PITTSBURGH – Playoff hopes are still alive and well inside the Canadiens dressing room.
With All-World quarterback Peyton Manning sidelined throughout the entire NFL season, it didn’t take long for disappointed Indianapolis Colts fans to begin rooting against their own team in the hopes of nabbing the first-overall pick at this summer’s draft. Each loss throughout the team’s 2-14 season added to the growing “Suck for Luck” campaign, as fans even started showing up to games wearing No. 12 Andrew Luck Colts jerseys in honor of the likely No.1 pick.
While Internet message boards and Twitter feeds may be filled with similar suggestions for the 13th place Canadiens of working towards nabbing a lottery pick this June, the Habs are still focusing on closing the 10-point gap between themselves and a Top 8 finish.
“I never even thought about that at all. I think it’s way too early to be doing that,” stressed Josh Gorges when the subject of looking ahead to the first-overall pick was mentioned to him. “I think we have to focus on winning games. We’re not out here to give up games. Not a chance. We have to play to win and we have to fight to get ourselves in a position to make the playoffs. We’re not throwing in the towel at all.”
If the idea of working their way into a playoff spot with just 36 games remaining in the regular season seems daunting, the Canadiens can look to their pending opponents at the Consol Energy Center for inspiration.
|Hal Gill knows all about Cinderella stories.
A pillar on the Penguins blue line in 2008-09, Hal Gill was in Pittsburgh when the team earned 40 out of a possible 50 points to close out the year to jump from 10th in the East to fourth. The veteran blue-liner now has a Stanley Cup ring to remind him how quickly things can change in an NHL season.
“I’ve been in that situation before where time isn’t on your side and somehow you win a game and then you win another game and the next thing you know, you’re back in the flow and that’s what the focus has to be,” explained Gill of that 2009 Cup run. “We found a way to click, we did some different things and it worked out. It wasn’t ‘Hey, we need to get this many points’, it was, ‘We have to win tonight’. That’s how we turned ourselves around.”
The Canadiens know the climb won’t be an easy one, but they also realize there are still 72 points up for grabs before the regular season closes on April 7.
“I think you go out and play one game tonight and try and do everything you can to get that win then you go on to the next game,” described Gill. “I don’t think you can look long term; it’s an uphill battle but you have to take it one step at a time.
“I’m not really concerned about draft picks,” added the 37-year-old defenseman. “I’m concerned about winning tonight and doing whatever we can to keep finding ways to win.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Words from the room: White, Gill, Gorges, Cunneyworth
Rapid fire - Jan. 20, 2012
Unable to capitalize
Rink of dreams