Habs focus on defence, focus on fundamentals after rout
Published Sunday, April 21, 2013 3:23PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 21, 2013 8:05PM EDT
MONTREAL—A fourth lopsided loss in five games had the Montreal Canadiens focused on fundamentals Sunday with the playoffs closing in on the slumping squad.
Montreal has allowed 25 goals since clinching its postseason place on Apr. 11, including Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
The poor showing against the Capitals meant a scheduled off-day Sunday was replaced with a morning skate. Coach Michel Therrien got back-to-basics, and players could be forgiven for thinking it was going to be a grueling practice when pucks were left off the ice at the Brossard training facility.
“I didn’t know there weren’t going to be any pucks on the ice. We were all a little nervous,” defenceman P.K. Subban said. “I think today was just about us getting better, it wasn’t a punishment. It was just about getting back to the things that made us successful.”
Therrien had the team working on its defensive coverage, including its neutral zone coverage which has been exploited for plenty of odd-man rushes.
“Coach said right away this wasn’t a punishment practice, that we’re out here to get better,” said forward Lars Eller, who wasn’t concerned with the Habs recent slide. “If you look over the whole season we’ve proved we can play some very good hockey and the last five or six games doesn’t change my impression of the team. I’m confident we can turn things around.”
The Canadiens are at New Jersey on Tuesday, when forward Colby Armstrong could return after missing 10 games to a knee injury.
“We know we have 10 days here to get ready for the playoffs,” Subban said. “I think what we’re going through is totally normal. It’s not fun but it’s good for us to face some adversity.”
The Habs may relish finishing away from the Bell Centre considering they are the NHL’s fifth best road team. After New Jersey, Montreal is at Winnipeg on Thursday before closing out the shortened regular season Saturday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.
The Canadiens can still clinch second overall in the Eastern Conference or fall as low as sixth. They are tied with Boston for the Northeast Division lead with 59 points, although the Bruins have a game in hand.
“We have the playoffs to make sure everyone is feeling good about our squad again,” Subban said.
Montreal Canadiens' Travis Moen, right, collides with Washington Capitals' Jack Hillen during second period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Saturday, April 20, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.