BROSSARD – Team chemistry is a product of time spent together as a unit.
Fortunately, the Canadiens will have plenty of that as they embark on a season-long nine-day road trip to Western Canada that gets underway on Wednesday night in Calgary, before making stops in Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
Coming off their first victory of the year – a convincing 4-1 win over the Flyers at the Bell Centre – Michel Therrien’s troops head out on their first trip of the 2013-14 campaign in high spirits. While the feeling within the Canadiens dressing room is that things are clicking early, veterans like Josh Gorges know a stern test lies ahead in the next week-and-a-half and complacency is not an option.
“We’ve got to focus on Calgary first, worry about that game and then you worry about the next game. You can’t worry about what the outcome is going to be at the end of four games. It’s too far ahead to think that way,” offered the Kelowna, BC native, who has family and friends in each of the four cities in which the Canadiens will touch down on the trip. “I thought we did a lot of good things [over the first two games of the year], but we need to keep building. We’re not satisfied. I think there’s lots of room for improvement, and I think that moving forward on this road trip, we need to keep on building on what we did here and keep getting better.”
Going up against three of the top scoring teams in the NHL in the Flames, Canucks and Jets in enemy territory will certainly afford Gorges and his teammates that opportunity. The voyage will also provide the Habs with the chance to build important connections with one another away from the rink in the early part of a lengthy, and often taxing, regular season.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to spend some time with each other. It’s an opportunity for us to bond and become a closer team and I think when you build those bonds and those relationships off the ice and you become close, it translates to what you do for each other on the ice,” confirmed Gorges, who will suit up for his 499th career NHL game in his home province on Saturday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. “We’ll take each game one at a time. The trip is a good opportunity for us to really get to know each other out there.”
And, for newcomers like Daniel Briere, it provides ideal conditions to learn more about his fellow Habs, many of whom he went up against over the course of his 15 previous NHL seasons with Phoenix, Buffalo and Philadelphia before joining the bleu-blanc-rouge over the summer. The 36-year-old has undertaken many “first” road trips of the season during his career, but that doesn’t make this one any less interesting for the veteran sniper.
“It’s the first time I’m headed out on the road with the Canadiens. I feel like a young kid starting out at school,” confided Briere, who has logged an average of 15:24 of ice time through two games this season. “I’m learning. It’s a good opportunity. It was good to finish strong at home against the Flyers and to play a good game on home ice before heading out on the road. This is something that came at the right time to build team spirit.”
Echoing Briere’s sentiments on Monday morning at the Bell Sports Complex was captain Brian Gionta, who believes that an extended trip at this particular point in the year can do a team a world of good in the long run.
“It’s always good to have it early on in the season. We have a couple of extra days on the road where we can kind of enjoy time together and do some things as a team. You look forward to that,” mentioned the Rochester, NY native, who tallied his first goal of the season against Philly. “I think on the road, you’re together a little more than you are even in training camp. After camp, you go home and you’re with your family and kids, so it’s a little different on the road.”
Asked whether a lengthy road trip equated to a vacation for Canadiens players’ wives, Gionta couldn’t help but chuckle prior to responding.
“Ask my wife about that,” joked the 34-year-old father of three. “I’m sure she’s really looking forward to nine days [without me].”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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