BROSSARD – When Josh Gorges said he hoped to return from knee surgery better than ever, he wasn’t kidding – and now he has the numbers to prove it.
When Gorges announced his season-ending knee surgery in January of last season, Habs fans were shocked to learn that the team’s resident warrior has spent the last seven years playing without an ACL. The surgery and rehab now behind him, the gritty blue-liner is hard at work in 2011-12 making up for lost time with strong performances at both ends of the ice.
“I’m just trying to focus on jumping into the play a little bit more whenever I can. For me, that doesn’t mean getting the puck and carrying it or rushing with it – that’s not my style – but I’m just looking to be more involved,” mentioned No. 26 who, after 11 games this season currently ranks third among all NHL defenseman with six even strength points.
“Even more importantly, I’m just trying to get shots to the net,” continued Gorges, who after picking up three points in this last three games is well on pace for the best offensive season of his career, set to eclipse his 23 point total from 2008-09. “Our forwards are doing a great job of going to the net and getting second and third chances so if I can help out by getting pucks on goal, it gives them the opportunity to pick up those rebounds and score.”
Part of the reason for Gorges’ recent knack for posting points can be credited to a lengthy recovery process that included extensive work with the Habs strength and conditioning coach, Pierre Allard.
“What I really have now is the confidence to get myself up the ice. Something Pierre and I really focused on with my rehab was my first and second stride,” explained Gorges, who along with Yannick Weber leads all Habs with a plus-6 differential. “When the puck gets turned over and we start going on offense, why not take those first two strides and see what happens? If you’re in the play and something develops and you can create, then great. If not, at least I’m still in a good position defensively. It’s something I’ve tried to focus on so hopefully I can keep it going.”
Sticking to the bread-and-butter of his game, Gorges’ 30 blocked shots currently rank him sixth in the NHL in that category. Proof that he has no intention of moving away from what he does best – something that likely made Jacques Martin’s decision to stitch the “A” to his jersey an easy one.
“I try to see it as the coach feeling that he’s putting it on my jersey for a reason, and that means that I shouldn’t change who I am or what I do,” explained the 27-year-old veteran of 375 NHL games. “I think if you start changing things about your game, start feeling the weight of the letter and think you need to do something more, than you probably shouldn’t be wearing it in the first place. I just want to go out there and keep playing and acting like I normally would.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.