MONTREAL – This 5-0 run for the Montreal Canadiens began in their dressing room, where two guys who have done nothing but rack up wins throughout their Hall of Fame careers emphasized something that should have been obvious but still was necessary. be told.
It was Eric Staal and Corey Perry addressing their teammates about opportunities like the ones the Canadiens were looking down on, trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs by two games and facing elimination in Round 1 after falling short of their potential, and how crucial it is to do most of them. As world champions and Olympic gold medalists who won the Stanley Cup early in their career and have pursued it ever since, they were the right people to get the message across.
“Those guys are leaders,” Ben Chiarot said after the 1-0 victory the Canadiens created on Friday in Winnipeg to take a 2-0 series lead over the Jets. “They’ve been in the league for a long time and they had a lot of experiences in the league, in the playoffs and they won the Stanley Cups. They are a big part of our room. They have all the right things and they know all the right buttons to push as we go here. They are invaluable to us. “
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They have both played like this too. Staal, who ended the worst season of his career injured, has a goal and five assists in eight games. Perry has two goals and five points on nine. They’re part of a line, with Joel Armia possibly being Montreal’s most effective at wearing down the opposition in the offensive zone, and they’ve taken care of all the little details in the other areas of the ice.
All of this is essential. Talking isn’t worth a penny if the action doesn’t follow, which is why it was so important for these Triple Gold Club members to play like the champions they are.
However, that his message resonated with the rest of Canadians has a lot to do with who else could reinforce it. Carey Price, Shea Weber and Brendan Gallagher, who have won gold with Canada, are playing like they know this could be their best shot at winning the Cup. Tyler Toffoli, Joel Edmundson and Jake Allen, who may not be playing in these games, but they’re in the living room and on the bench, they’ve recently drunk from the silver goblet of hockey and they know what it takes to do it again
And all of them, with Staal and Perry, can have the most influence as the Canadiens seize the opportunity they have in front of them. Sunday will be the first of back-to-back games in front of 2,500 fans at the Bell Center, and all that experience should play out big on the Canadiens proving they are capable of displaying the killer instinct necessary to at least push the jets to the brink of elimination.
In the end, it may be Nick Suzuki, 21, or Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Cole Caufield, 20, who dealt the fatal blows to the Winnipeg season, but it is the experience behind and around them that can help stabilize. his fingers. on the trigger.
If so far it has been a blessing for these young players, it has been a blessing for interim head coach Dominique Ducharme, who had never commanded a bench of this level before February 24.
Replacing Claude Julien, he had to institute a new system on the fly, and with the schedule, he was not offered the opportunity to establish it through more than a dozen practices. That Ducharme has felt a commitment from his players that hasn’t diminished since Day 1, even if that didn’t seem to be the case mid-season, has a lot to do with what he has in that room.
“(Canadiens general manager) Marc (Bergevin) did a great job bringing in quality players, winners,” Ducharme said Saturday. “Experience and skill in each position”.
Ducharme’s choice to lean on him had been discussed in depth early in the playoffs, but dissenting voices have faded into the background with the team’s recent success.
And results are one thing, but it’s the Montreal process that inspires the most confidence that they can advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2014.
It’s a process driven by players in their 30s and 30s, players who understand very well how fleeting moments like these can be. They have shown that they can make a difference, and they will have to continue to do so on and off the ice for the Canadiens to be successful.