Discipline Is Key
Tuesday night, the Canadiens will be confronted with one such game as the Vancouver Canucks arrive from the West Coast to take on Montreal in their first of a five-game road trip.
The Canucks will cruise into the Bell Centre on an impressive roll having won their last six games and posting a power-play percentage of 29.4 – good enough for first place in the NHL. While head-coach Jacques Martin is well aware of the challenge his team will be facing tonight, the game-plan he defined for his troops couldn’t be any clearer.
“It’s important for us to be aware that the Canucks’ best weapon right now is their power-play. They’re ranked first in the NHL. We’re going to need to show a lot of discipline and keep ourselves out of the penalty box,” said Martin who also pointed out that the best way to keep the Sedin twins’ production to a minimum is to keep the Canucks playing five-on-five hockey. “When you look at the Canucks at five-on-five, their best line when it comes to goals is their third line with Malhotra, a little like us with our Halpern line. So it’s important for us to work hard and avoid penalties.”
On the players’ side, it would seem that their coach’s message hit home. The Habs sounded off one-by-one on the importance of being on their best behavior when the puck drops tonight.
“We have to stay out of the box, limit their chances and make getting quality shots as tough for them as we can,” echoed veteran centerman Jeff Halpern who’s gone up against the Sedins fifteen times over the course of his career. “As far being able to shut down the Sedin twins I don’t think that there’s one guy who can really do it. It’s going to have to be group effort of all five guys out there on the ice trying to contain them. They’re one of the top teams in the league, so of course it’s motivation for us to go in, play even harder and keep working on establishing a dominance at home.
Defenseman P.K. Subban understands that while his goal will be to stay out of the box, that doesn’t mean he has to take it easy either.
“I was looking at their lineup and I saw Schneider there who I played last year. I don’t know him very well but I played against him in the AHL. Other than him I don’t really know anybody over there, so there’s no reason for me to be friendly to them tonight.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com
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