Strength in numbers
BROSSARD – Winning teams are built from the bottom up, as demonstrated by the performance of the Habs’ new-look energy line.
A head coach has the sometimes-difficult task of putting all pieces in their rightful places. While it is too early to come to any sort of conclusion, head coach Michel Therrien is satisfied with the already impressive contribution and likely potential of a line he assembled on Tuesday morning featuring a rookie, a player he had never coached before and one fresh off the injured reserve.
“Ryan White’s line played a heck of a game [against the Flames], there’s no doubt about that. They brought the energy that we were looking for,” offered coach Therrien. “They earned their ice time and spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, which is a big plus.”
Arriving at practice a day after GM Marc Bergevin obtained him from the Vancouver Canucks, right-winger Dale Weise lined up alongside a familiar face on Tuesday. Indeed, Michel Therrien slotted the Winnipeg native to the right of fellow Manitoban Ryan White. The move paid off handsomely, as the de facto fourth line of the Canadiens featuring White, Weise and Michael Bournival exceeded expectations in a 2-0 win over the Flames.
“Weise played well last night, he brings a lot of energy to the table,” acknowledged the 25 year-old White, who hails from Brandon, Manitoba. “I’ve played against him in the past and he’s always been a guy who has some offensive skills in addition to playing a physical game.”
Getting motivated for the game versus the Flames was not much of a challenge for White, who made a long-awaited return to action after missing 14 games due to injury. Nor was it for Weise, who was debuting for his father’s favourite NHL franchise.
“It was easy to bring a lot of energy to the game last night, since we were both coming into the lineup and wanted to make sure we had a good game,” confirmed White. “Those are the easy games to get up for. On some nights you have to do a little more to get yourself ready to play, but we’re professionals and it’s our job be ready every night. We just want to continue to do the right things on Thursday night against the Canucks.”
For his part, Weise now finds himself in an ideal situation to showcase his game. Playing alongside White, against whom he had often competed in his youth, and Bournival, whose speed and grit meshes well with his style, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-hander is quickly earning his stripes in bleu-blanc-rouge.
“A strength of my game is my speed. It’s something I work on hard during the summer, and it’s one of the biggest assets I have,” related Weise. “With White and Bournival, I think we make up a line that has a lot of speed, skill and energy. We’re tenacious on the puck, and I love playing with these guys.”
The presence of a reliable and productive forth line, a hallmark of many successful teams across the NHL, will allow coach Therrien and his staff to optimize match-ups and unleash his offensively-minded Pacioretty-Desharnais-Gallagher line in favourable situations in the offensive zone and to assign the Habs’ two-way stalwarts Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta to the oppositions’ most dangerous attackers. In twelve minutes of even-strength play against the Flame’s third and fourth lines, not only did the Bournival-White-Weise trio concede precious few scoring chances against, but they were also able to generate a team-high nine shots on goal.
“Winning face-offs, controlling the puck, being tough to play against, those are all things that allow us to match that line up against good opponents in tough situations, which will help us make our other lines better as well,” confirmed Therrien.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
Canadiens acquire forward Dale Weise from Vancouver in return for Raphael Diaz
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