Mix and match
GLENDALE – Developing chemistry doesn’t happen overnight, but the Habs are looking forward to seeing what time and practice can bring for Thomas Vanek, and his new linemates.
Arriving in Phoenix just in time for his pre-game nap on Thursday, Vanek barely had a chance to introduce himself to his new dressing room neighbors before suiting up for his first game as a Hab. Hitting the ice for his Canadiens debut just over 24 hours after the paperwork had been processed on the trade that saw him move from Long Island to Montreal, the 30-year-old winger enjoyed slipping into his new digs alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta against the Coyotes.
“They’re two great players but it doesn’t happen in one night. Practice will be important tomorrow,” stressed Vanek, who had one shot on goal in his first 15:34 of ice time as a Hab. “Gio found me a couple of times out there. For me it’s just about studying their habits and getting to know their routes so I can contribute with them better.”
Transplanted into his new hockey home as the Canadiens’ leading scorer before ever pulling on a Habs jersey, Vanek realizes he was brought in to help the team light the lamp. While he wasn’t able to do that in his debut, he knows that once he and his new linemates find their groove, the goals won’t be hard to come by.
“I thought on the 5-on-3 we had a couple of nice passes and chances,” offered the Vienna, Austria native, who has 53 points in 61 games so far in 2013-14. “In time hopefully it will be better. You want to come in and get that first win out of the way but it was good to get the first game out of the way. I was really nervous coming in and it was a long day for me. I just want to rest up, get a good practice in tomorrow and keep finding some chemistry.”
Enjoying what he saw from his new right winger on Thursday night, the Habs captain knows the formula for perfect chemistry is one part combining the right ingredients and another part patience.
“No matter what, when you have a new guy it always takes some time to find out where he might be and what his tendencies are,” explained Gionta, who had one shot and blocked another in the 5-2 loss. “But for the most part with a guy like that you watch him over the course of his career and he wants to get to the net and he’s great around the front of the net. That’s where we’re going to try to look for him and find him. We had spurts there where we made some good plays and I thought we did a good job getting comfortable with each other.”
With a sample size of just 23 shifts to go by, Michel Therrien recognizes that it will take more than one game for his big trade deadline acquisition to get comfortable playing with his third team of the 2013-14 season. In the midst of a tough stretch of seven games in 11 nights including the current four-game road swing out west, the Canadiens don’t have the luxury of practicing until they’re perfect, but the coach is willing to wait it out.
“There’s already good chemistry there but they’ll need to work on it still,” admitted Therrien, who confirmed he plans on keeping the trio together for the immediate future. “Vanek is a good player and he got some good chances tonight. With time, I’m sure things will go really well with them.
“We started the game like a team that played the night before, travelled and got in late,” he added. “It took us a while to get our legs under us. We got going in the second but we were already in trouble. We were slow getting into it, but we bounced back in the second. We need to find a way to get that energy and get wins to finish this road trip on a high note.”
With one game left in San Jose before the team heads home to Montreal, Vanek will have another chance to get his legs under him before he enjoys another big first as a Hab: his Bell Centre debut as one of the good guys.Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.