BROSSARD – With six games left on the regular season calendar, the Habs are facing an important decision – one that needs to be made now.
In a year where they weren’t supposed to find anywhere near the level of success they have, the Canadiens have already turned their 2012-13 campaign into the NHL’s comeback story of the season. Beating the odds and guaranteeing themselves a playoff spot with time to spare, the next question for the Habs now becomes: how far can their Cinderella story go? But wherever the answer to that question ends, the team is clearly in agreement that it begins with how they respond in these final six games before the puck drops for the long awaited second season.
“At the beginning of the season, there weren’t a lot of people that believed in us,” shared head coach, Michel Therrien, before taking off with his team for Pittsburgh to face the conference’s top squad. “We told ourselves that we wanted to be a team that surprised a lot of people this year. The reason we were able to do that is that we went out there every night and played desperate hockey.
“When we locked up our spot in the playoffs we lost a little of that desperation,” he added. “It’s our job now to find it again and build on it so we’re playing the best hockey possible when we start the playoffs.”
One boost the Canadiens can look forward to getting on Wednesday night against the Pens is the return of Brandon Prust to the team’s lineup. After watching Monday’s tilt from the pressbox as he continues to heal up before heading into the playoffs, the heart-and-soul forward will be looking to make an impact for his team once again.
“I don’t want to go out there and play a different type of game – I always want to go out there and play my own game; my own style. Sometimes that’s a little harder with my shoulder right now, but I want to be able to make sure I can still crash and bang,” said Prust, who pointed out the key to getting back into top shape for the most important time of the year is often simply a little R&R. “There’s a little soreness and we’re trying to take care of that as much as possible before the playoffs. It’s just a question of getting some well-needed rest.”
Never one to shy away from answering tough questions, another of the Canadiens’ stabilizing forces, defenseman Josh Gorges didn’t pull any punches when it came to the team’s recent lag. According the veteran blue-liner, the good news is there’s no secret to the Habs’ ascension this year – they already know what’s brought them success; now it’s simply a matter of the will to execute.
“We have to make a decision. In every opportunity, every experience there’s a decision to be made. Do we move forward? Do we learn from this? Do we get better because of this? Or do we tuck out tails between our legs and cower?” asked the Canadiens’ assistant captain. “I think this is a chance for us to grow as a team and understand exactly what it takes to win.”
With home ice advantage still up for grabs in the ever-tightening Eastern Conference playoff picture, Gorges also admitted that while kicking things off at the Bell Centre would be nice, there’s still something even more important the team needs to be gunning for.
“[Home ice] is always something you talk about, but I think it’s important to focus on just playing the right way – competing hard, winning battles, winning races – and then at the end of the day whatever situation your in, you deal with it,” said Gorges.
“We’d obviously like to have home ice advantage and finish the season as high as we can,” he added. “But more-so than wanting to get home ice advantage, we just want to make sure we’re playing our best hockey when we head into the playoffs.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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