MONTREAL – After acing every test they’ve taken this season, three Habs rookies are ready for their final exams.
Having spent the past four months learning what it takes to play professional hockey, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk and Jarred Tinordi are looking forward to furthering their studies starting Thursday night. With their first career NHL playoff games just around the corner, the anticipation is already starting to build for the trio of Canadiens freshmen.
|Galchenyuk's first goal|
“The excitement level is probably up a notch, if that’s even possible. I was pretty excited for my first game; I didn’t sleep too much,” admitted Tinordi, who is now eight games into his NHL career after making his debut against the Devils on March 16. “I’m trying to stay focused and calm. You have to have confidence in your team and your game and yourself as a player, and just not get too overworked.”
While he may be entering the 2013 postseason with only a few NHL games under his belt, Tinordi does have some impressive playoff pedigree to draw on. This time last year, the 6-foot-6 defenseman was leading the London Knights all the way to the Memorial Cup final. Showcasing some of the hard-nosed hockey he brought to the Knights’ lineup for the past two seasons in his two games since being recalled by the Habs on April 22, the 21-year-old has an idea what to expect when the puck drops for Game 1.
“You know it’s going to be fast, you know it’s going to be physical and you know it’s going to be intense,” explained the bruising blue-liner, who accounted for seven of his team’s 16 hits on Thursday in Winnipeg and another four on Saturday in Toronto. “As far as playing in Montreal, I’m sure it’s going to be crazy around the city.
|Tinordi, a physical presence|
“You can’t go out there trying not to make a mistake,” added Tinordi of the mentality he, Gallagher and Galchenyuk will be carrying with them into the playoffs. “Hockey is a game of mistakes; as long as you play your game and you play hard, you can make up for those mistakes with hard work. It’s still the same game we’ve been playing our whole lives, so as long as we’re prepared and stay focused, we’ll be fine.”
Looking to build on a Calder-worthy season that saw him finish second in goals (15) and fourth in points (28) among all NHL rookies, Gallagher spent his first 44 games getting a head-start on playoff-style hockey. A sparkplug for the Canadiens throughout the lockout-shortened campaign, the 20-year-old has proven to be a quick study throughout his freshman year. Despite his early success, Gallagher won’t turn down a chance to get some quality tutoring in before the first round kicks off at the Bell Centre.
|Gallagher has some experience sprouting facial hair for a good cause.|
“We have some time before we get out there, but I’m sure Gorgey [Josh Gorges] and Gio [Brian Gionta] and all those guys will talk to me about it and what to expect,” mentioned Gallagher. “We have a lot of great vets here who have been great with us all year. I expect the intensity level and the emotions involved to ramp up. Everything matters that much more and every shift is important. It’s an exciting time and I’m really looking forward to it. I grew up watching the playoffs and now I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Having taken part in just six OHL playoff games in the past two years, Galchenyuk has the least postseason experience of the bunch, but a fear of the unknown has never been an issue for the budding superstar. Less than a year after being drafted third-overall, the 19-year-old is ready to take the next step in his NHL career.
“I really don’t really know what to expect. It’s the same thing as when people asked me ‘What are you expecting for your first NHL game?’ You maybe think you know, but until you’re out there, you have no idea,” he admitted. “It’s going to be more intense, more exciting and the fans are going to be really into it. It should be fun.”
Confident in almost every aspect of what they’ll need to do to be successful this spring, there’s one tradition at least two of the baby-faced Habs are admittedly a little apprehensive about heading into the first round: sprouting respectable playoff beards.
“We’ve been talking about what we’re going to do. We might grow mustaches – as you know, I can grow a pretty mean mustache,” joked Gallagher, who grew an impressive ‘stache for the Movember movement last November. “Chucky’s been growing his beard for about a month already, so I’m going to make sure he shaves that and starts from scratch when the playoffs start. I’m bad but I at least don’t want to be worse than him!”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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