After growing up cheering for the Habs, Dale Weise finally got a chance to hit the Bell Centre ice as one of the good guys on Tuesday, suiting up for his first game with the Canadiens after being traded from Vancouver on Monday. With three shots, three hits and some relentless puck pursuit throughout the evening, Weise made a lasting first impression on his new home crowd.
“I don’t know if I had jitters; I was just so excited. This was my childhood team growing up so it was a dream come true tonight,” shared the Winnipeg, MB native, who hit the ground running with a handful of scoring chances and an affinity for grinding it out in the corners. “That’s the way I play; I like to bring energy and I thought I did that. Those guys are easy to play with. [Michael] Bournival can skate; that guy’s got legs for days. Whitey too – I thought he was unreal. We’re simple out there: cycle the puck, shoot the puck and try to get it to the net and try to create a little that way.”
|Bourque's game winner|
Adding to Weise’s pregame energy stores was the only person able to rival the 25-year-old winger’s excitement about his move to Montreal, his father and fellow lifelong Habs fan, Myles, who helped hype his son up for his Canadiens debut – even if Dale didn’t arrive to the rink as rested as usual.
“I can’t even imagine what he’s like. He’s going to be up all night for sure,” joked Weise of his father’s postgame state. “He kept calling me in the afternoon and I was like, ‘Dad, I’ve got to sleep! I’ll talk to you after.’ It must have been awesome for him; it was awesome for me.”
The only person able to give either Weise a run for their money in the enthusiasm department heading into Tuesday’s game was fellow Manitoba native, Ryan White who made his return to action on Tuesday after missing the previous 14 games with an upper-body injury. Suiting up for the first time since Jan. 2, the 25-year-old pivot exploded out of the gate and released a month’s worst of pent-up energy on the Flames, firing a career-high six shots on goal in his 13:55 of ice time, earning third star honors for his efforts.
“A preseason game maybe three or four years ago I had a pretty good game,” guessed White regarding the last time he was invited to take an extra spin around the Bell Centre ice as one of the night’s three stars. “It was a nice feather in the cap, but it was just nice to be back and good to get the ‘W’. Getting Weiser in here brought some excitement and I was just trying to bring some energy getting back in the lineup and I think both of us were really just trying to keep up with Bourney.”
The instant chemistry the three enjoyed on Tuesday was no accident; having spent a lifetime facing each other in rinks around Manitoba, White and Weise finally got to join forces and turn a childhood of “friendly” competition into an effective NHL energy line.
“I know Dale a little bit just from growing up playing against him. We know what type of player the other one is and we each followed each other’s career growing up and made it the same way,” explained White. “We know we need to play simple and straight up and down hockey. It’s easy when you have everyone on the same page. We knew he’d be excited and ready to play tonight and we had a lot of jump.”
Feeding off each other all night, the Weise-White-Bournival line combined to register nine of the team’s 27 shots and the exact same number of hits. With no signs of growing pains in their first game as a threesome, the newly-formed trio did exactly what head coach Michel Therrien was hoping for in the 2-0 win.
“I really liked the contribution we got from our fourth line. They threw a lot of pucks at the net and spent a lot of time in the offensive zone,” explained the Habs bench boss. “They had really good chemistry. Bournival brought a lot of energy and skated well and so did Weise. And a guy like Ryan White brings a lot of energy.
“And after what he did to me this morning, he’d better have a good game,” added Therrien with a laugh.
After accidentally putting his coach on the IR during the pregame skate with an inadvertent trip from behind, White knew he needed to make the most of his first game back – assuming he was still slated for his spot in the lineup when he arrived at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
“Benched? I was worried I was going to get traded,” he cracked. “I thought I was going to be playing for Calgary tonight!”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.