coming with that push no matter where you’re playing.”

Gameday comments: Ryan White

“We want to make the most out of the things that we can control,” continued Gill. “Being smart and not letting things get out of hand after the whistle are things we can control. If we’re able to stay more composed than they are, it gives us a big edge in the game.”

With the chance to put a 3-0 stranglehold on the series with a victory on home-ice Monday night, Canadiens’ head-coach, Jacques Martin, will be expecting even more from his troops when the puck drops at 7:30 p.m..

“You’ve got to appreciate our fans and the atmosphere is our building, and for sure tonight, the atmosphere is going to be electric,” expressed the former Jack Adams Award winner. “The responsibility falls on us now, more than ever, to come out playing our best hockey of the year. They’re going to be competing hard tonight and it’s up to us to be even better than we were in the first two games of the series.”

Michael Cammalleri couldn’t agree more. After helping to get his team off to another hot start with a goal 43 seconds into Game 2, the Habs’ sniper was quick to point out that the Canadiens’ first playoff game of 2011 at the Bell Centre is no time for the team to get too comfortable.

“Our crowd can be the best assist out there. The fans should all be really energized tonight and it should be a great atmosphere. There are certain points in a game where as a team, you really need a lift and our crowd is a huge boost for us,” said Cammalleri. “It’s going to be our job to use that energy to our advantage and let it help to motivate us while still managing to stay focused on the task at hand and stick to our game plan making sure we execute it properly.”

“I don’t think we feel overconfident, in fact I think we all know that we need to play our best game of the series tonight if we hope to win.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Bruins #3

Sunday, 17.04.2011 / 3:43 PM / News
canadiens.com

Building Blocks: Taking a cue from what helped them reach the conference finals last season, the Habs have shown up ready to sacrifice in 2011, already blocking 46 shots on goal in their first two games against the Bruins. That number is a sharp contrast to the 21 blocked shots posted by Claude Julien’s troops, with only eight of them coming in Game 2. So far, it’s Brent Sopel that’s jumped in front of the most rubber for the Canadiens, blocking a total of seven shots over the course of the first two games of the series.

First Strike: Three minutes and 27 seconds. 187 seconds. However you want to say it, that’s the very short window of time the Bruins spent not playing catchup hockey on the way to the Habs nabbing a 2-0 lead in the series. The seven other series currently underway around the NHL have also demonstrated the value of drawing first blood, as teams to score first have gone on to win 12 out 14 matchups over the first four days of playoff action.

Make it Count: Saturday night against the Bruins, Michael Cammalleri potted his 14th playoff goal as a member of the Canadiens, managing to reach that number in only 21 second season games with the club. In the 11 postseason games that Cammalleri has lit the lamp for the Habs, the team has gone on to post a record of eight wins and only three losses.

Yannick of All Trades: While he may be a defenseman by nature, Yannick Weber was anything but out of place when his coach tapped him to play as a forward in Game 2. Called upon to replace Andrei Kostitsyn against the Bruins, the young defenseman/forward not only held his own, but notched his second career playoff goal in only four postseason appearances, having already recorded a goal and an assist over three tilts against the Bruins in the spring of 2009. Weber registered one goal and 11 helpers in 50 regular season games over three years with the Habs stretching black to 2007-08.

Take a Cue from the Past: Saturday in Boston, the Canadiens stole the first two games of a playoff series on the road for the fifth time in team history. However, the last two times the Canadiens managed to accomplish the feat, they weren’t able to hold on to take the series, losing in 2006 to Carolina and in 1996 to the Rangers. But if the latest incarnation of the Habs needs a bit of inspiration, all they need do is look a little further into the past to 1968 when the Canadiens swept St. Louis in four games and 1951 when they bested Detroit in six.

Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

Not there yet

Saturday, 16.04.2011 / 11:39 PM / News
canadiens.com

BOSTON – Anyone looking to celebrate Saturday night’s win in Boston should probably steer clear of the Habs dressing room.

Winning on the road in the playoffs isn’t easy. Winning back-to-back games in enemy territory is even harder. Despite boarding the team charter for Montreal after Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Bruins with two wins stowed in their carry-on bins, the Canadiens were well aware they haven’t won anything yet.

Highlights Canadiens – Bruins: Game 2

“Well two’s not four,” explained All-Star goaltender Carey Price, who is currently leading the league with a .985 save percentage. “We have a lot of work left to do and that’s a really good hockey team over there. They have a lot of talent on that team and we have to come out with the same effort at home as we did here.”

Also in a subdued mood despite scoring his first goal of the 2011 postseason just 43 seconds into Game 2, Michael Cammalleri knows his team is just getting warmed up for the road ahead.

”Satisfying is the wrong word,” replied Cammalleri when asked what part of his team’s first two wins satisfied him the most. “I think we’re ‘happy’ and ‘pleased’ as far as the result and some of the things we’ve been able to do. You go into these series and these games thinking you can win every game, but at the same time there’s always that ‘We’ll see what happens’ aspect for everybody involved. There’s some good stuff there but we’re far from satisfied. We’ve still got a long way to go.”

On the other side of the room, not even the thrill of scoring his first career NHL playoff goal could get a rise out of Mathieu Darche after the game.

“When the goal goes in, you’re happy and you’re excited – I’m a Montreal kid; I grew up watching the team. After that it was ‘Ok, it’s done and we have a game to play’. If you enjoy the moment too much it will pass you by,” described the St. Laurent native. “Getting the first one was great, but now we move on. Hopefully it wasn’t the last one.”

The Bruins may have let the Canadiens leave TD Garden with two coveted parting gifts, but with a combined 66 shots and 64 hits in Games 1 and 2, they were far from gracious hosts in the process. That could explain why despite heading back to Montreal with the series lead, Darche still sees plenty of room for improvement heading into Game 3.

“We’re confident. We’ve got to be happy with what we did but we can’t be satisfied. We’re going to go back to Montreal and it’s just going to get tougher,” he stressed. “I’m sure they’re not happy and they’re going to come out with a vengeance. It’s our turn at home so we have to be ready.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

More of the same

Saturday, 16.04.2011 / 1:48 PM / News
canadiens.com

BOSTON – At this time of year, the only game plan the Habs are focusing on is their own.

The Canadiens opened their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against Boston with a 2-0 victory, but it was far from an easy win for the No.6 seed. While the Bruins will likely be searching for alternatives to the system that saw them held off the scoresheet on Thursday night, the Habs will be prepared to do all the little things even better than they did in Game 1.

Highlights: Game 1

“We try to take away time and space and we’re a better team when we’re playing our way, playing in their end and working our forecheck and I think we did that,” described veteran blue-liner Hal Gill, who played 22:34 against his former team in the series opener. “I know they’re not happy with how they did and I assume they’re going to do some things differently and do some things harder. We have to be ready for that and keep going the way we can play and impose that on them.”

Despite the talk before the Boston-Montreal series began about the physically imposing style of the big, bad Bruins versus the finesse game of the speedy, undersized Habs, the home team threw exactly one more hit than the visitors did in Game 1. P.K. Subban spent a good chunk of his game-high 27:07 working to shut down Bruins bruisers like Milan Lucic, and the rookie defenseman isn’t anticipating an easier ride when Game 2 kicks off on Saturday night.

“You can’t prepare for guys like that. He’s so big that if he’s going to get to the front of the net, it’s going to be tough to deter him from doing that,” explained Subban of the Bruins’ 6-foot-4 power forward. “I think playing well positionally and maybe trying to decrease the amount of time he has to get to the front of the net is key. If you can slow him down a little bit, maybe that gives our goaltender a chance to see the puck.

“Last game, you have to give them credit – I thought they did a pretty good job of getting to the net,” he added. “Carey played really well and seemed to find the puck and he covered it in time before they could get a stick on it. They’re big body guys; we’ve got our work cut out for us again tonight.”

Having taken away the home ice advantage Boston worked 82 games to earn in just 60 minutes on Thursday night, Subban isn’t expecting to see a tame bunch of Bruins hitting the ice at TD Garden for Game 2.

“We know that it means a lot to them and in their rink they’re going to come out with a lot of energy. We expect that,” confirmed the 21-year-old blue-liner. “Like last game, the first five or 10 minutes are going to be so important tonight. For us, we have to match their intensity and it’s going to be tough. They’re going to come out emotional but we have to match that and do all the right things early and then make sure we keep doing those things consistently.”

One of the best things the Habs did in Thursday’s game was scoring before fans had even gotten a chance to settle into their seats in the first period. With a 32-6-6 record in the regular season when getting on the board first, that’s something Michael Cammalleri wouldn’t mind seeing more of as the series progresses.

“The idea going in is you have a whole game you want to execute as well as possible and the results will take care of themselves. But if we score two and a half minutes in again, we’ll take it,” joked the Habs sniper. “I expect them to be as good as they can be tonight. The implications are all there and everyone is aware of them. Boston is going to come out and really throw it all at us tonight and that’s ok; that’s what we expect. We think we’re capable of doing the same.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Bruins #2

Friday, 15.04.2011 / 3:01 PM / News
canadiens.com

Stick to the Script: Winning the first game of a Canadiens-Bruins playoff series has historically been key to winning the series itself. In their 32 pervious postseason meetings, the team that walked away with a Game 1 victory has gone on to take the whole series a whopping 27 times. The odds become even greater for the team that can jump out to a 2-0 lead, which has happened a total of 22 times. Boston stands as the only team to have blown such a lead when in 2004, the Bruins squandered both 2-0 and 3-1 series leads, as the Canadiens stormed back to take the round in seven games.

Follow the Leader: Canadiens’ captain, Brian Gionta, led the charge in the Habs first playoff game, potting the only two goals of the night for the second two-goal game of his playoff career. Over the course of his nine second seasons in the NHL, the teams Gionta happens to be playing for at the time, have to date posted a record of eight wins and only three losses when Gio finishes his night with at least two points.

Anything to declare?: “Yes, two wins, thank you!” If the Canadiens can touch down in Dorval after Saturday night’s game with that to declare as they pass through customs, it would mark the 72nd time in the history of the NHL that a team has stolen the first two games of a playoff series on enemy ice. In 54 of those 72 occasions, that same team has been the one smiling when the clubs close out their series with the traditional handshakes at center ice.

You’ll be seeing a lot of me: Even if Game 1 against the Bruins only marked P.K. Subban’s second foray into the postseason, it’s not hard to see that the young defenseman has Jacques Martin’s full confidence on his side. In the Habs’ first playoff game of 2011, the Canadiens’ No. 76 spent a remarkable 27 minutes and seven seconds battling the Bruins on the ice. With the exception of the Kings-Sharks and Rangers-Capitals games that both went into overtime, Subban stands as the third most used player in a first game, passed only by the likes of the Hawks’ Duncan Keith and the Penguins’ Kris Letang.

Keep your head up: While it might still be hard to say just how Ryan White will fare in the playoffs after only his first game against the Bruins, one thing is for sure: he certainly makes the most of the time given to him. In only 7 minutes and 51 seconds of ice-time, White still managed to throw a game-high seven hits – putting him at about a hit per minute – likely causing Boston squad to hope that Jacques Martin doesn’t give the young forward any more ice time.

Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.

Spring fever

Friday, 15.04.2011 / 12:28 PM / News
canadiens.com

BOSTON – Raise your hand if you picked Scott Gomez in your playoff pool.

To say Gomez had a rough year in the regular season would be an understatement. But despite finishing with a career-low 38 points in 2010-11, the 31-year-old center opened the postseason by proving he didn’t win two Stanley Cups by accident.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this day to come after the season I had,” admitted Gomez after setting up both Habs goals in Thursday night’s win. “I don’t know how to explain it; this is the fun part of the year. The whole hockey world is watching; kids are all watching. The year is over with now and it’s a team effort and a team game and whatever happened in the regular season doesn’t matter.”

Highlights Canadiens – Bruins: Game 1

Getting his start in the league by winning his first Stanley Cup alongside Scott Stevens and Scott Neidermayer as a curly-haired 20-year-old with New Jersey in 2000, Gomez has never missed the postseason in his 11-year NHL career. With more lifetime playoff points than any other Hab on the roster, it’s no surprise to see Gomez at his play-making best when the springtime comes around.

“It’s always been about wins for me. Especially now that I’m one of the older guys, it’s part of the game and part of the lesson. I don’t know if you guys get it now, but the individual stuff really doesn’t matter to me,” he underlined. “It’s always fun to win. If anything, my job is to get it to Gio [Brian Gionta] and he put them in.”

Setting the table for Gionta is also nothing new for the Anchorage native, who won his second Cup alongside the current Habs captain with the Devils in 2003.

“Gomer’s a great player and he’s going to come up big when we need him,” explained Gionta, who notched a career-high 48 goals while flanking Gomez in 2005-06. “That’s why everybody on the team and in the room believes in him. He’s gone through some difficulties this year, but he’s playing great. That’s what we expected out of him.”

It’s also what Gomez was expecting from himself, but he also knows they don’t hand out Cup rings after Game 1.

“It’s just one game and it starts all over tomorrow,” he explained. “We still have to go over some things and make some adjustments. Anytime you can take one on the road in the playoffs is big but it only gets harder from here.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Saving the day

Thursday, 14.04.2011 / 11:15 PM / News
canadiens.com

BOSTON – If Carey Price can play every game of the 2011 postseason the way he played Game 1, the Canadiens will be just fine.

Searching for his first playoff win since 2008, Price left nothing to chance against the No.3 Bruins, shutting the door on the league’s best 5-on-5 team in the process. Despite kicking aside all 31 Bruins shots thrown his way on Thursday night, the 23-year-old netminder was more impressed about the number of shots he didn’t have to face.

The Wink

“I could mention everybody on the hockey team from Andrei Kostitsyn to Brent Sopel; everybody was sacrificing their bodies for the team,” marveled Price at the 19 shots his teammates threw themselves in front of in Game 1. “I let them know every time they block a shot. If we have guys willing to sacrifice their bodies to keep the puck out of the net, I’ll let them know because that’s encouraging for our hockey team.”

With his third career playoff shutout, clutch, record-setting performances all season and now a thank you wink directed at Sopel after a particularly big block, Price seems to be channeling his inner Patrick Roy more than ever these days.

“Carey played the way Carey always plays. He’s made huge saves for us. He saves my behind and I tried to do the same thing for him,” explained Sopel, who tied James Wisniewski for the team lead with four blocks. “We’re a team; we do it together. He saves us and he made some huge saves tonight so anytime I can block a shot to save a goal, I will and he does the same thing. It’s a team effort.”

Price couldn’t agree more. Earning first star status for his night’s work, the Anahim Lake, BC native couldn’t wait to share the spotlight with the 22 other players in the Habs room.

“Really, I’m just working with my defensemen – we’ve had good chemistry all year,” understated the four-year NHL veteran. “All I do is try to make the first save and they’ve done a really good job of getting to the rebounds, boxing guys out and blocking shots.”

Having cut his teeth in the NHL in New Jersey alongside future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur, Brian Gionta knows good goaltending when he sees it. Price might not have been in the mood to boast after the game, but his captain was more than willing to do it for him.

“Carey did a great job keeping us in it tonight. With all the saves he made, he kept it a 1-0 game the whole night. He gave us a chance to win just as he’s done all year. He definitely led the charge for us,” praised Gionta, who scored both of the Canadiens’ goals against the Bruins. “That’s just what he does. It allowed us to be patient and anytime we made a mistake, he was there to back us up.

“Carey was a huge reason we won tonight,” underlined the 32-year-old winger. “We did a good job keeping them to the outside but we still gave them too many chances and he did a great job stopping the first and second opportunities.”

After seeing Boston lead the league with 178 even-strength goals this season, getting out of the second period despite being outshot 18-6 was the turning point for Price.

“They’re a good hockey team and when they grabbed the momentum like that, they definitely ran with it,” described Price, who also helped kill off all three Bruins’ power play opportunities. “Guys were blocking shots and kept it simple and we were fortunate to keep the puck out of the net.”

The puck stayed out of the net, but based on the game plan Price and his teammates had coming into the game, fortune likely had very little to do with it.

“We were playing patient. It’s not our rink so we don’t have to put on a show or anything,” he explained. “We just had to keep it simple and play simple, road hockey. We came here with a goal to come out with a good start in the game and a good start in the series and we did that tonight.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

The notebook – April 14, 2011

Thursday, 14.04.2011 / 1:42 PM / News
canadiens.com

In today’s playoff notebook, Cammalleri can’t get too much of a good thing, Gill comes home and Lars gets ready for his big debut.

Doing the math:
With just a 31.6% success rate at coming from behind when their opponent opens the scoring, it would behoove the Habs to get on the board first against the Bruins on Thursday night. But as Michael Cammalleri points out, the key is to score often rather than just early.

Cammalleri’s comments

“I think that it’s important that when you shake hands, you win the series. The first goal is still one goal,” reminded Cammalleri, who led the NHL with 13 goals in the 2010 Playoffs. “Both teams should be ready to engage in a ‘whatever it takes’ type of mentality for the series here.

“A lot is being made of the styles of play in the media and that makes for interesting discussions on TV and radio, but there a lot more intricacies to the game that we’re trying to get an advantage from,” added the Habs sniper on the myth of the teams’ Big Bad Bruins vs the Flying Frenchmen personas. “For us, it’s about playing a sound game as far as executing what we want to and that doesn’t have much to do with a size or speed thing; it has more to do with how we want to play the game.

Wicked awesome:
Having grown up in Concord, MA before playing the first seven years of his career in Boston, Hal Gill feels right at home at TD Banknorth Garden. About to face the Bruins in the postseason for the first time as a Hab, Gill discussed how often he imagined playing the villain in his own backyard as a kid.

“Not very often, but it’s nice being part of this rivalry and being part of this series. I had a great time in Boston, but it would be great to beat these guys,” admitted Gill, who was with the Bruins when the Habs roared back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2003-04 conference quarterfinals before clinching the series in Game 7.  “Growing up here, the games you watched were Sox-Yankees and Bruins-Habs. There’s a lot of history there and that’s what makes it so exciting.”

The real season:
With one of the most heated rivalries in NHL history, even a Saturday afternoon game between the Habs and Bruins in November can look a lot like a playoff tilt. For three rookie forwards in the Canadiens’ dressing room about to get their first taste of playoff hockey, nothing can compare to the real thing.

“I feel great and I can’t wait to get out there tonight. You get the tingling inside and you feel the atmosphere around the locker room and you can’t wait to get out there,” described Eller, who will get his NHL playoff initiation along with fellow rookies David Desharnais and Ryan White on Thursday night. “You’re going to be a little nervous when you start and I think that’s a good thing. The emotions are going to come naturally, especially with all the history between the two teams, or even just with the history from this season.

“We’ve had success against Boston this year,” added the 21-year-old Dane. “We’ve thought a lot about the 7-0 and 8-6 games in here, but we beat them four times this year, too. We know we can beat them if we play our game and we play together.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Bruins #1

Wednesday, 13.04.2011 / 4:10 PM / News
canadiens.com

The Specialists: Special teams are often the difference in any playoff game, but the Canadiens will find out just how important they really are when they meet the Bruins in the conference quarterfinals. Boston lead the league with 177 goals 5-on-5 this season, but when it comes to the power play, the Habs have the advantage, capitalizing on a seventh-best 19.7% of their chances to the Bruins’ 16.2%.

Score first: More often than not, the team that scores first will win the game. That will be key for the Canadiens, who won 72.7% of the time when opening the scoring and managed to come from behind just 31.6% of the time. Boston won a slightly lower 71.4% of the time when scoring first, but managed to erase an early deficit and win 40% of the time when not leading right off the bat.

Whitewashes: Based on the performance of Carey Price and Tim Thomas this season, the Habs and Bruins might need to be more focused on scoring at all than just scoring first. Thomas and Price finished two-three in the NHL with nine and eight shutouts, respectively, this year. Thomas also led the league with a .938 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average while Price tied for first with 38 wins.

Put a ring on it: Two players in the Bruins room have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup, including Shawn Thornton – who won it alongside Travis Moen in Anaheim in 2007 – and Mark Recchi, who won his first with the Penguins in 1990-91 exactly 15 years before winning his second with the Hurricanes in 2005-06. There’s a lot more bling to go around in the Habs dressing room, with five different players sporting Cup rings of their own. Brian Gionta, Hal Gill, Scott Gomez, who won two Cups with the Devils, Moen and trade deadline acquisition Brent Sopel have all gone the distance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Shut it down: The Habs thrive on second period goals, notching 86 of 213 in the middle frame in 2010-11. They’ll need a little extra pep in their steps to keep the Bruins from scoring in their favorite period, notching 94 of their 244 total goals in the final 20 minutes of games this season.

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

War Ready

Wednesday, 13.04.2011 / 1:31 PM / News
canadiens.com

BROSSARD — On the eve of their first playoff game against the Bruins, the Habs board their flight to Boston, ready for war.

Following a short Wednesday morning skate at their practice facility in Brossard, the Habs took time to address the media before departing to face the Bruins. Beyond all the talk of strategy, it was ultimately trust in one another and confidence in the team that was the focus of conversation for the Canadiens.

Comments: Hal Gill

“They can try to intimidate us, but in the end, this is the time of year where you find out what you’re really made of. This group of guys has always been able to step up as individuals when it’s been required of them. Because of that, I have a lot of trust in my teammates and know we’ll be able to do just that,” expressed veteran Hal Gill who stood out as a defensive pillar for the Habs during their 2009-10 playoff run, blocking 68 second-season shots, the second most of any player in the league.

“There’s really no panic button with this group. We’ve been though adversity and proved that we could come back from a 3-1 deficit like we did last year, and you can be sure we’ll put the same determination in this year because experience counts for nothing if you don’t find a way to use it.”

Despite not yet being a member of the team during last season’s march to the Eastern Conference finals, James Wisniewski is quickly getting a feel for the Montreal playoff frenzy as he gets set to step into the middle the Original Six rivalry.

“The ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup and there’s no other place to do it than in Montreal,” said Wisniewski, whose booming slap shot will be an integral part of the Habs finding success with their special teams. “It’s the time of year when an individual’s success is really a team’s success and this is something we need to do as a unit. We have to get into the tough battles, sacrifice, and make sure we hit them as much as they hit us.”

After a baptism by fire style introduction to the playoff last year, only having disputed two regular-season games in the NHL, rookie defenseman P.K. Subban is looking forward to being able to take a little experience in with him this time around.

“Last year I got thrown into this same kind of mix and I knew I had things that I needed to improve on. If anything, I guess I can always remind myself that I’ve been here before, because all it takes is an opportunity and given that opportunity you can really make an impact,” pointed out the 21-year-old in the lead up to his second tour of duty with the team.

“We’re all feeling good right now. It helps to know that we’re going into this with the same core group from last year. People seem to forget how so many guys in this room completely elevated their game during those playoffs. Guys like Gomez, Moen and Gionta really helped carry the team on their shoulders,” finished Subban.
“In this room, as a player, I know the kind of guys I’m going into to war with and I’m pretty happy to able to go with those guys.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Habby Birthday Roman!

Tuesday, 12.04.2011 / 4:54 PM / News
canadiens.com

MONTREAL — Exactly 37 years ago today, the Hamrlik clan was swaddling their new bundle of joy, Roman in blankets at the hospital in Zlin, Czech Republic not knowing that their little guy was taking his first breaths on his way to NHL stardom. As the Habs’ birthday boy gets set to blow out the candles today, why not take a minute to see what else has gone down on this date in history.

Rookies sound off

Tuesday, 12.04.2011 / 1:34 PM / News
canadiens.com

BROSSARD — Entering the playoffs for the first time is a special experience for any NHL rookie. Doing it as a member of the Canadiens as they get set to face the Boston Bruins is a different story altogether.

While the Habs may have five players on their roster that have already hoisted the Stanley Cup at least once in their career, they also have a handful of first-timers, eager to ramp up the intensity for their second season debuts. Coming to Montreal as part of a deal that saw last year’s playoff hero, Jaroslav Halak traded to St. Louis, rookie Lars Eller will be gunning to make a splash of his own when the puck drops Thursday night in Boston.

Comments: Ryan White

“As a kid, your dream is always just to make it to the NHL and you put all focus towards that. But then once you’re there and you’ve reached that goal, it’s time to set some new ones and the next step is to get in to the playoffs and that’s where we are now,” said the 21-year-old Dane.

“I think we have good chemistry and experienced veterans who are taking on the leadership roles they should, while we also have a mix of young guys that are hungry to get out there and play, that want to get better, win and learn,” added Eller. “I feel excited and I’m going into this with a lot of energy. This is going to be my first playoffs and I really want to enjoy it.”

Another player looking to make his presence felt in his first playoff series is Ryan White, whose tough style of play will be a welcome addition to the Habs roster as they get set to face the Bruins. After taking some shots from the Leafs’ Mike Brown in Saturday night’s game in Toronto and then taking a puck in the mouth during the Habs’ Monday morning skate, the gritty forward was wearing his own brand of  “game face”  when he addressed the media on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough week for my face, but that’s the way it goes, it’s just part of the game,” grinned White through a swollen lip.

“For me, it’s my first playoff game, my first series, and I’ve personally been waiting a long time to be a part of this and I can’t wait to start racing for that cup. I’m going to play hard and I’m going to go in there on Thursday and continue and do my best to bring the same intensity and grit to our game that I try to every night,” continued the 23-year-old Brandon, Manitoba native.

“We know what they’re about. You have to respect their size, respect what kind of team they have and by no means are we going to go in there and try to run them over and beat them that way. We’re going to beat them with our skill and our speed. Pricey’s going to have to be great for us, the power-play’s going to have to be great, and with any luck maybe we can entice them to take a few extra penalties along the way too.”

One player in the Habs dressing room who understands all too well what his rookie teammates are feeling is goaltender Carey Price who also made his playoff debut against the Bruins in 2007-08. Price would go on to win the goaltender’s duel against none other than Tim Thomas, closing out the series in style with a 5-0 game seven shutout at the Bell Centre.

“It’s another start, another challenge, and we’re all really excited to get going. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing all year long and keep the same goal as I had in the regular season,” dropped Price, having just ended the best season of his career for the Canadiens, proving he’s already come a long way since his rookie season.

“I’m staying calmer and realizing that at the end of the day it all comes down to how I feel and that’s something I can control. I’m going to rely on my teammates, they’re going to rely on me and hopefully we can put together another great run like we did last year.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

Gearing up

Monday, 11.04.2011 / 4:50 PM / News
canadiens.com

BROSSARD – With only three days left until the puck drops to reignite one of the greatest rivalries in professional sports, the Habs took a moment to discuss their impending series with the Bruins.

While much of the talk in the dressing room following the Habs Monday morning skate centered around honing certain elements of their game, every member of the team was quick to point out that when it comes  to the playoffs, the team with the most drive will win every time.

Brian Gionta comments

“We’re tightening things up right now and the coaches have already stared to get us focused on specific points that we need to tweak and work on. But at the end of the day you can write as many Xs and Os as you want on the board but the reality is that it’s all about compete level and winning battles. Last year was last year – it’s what we do now that matters,” said Cammalleri, a major catalyst in the Habs’ memorable 2009-10 playoff run.

“I doubt that this series will be lacking any emotion or intensity from the part of the players or either of the cities’ fans. The regular season is the regular season, but this is where rivalries are really made – in the playoffs.”

While the Bruins may have wrapped up their season three spots up the Eastern Conference rankings from the Canadiens, head-coach Jacques Martin knows that when it comes to second season experience, it’s his team that holds the upper-hand.

“Judgment, concentration, and determination will be the keys for us in the playoffs. The regular season is really just a rehearsal, a preparation for this next level of competition. We’re lucky enough to have a lot of players that understand the level of passion, but controlled passion, that it takes to win at this stage,” pointed out Martin.

“We know that right now they’re the favorites, but we’ve dealt with adversity all throughout the year and we’ve come through it. This series should be full of ferocious competition, but we know what we have to do to win and we like our chances.”

With the Canadiens’ power-play having already enjoyed a great deal of success against the Bruins in 2010-11, the Canadiens’ captain knows what a major component special teams will be in getting past Boston and through the first round.

“Special teams will be the biggest factor for us to have success in this series. We need to be disciplined and make sure we stay out of the box while at the same time making them pay for being undisciplined. It will be the kind of series where if you take a penalty you can bet that it’ll come back and haunt you,” said Gionta, who also wasted no putting to rest questions about his team being intimidated by the Boston squad.

“Suggesting that we’re going to be intimidated by size is something I’ve heard throughout my career and something this team has heard all season long, but good teams are ones that find a way to win no matter what and that’s why I like being a part of this group.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.


Advertisements

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

RSS NHL News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
%d bloggers like this: