MONTREAL – Veteran experience is at a premium on the Habs blue line these days.
It would take 10-and-a-half PK Subbans, 15-and-a-third Yannick Webers or just over 112 Alexei Emelins to equal the games of NHL experience racked up by Hal Gill over the years. With the 14-year veteran already out of the lineup on Monday with an illness, the news for the Habs D corps got even worse mid-way through the second period.
“We finished the game with just one veteran on the back end – Josh [Gorges],” explained head coach Jacques Martin, who had to finish the game without the services of Jaroslav Spacek who left with an upper body injury. “Weber, Subban, [Raphael] Diaz, and Emelin are all young guys. There’s nothing we can do about that; [Andrei] Markov, [Chris] Campoli, Gill and Spacek weren’t there so you have to work with the players you’ve got and demand more from our forwards.”
Playing a season-high 27:37 in the outing, including 3:50 shorthanded, no one saw their workload increase more than Subban – an experience the 22-year-old rearguard hopes will come in handy in the long run.
“Just speaking for myself, I know that when I play more minutes I feel more comfortable out there,” admitted Subban, who assisted on Erik Cole’s opening goal. “It definitely isn’t an easy thing to deal with but that being said, you’ve got to get the job done. If you’re going to take a positive away, we got a point out of it. But we should’ve gotten two.”
Chalk up at least part of that “point that got away” to Jhonas Enroth, who kicked aside 25 of the 27 shots he faced in place of injured Sabres netminder Ryan Miller. Considering the All-Star missing at the other end of the ice, Subban & Co. aren’t ready to use injuries as an excuse for the 3-2 shootout loss.
“They had that sense of urgency and we didn’t. That’s why they ended up stealing two points,” underlined Subban. “When you’re battling for points and position in the standings, you’ve got to have that sense of urgency for 60 minutes because in this new NHL things can turn around in a hurry.”
That added pressure was exactly what the Habs were looking for in the third period. Despite being outshot 10-4, Martin wasn’t preaching a passive trap coming out of the second intermission.
“I’m not happy with the third period, but the plan wasn’t to sit back and say ‘Hey, we’re up 2-0’ – you want to go and try to get the next goal,” confirmed the Habs bench boss. “Usually when a team presses you’re going to get some good opportunities and it didn’t happen.
“They were behind, they put some pressure on and we made some mistakes but there’s a lot of youth on the back end and they took advantage of it,” he added. “When you look at both goals, they were mistakes that we made. The plan isn’t to sit back at all; I think the best defense is offense.”Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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