MONTREAL – You only get one shot at making a good first impression… unless of course, your name happens to be Mike Blunden.
While he might have suited up for 40 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009-10, it’s as a member of the Montreal Canadiens that the Toronto native claims he got his first proper crack at the NHL.
“When I was with the Blue Jackets, I was more-or-less in the lineup. When I was tapped to play though, it was usually only for a few minutes per game. Here, I’ve gotten my first opportunity to see some real ice time. I think the coaches have confidence in me. I did my best to work hard and turn in quality performances at both ends of the ice,” explained the young winger of his on-ice efforts for the Habs. “The coaches really encouraged me to play my style of hockey. They all helped guide me in the right direction. It gave me the opportunity to play out the season without always being scared of making mistakes.”
Slated to become a restricted free agent over the course of the offseason, Blunden will be heading home focused on using the downtime for some epic training after being forced to spend last summer recovering from shoulder surgery. If Sylvester Stallone happens to be hunting for new ideas for a Rocky VII workout montage, he shouldn’t have to look much further than the Blunden residence.
“I have a house about 45 minutes outside of Ottawa, right at the edge of a lake. I have a gym in my garage there,” explained Blunden who should get rolling with his 5-6 days-per-week workout regime at the beginning of May. “I really appreciate being out in nature. I love to be able to go swimming, running in the mountains, going for walks and or course doing a lot of weightlifting at the same time to make sure I’m getting stronger and faster.”
If the preview fans saw of Blunden in 2011-12 is any indication, the extra power he’ll likely pick up over the offseason will be put to good use in the Habs’ next campaign. From the moment the 6-foot-4 forward entered the Canadiens’ lineup, it was evident his impact would quickly be felt on the ice as he threw checks at a frenetic pace. Even after returning from an injury sustained Feb. 2, 2012 against the Devils, it didn’t take long for Blunden to rediscover his form, dishing out at least three checks per game over the course of his first 11 outings back. Blunden finished the season ranked fifth among Canadiens in hits with 104, despite having played only 39 games.
“Whenever I can make my physical presence felt on the ice, I take the opportunity,” said Blunden, who saw his average ice time with the Habs climb from 7:22 to 11:27 in the March and then up to 14:21 in April. “I love playing a hard-hitting style of hockey, and the fans seem to like it too. I’ve never been the guy with the best hands or the guy pulling amazing dekes. I send pucks in deep and then I chase them down. I also want to be considered solid defensively.”
After his summer-long strength and conditioning session in Ontario, Blunden hopes to return to the city where he grew up to strap on his skates again and get ready for a second season as a Hab.
“I grew up in Montreal’s West Island from when I was three to when I was nine. It’s great to be able to come back here and see all the places I recognize and all my friends,” finished Blunden. “All my uncles and aunts live here too. I really enjoyed my time in Montreal over the past year and I hope to be able to come back for the new season.”
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.
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