Fighting fire with firepower
Only two days after toppling the top-seeded Capitals in Round 1, the Canadiens are ready for more of the same against the defending Cup champs. While stellar shot blocking – both by the Habs’ defensemen and by the seemingly impenetrable Jaroslav Halak – was the story of the last series, the boys are looking to give their netminder and shins a bit of a break in Round 2.
“We need to try to be a little more offensive and be on the attack,” explained Michael Cammalleri, who tied Sidney Crosby with five goals in the opening series. “It won’t be an easy challenge, but we need to try to do that. Our success has come through our compete level and we’re going to have to step it up even more. There’s no way of pretending it’s something it’s not. They’re going to be a handful and we’re going to be ready for it.”
Despite proving otherwise over the years, Jacques Martin has had the label as a defensive, trap-loving coach stitched to his track suit since Day 1 in Montreal. According to the Habs’ bench boss, though, his idea of winning defense really is a good offense.
“You don’t want to get into a shootout with this hockey club,” warned Martin of the dangerous Penguins. “You’ve got to play as a team within your strengths. But sometimes a good defense comes from establishing a good forechecking game.”
While the Canadiens’ snipers and coaching staff can’t wait to see pucks flying in Marc-Andre Fleury’s direction on Friday night, the Habs’ D corps is hoping to get even blacker and bluer by the end of Round 2.
“Playoffs are kind of weird; it feels good to get hit,” admitted Ryan O’Byrne. “Pucks don’t hurt too much unless they hit you in certain areas, but it’s the playoffs so the adrenaline is running pretty high and whenever you get a blocked shot you know you’re helping the team. It’s pretty rewarding to feel them hit you.”
While no one not named Hal Gill blocked more shots against the Caps than Josh Gorges, the young veteran knows it will take more than just reinforced shin pads to dethrone the Penguins.
“Our mindset will be similar to what it was in the last series, trying to get in the shot lanes and blocking shots as much as possible,” offered Gorges, who threw himself in the way of 20 Capitals shots in seven games. “But we also have to battle for every loose puck, we have to be in position, we have to be smart and we have to push the pace on them. We can’t sit back and allow them to make their plays – we have to be aggressive and go at them.”
The blue line tandem of Gorges and Gill managed to snuff out a dominant Capitals offense, but with the Penguins’ depth up front, Gorges knows there’s only one way for the Habs to win: together.
“We had everyone on board in the last series and we’re going to need to do that again this time around,” stated Gorges. “We’re going to need that same kind of effort and that same kind of desperation here tonight and throughout the series. I think we played our best when our backs were against the wall and we need to have that same kind of mentality right from the start.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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