NASHVILLE – Beating the Predators will require the Habs to not only outwork, but also outsmart their opponents on Saturday night.
Coming off a disappointing 5-1 loss to the Blues on Thursday night, the Canadiens hit the ice at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville ready to get to work. Chalking the performance against the Blues up to an issue of both effort and execution, Michel Therrien wants to see his team bring a little more brains and brawn to the lineup on Saturday night.
“If you work hard but you’re not smart, you’re not going to accomplish anything,” explained Therrien. “If I leave Montreal and I want to go to Quebec but I pass by Ottawa, I worked really hard but I’m not that smart.”
Having struggled to find the back of the net in the past month, the Canadiens spent the majority of Friday’s practice working on creating offense off the rush. Looking to rekindle the offensive spark that helped the Habs string together a five-game win streak through the first week of December, Therrien found a few teachable moments during the team’s off-day practice in Nashville.
“Before practice we showed a lot of video to the guys to show them the mistakes we made and we tried to correct those today,” he shared. “When we talk about transition, our breakouts need to be better and things in the neutral zone need to be better so we can attack the other team with more speed than we’re doing right now.”
With just one game standing between the team and a well-deserved six-day break, the Habs are ready to start working on one New Year’s resolution a few days early to help make the holidays a little bit happier for everyone.
“Over the past couple of games we’ve talked about having better starts and wanting to compete for a full 60 and playing the right way,” described P.K. Subban, who played a game-high 27:05 against St. Louis. “It’s not as easy as it sounds but we have to find a way to do it more consistently. Right now we have one more game before the break and we have an opportunity to go into the break on a high note. We have to get back to playing Canadiens hockey and playing the right way. That means supporting each other and playing as a five-man unit in all three zones.”
Having lost in back-to-back games in regulation just three times this season, the Canadiens have shown their ability to respond in the face of adversity all year. Heading into Saturday’s game looking for his first career win against the Predators in three starts, Carey Price has just one item on his Christmas list in his last game before the break.
“It’s pretty imperative that we come back and have a good effort next game. I think it would be beneficial if we jumped out to a lead and got a lead in the first period,” explained the Habs netminder, whose team currently holds a 10-2-1 record when leading after the first period this year. “It seems lately that we’ve been trailing after the first for a few games. If we can do that it would give us a little bit more confidence going into the rest of the game. I think our effort is there, but if we start working more together instead of as individuals, we’ll find more success.”
Already proving they’re on the same page when it comes to the game plan against Nashville, Subban echoed his netminder’s sentiments about the importance of putting in a solid team effort on Saturday night.
“We just have to stick together as a group and make sure we’re continuing to grind it out,” stressed Subban. “Things are going to happen and they’re not going to go your way all the time but it’s just about how you respond. For us right now it’s just our mindset. It’s regrouping, getting focused and focusing on the first five minutes of tomorrow’s game and making sure we have a solid start. If we support each other in all three zones we’ll be fine.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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