Chemistry on the clock
Few things are more important to a hockey team’s success than solid chemistry. NHL training camps generally extend for almost three weeks with the goal of giving players as much opportunity as possible to establish that all-important ability to find each other on the ice. This year, Therrien and the Canadiens will have just one week to find what they’re looking for, while simultaneously trying to ease into a new system of hockey in the process.
No small task, but luckily they won’t have to start from scratch.
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“You never know if we’ll have the same results,” began Erik Cole, on the subject of the Canadiens’ top line from last year consisting of himself, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty.
After accounting for 40.6% of the team’s goals in the injury-ridden 2011-12 campaign, they were reunited at the start of this year’s camp and haven’t looked back since.
“We’re actually hoping that the opportunity might be a bit smaller because we’ll have a lot more healthy bodies back in the lineup than we did last year. But I definitely think that the chemistry we had last season was there again right away, on the ice and in the scrimmages. It’s all just about communication with us. If we see something, especially in a new system where we’re still learning, we talk about it so we can have that familiarity and know where guys are going to be on the ice.”
After only three days together at practice, it appears the trio hasn’t missed a beat. When not running drills for their new coach, it’s not uncommon to see the line standing side-by-side, discussing strategy.
|Erik Cole, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty|
“This is a very, very short training camp and the preparation window is so small that everyone needs to be focused, ready and working hard,” added Cole. “Being one of the older guys here, I think the best way to do that is to come to the rink every day prepared and ready to lead by example.”
With a number of things to perfect in a short period of time, it’s clear that Therrien recognizes the value of having at least three pieces of his puzzle arrive to him already preassembled.
“That line really has a fantastic chemistry. They’re guys that all compliment each other and play extremely well together,” praised the Canadiens’ bench boss after a third day of observing the threesome getting reacquainted. “Developing that type of chemistry is important. As long as they’re playing well together and producing, I would never think about breaking them up. I also think they really enjoy playing together. Pacioretty learns a lot having a veteran like Cole around and when you add Desharnais’ vision to the equation you have a lot of good ingredients.”
While Therrien can count on one proven combination to start his season, the sheer number of injuries the Habs sustained in 2011-12 prevented much more chemistry from developing within the team’s ranks. The goal now becomes turning potential into winning equations when assembling the rest of his lines from an almost completely healthy roster – starting with captain, Brian Gionta.
“I’m very conscious that for us to succeed we’ll need contributions from everyone,” added Therrien. “To be able to count on having a healthy Brian Gionta in the lineup, we’ll be able to count on a contribution that wasn’t there last year. The fact that he’s had the chance to recuperate 100% from his injury means this team will have a depth that wasn’t there last season.”
Not only should Gionta’s presence add a spark of leadership on the ice and in the room, but it should also result in a lot more lamps being lit for the Habs in their latest campaign.
“You can’t only rely on a single line to score goals for you all season. When everyone’s healthy we should have two or three lines that are capable of scoring on a regular basis,” said Gionta, who was sidelined for 51 games last year. “That’s our goal this season – to keep guys healthy and keep them contributing offensively. I’m hoping I’ll be able to contribute to the success of the team this year in more than one way.”
Therrien will have four more days to balance his equations before the puck drops on the Canadiens season, Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com
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