Bet­ter Hab-its

Cana­di­ens’ at­ti­tude shift pay­ing off

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Stu COWAN

MON­TREAL — Af­ter the Cana­di­ens fin­ished 28th over­all in the NHL stand­ings two sea­sons ago, GM Marc Bergevin put much of the blame on a bad at­ti­tude in the locker room.

“I think an at­ti­tude changes a lot of things,” Bergevin said dur­ing his post-mortem news con­fer­ence. “Of course, play­ers make things bet­ter. But if you have good play­ers with the right at­ti­tude … I could bring any­body here, but if the at­ti­tude is not bet­ter, we’re go­ing to be in the same spot. And that’s my job to ad­dress that and I started today. We had meet­ings through­out the season, but now the real work starts.

“Just chang­ing the at­ti­tude is not go­ing to be good enough. I just want to make that clear. But bring­ing other play­ers with the same at­ti­tude is not go­ing to be good, ei­ther. So we need to start with that and add other pieces to put this back on track.”

Bergevin has put the Cana­di­ens back on track and the new at­ti­tude — which was devel­oped last season — was on dis­play again last Sat­ur­day night when they bat­tled back from a 4-1 deficit in the third pe­riod to beat the Maple Leafs 6-5 in a shootout in Toronto.

“I think you saw that last year,” head coach Claude Julien said about the team’s at­ti­tude fol­low­ing prac­tice on Tues­day in Brossard. “I think you saw good team chem­istry, char­ac­ter, and it’s just built from there. All it’s do­ing right now is a con­tin­u­a­tion of what started last year. I think it’s an im­por­tant part of a team to have good team chem­istry and guys be­liev­ing and play­ing for each other. When you have that, you have sit­u­a­tions once in a while that you saw last game where you don’t give up and you find a way to get back, and it just so­lid­i­fies your group as well.”

New as­sis­tant coaches Do­minique Ducharme and Luke Richard­son have also played roles in the at­ti­tude change along with a new, fast­paced sys­tem put in place last season by Julien.

“They make a real good team off the ice and we make a good team on the ice,” Phillip Danault said about the coach­ing staff.

“Ev­ery­body needs to buy in,” Danault added. “If you have a cou­ple of guys that don’t want to buy in … I think Berg did a great job bring­ing some guys that want to buy in and have a good at­ti­tude. They buy in eas­ily. The kids just fol­low us and that’s what brings our strength right now. We all play to­gether and we got a good cul­ture. There’s no more cliques. Ev­ery­body’s to­gether. That’s the big part of the change we’ve had so far.”

One of the most im­pres­sive things about the Cana­di­ens last season — when they im­proved by 25 points in the stand­ings, but still missed the play­offs by two points — was how they never gave up. They were also fun to watch with their new sys­tem and that has con­tin­ued with two very ex­cit­ing games to start this season — a 4-3 shootout loss in Car­olina af­ter trail­ing 2-0 and the shootout win in Toronto. The Cana­di­ens have earned three of a pos­si­ble four points head­ing into Wed­nes­day’s game in Buf­falo against the Sabres and will then play their home opener on Thurs­day at the Bell Cen­tre against the Detroit Red Wings .

“Those are things that you don’t for­get,” Gal­lagher said about the come­back win in Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada. “Those are things that kind of carry you through a season. You know any time you’re down three goals you’re al­ways go­ing to have that be­lief now be­cause we’ve shown that we can do it. Those things are im­por­tant. I think they’re im­por­tant in build­ing team chem­istry and, ob­vi­ously, it shows the char­ac­ter that we do have in this locker room.

“It’s been dif­fer­ent,” Gal­lagher added about the Cana­di­ens’ new at­ti­tude. “Last year was kind of about un­der­stand­ing and cre­at­ing an iden­tity within our group. Now this year is learn­ing from it and build­ing on it. I think we un­der­stand the way that we have to play the game. It’s a high tempo, it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of ef­fort. But when you do it, it’s re­ward­ing. I think we have an un­der­stand­ing of that. It’s less teach­ing. It’s more about us go­ing out there and do­ing it. I think ev­ery­one has a re­spon­si­bil­ity in this group and I think that helps us hold each other ac­count­able and show up ev­ery night and play.

“You’re not com­ing back in that game (in Toronto) if you don’t be­lieve. When we went down 4-1, not a sin­gle per­son hung their head. We knew it was go­ing to be tough. It’s ob­vi­ously not go­ing to hap­pen ev­ery night, but we knew we were ca­pa­ble of it.”

It’s called a win­ning at­ti­tude.

Stan Be­hal/ Post­media

Cana­di­ens goalie Carey Price (left) and for­ward Max Domi cel­e­brate their come-from-be­hind shootout win against the Maple Leafs this past Sat­ur­day night in Toronto.

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