MONTREAL – In today’s notebook, Therrien, Murray and Eller weigh in on their Game 5 priorities.
Power outage: Head coach Michel Therrien didn’t pull any punches on Friday morning when addressing the performance of several of his top troops thus far this postseason, most notably those players featured on the Canadiens’ top line.
“You want your best players to be in a position to perform well and to contribute to the success of the team offensively. The thing I’ve noticed is that certain players are having trouble chipping in on offense. Those types of players need to find a way to adapt to the intensity of the playoffs,” offered Therrien, who admitted that he expects more out of players like David Desharnais & Co. who’ve struggled to light the lamp through eight postseason tilts in 2014.
Knowing full well that the environment at TD Garden come Game 5 will be anything but hospitable, Therrien insists the Canadiens’ offensive standouts need to turn things up a notch with a lot on the line on Saturday night in Boston.
“There’s an intensity level for the beginning of the season. There’s an intensity level for the middle of the season, and one for the end of the regular season, too. When it comes to playoffs, there’s another type of intensity. Those guys have to find a way to adapt to the challenge that comes with playing postseason hockey,” explained Therrien, whose squad will look to steal home-ice advantage right back from the Bruins with a win in enemy territory.
While some of his key players haven’t performed up to his expectations, Therrien is adamant that the Canadiens are still trending in the right direction against a formidable opponent in the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners.
“One thing is certain. As the series has gone on, I’ve liked the way we’ve played as a team,” mentioned Therrien. “When you look at a best-of-seven series scenario against the Bruins – the best team in the NHL – it’s a huge challenge. We’re now in a best two-out-of-three situation. Anything can happen. I like the way our team is playing. Game after game, we’re gaining confidence. It’s a good sign.”
Stonewalled: Douglas Murray, who returned to the lineup in Game 3, added a physical dimension to the series while staying out of the sin bin.
“It’s always been important for me to try to play physical but play clean and not take penalties,” acknowledged the Swede, who had a team-leading 11 hits in the two Bell Centre matchups this week.
Murray’s pugnacity and highlight-reel bodychecking earned praise from head coach Michel Therrien.
“Anytime you get praise from the coach, it feels good,” offered the rugged blueliner, who has averaged 13:09 in icetime so far in the postseason.
On the right path: In a very real way, NHL referees have decided to put their whistles away in the Montreal-Boston series. While 23.5 penalties minutes per game were called in the regular season matchups featuring the two Original Six rivals, that same figure has decreased to 13.5 in the postseason.
“I think the refs did a good job yesterday of letting the players play,” offered Lars Eller, who also added that players involved in the series have shown good discipline on the ice. “Everybody is very cautious with their sticks. Nobody wants to take a dumb penalty and hurt their team.”
Eller also weighed in on his team’s mindset heading back to Boston for Game 6 of the series.
“We’re confident as a team. It hurts to lose, but we’re not discouraged. It’s tied at two and still a very open series. We’ve won games in Boston before and we can do it again. We are not in a bad position here,” insisted Eller. “I think both teams are very aware of taking things one game at a time. Once you’re on the ice, you’re not really aware of what the standings are or who’s leading in the series. You just play. We didn’t expect this to be easy coming in, so it’s just a matter of competing hard and hanging in there.”
Jack Han and Matt Cudzinowski are writers for canadiens.com.
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