Notebook - February 25, 2014
BROSSARD - In today's notebook, Michel Therrien praises the efforts of Team Canada, Max Pacioretty reflects on his Olympic experience and Brian Gionta stresses the importance of coming together quickly after the extended Olympic break.
O CANADA: Like millions of his fellow Canadians across the country, Michel Therrien was captivated by the performances offered by both Canadian hockey squads in Sochi. Fully aware of the enormous pressure placed upon the Men’s and Women’s teams alike during the Olympic tournament, the Canadiens head coach has a great deal of respect for the tremendous work both groups put in en route to winning gold.
“I would like to congratulate Hockey Canada for their gold medals in the Men’s and the Women’s tournament as well. That was really impressive. I really liked the way both teams played,” offered Therrien during his post-practice press conference on Tuesday morning. “I would like to congratulate the management staff, the coaches and especially the players on both teams. I was watching the games and I was really proud to be Canadian.”
The Habs bench boss was particularly impressed by the play of goaltender Carey Price, and with good reason. The fact that the Anahim Lake, BC native stood tall for Team Canada and paced Mike Babcock and co. to a gold medal did not surprise Therrien at all. After all, he has the perfect vantage point from which to watch Price work his magic game after game from behind the Canadiens bench.
“Carey was very good, just like he’s been all season long since the start of the year. It wasn’t a surprise for me. He’s played a lot of games for us like that,” explained Therrien, who will give Price the night off against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday in Montreal in favor of Peter Budaj. “His concentration, the focus with which he battles in goal, he was very good and I was happy for him. He put in a lot of work and he’s a good person. He’s growing in maturity and he’s a good leader. What he did was truly exceptional.”
RETURN OF THE MAX: Max Pacioretty might have come home from Sochi empty-handed in the hardware department, but the 25-year-old power forward is quick to admit he returned from his inaugural Olympic experience having absorbed lessons aplenty from his American teammates overseas.
“I learned a lot of stuff. I feel like I got better as the tournament went on and the games got more and more important. Obviously, I wish I could've made a difference, but even seeing the guys on the team in practice or in games, whether it was T.J. Oshie in the shootout or Patrick Kane on the power play,” offered Pacioretty, who returned to Canadiens practice on Tuesday morning after registering one point in five games for Team USA in Russia. “There was an endless amount of talent on the ice every day when I was out there. I learned a lot and I'm hoping to incorporate that in my game now over here.”
The Habs’ leading goal-scorer, who helped lead Dan Bylsma’s contingent to a fourth-place finish in Sochi, insists the opportunity to play significant games with so much at stake will be beneficial for him in the long run in the NHL.
“I’ve never played on a big stage like that in my life. I’ve played in playoff games, I've played World Championships and World Juniors, but that’s a whole other stage,” described the Canadiens left-winger, who skated alongside David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher on Tuesday morning in Brossard. “I’m happy with my experience there and I’m happy with the way I played given the circumstances. I feel like moving forward, being able to play at that stage will help me over here.”
BACK TO WORK: Now that all Habs players who took part in the Olympic tournament are back in town, Michel Therrien’s troops are quickly getting set to resume regular season play come Wednesday night against Detroit. It will be the first of three meetings between the two teams over the next several weeks, and the fact that both groups find themselves in the same division should only heighten the competition level with valuable points and playoff position on the line.
“They’re a veteran group. They’ve got guys who know how to win,” mentioned captain Brian Gionta, looking ahead to the much-anticipated tilt against the Red Wings. “You have to be aware of their offense, but they do a good job of not giving you too much time and space through the neutral zone. We’ve got to find a way to penetrate, making sure that we support each other across the blue line and creating chances so that we’re not just chasing the puck all night.”
Embarking on a stretch that will see them play five of their next seven games away from the friendly confines of the Bell Centre, the Canadiens are well-aware of the challenge that lies ahead. With that in mind, players like Gionta understand the importance of getting back into gear as quickly as possible with just 23 games remaining before the start of postseason play.
“You’re always worried about timing, but the key is making sure that you’re not too excited. It’s about keeping things in check,” explained Gionta. “You’re excited. You want to get out there and push hard, but you’ve got to keep your emotions in check.”