The Canadian will have his biggest challenge of the spring ahead of him starting Monday, when he begins his Stanley Cup semi-final series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
However, this is nothing new for the members of the Montreal squad, which has played the role of the neglected since the start of the playoffs.
“We weren’t the favorites to get here and that’s okay,” forward Nick Suzuki said on video conference Friday. We don’t pay attention to what’s being said about us. We all have confidence in our means, and we’ve shown it since the start of the playoffs. “
The Golden Knights won the Western Section final over the Colorado Avalanche in six games with a 6-3 victory Thursday night.
The Canadiens’ players analyzed their opponent by video for the first time on Friday morning, in addition to training in the gym.
“It’s a different team from those we’ve faced so far,” said interim head coach of the Canadiens, Dominique Ducharme. But when you get closer to the ultimate goal, the teams still in contention are confident, defend themselves well and can score goals. In all facets of the game, it’s a challenge, and that’s normal here. “
The Golden Knights also reached the quarterfinal last season, before falling behind the Dallas Stars and Corey Perry, who finds himself back in their path with the Canadiens.
“We worked hard and played well defensively,” Perry said of last year’s series. It will be necessary to have this same state of mind. They have a lot of ammo on offense with four good lines, they have top defenders and their goalie is playing well.
“They will get their shots, their chances, but we have to limit the quality of their chances. And when they’re going to get some, your keeper has to make the stop. This was the case last season and I believe this group can do the same. We have to frustrate them by making sure we’re always on the right side of the puck, ”added the 36-year-old veteran.
The Golden Knights’ defense is the best the Canadiens have faced this spring, and possibly this season.
Led by former St. Louis Blues Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore, as well as the brilliance of goaltenders Marc-André Fleury and Robin Lehner, the Golden Knights have allowed just 124 goals in 56 regular season games.
“Physically, their defense is quite impressive and they are agile with their stick,” said Ducharme. They close space quickly when you attack their defensive zone, and they use their physique to contain you around corners. But I think we are dynamic enough as a group to generate enough offense. “
On the attack, there are no superstars like Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner, but rather many high-quality elements, like former Habs captain Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Alex. You Ch.
“Our defensemen did a great job in the first two rounds and we’ll need the same from them,” said Perry. They are ready for this challenge. “
The Canadian will train one last time in the Montreal area on Saturday before flying to Las Vegas.
Without Evans, Petry and Merrill at the start
Ducharme said he was “not confident” that forward Jake Evans or defenders Jeff Petry and Jon Merrill would be restored in time for the start of the series.
“I don’t have high expectations for the first game,” he added. Anything can happen, but it’s mostly after that that we might see returns. “
Evans suffered a concussion in the first game of the North Section Final, when he suffered a hard-hitting hit from Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele. The latter was suspended for four meetings for his gesture.
Evans trained on the ice at the Bell Sports Complex on Friday. He has scored one goal in four games since the start of the playoffs.
Petry fell in action in the third meeting of the series against the Jets. He appeared to injure a finger when his right hand got stuck in the opening for photographers along the bay window. Petry has three assists in 10 games since the start of the playoffs.
Merrill was injured in Game 5 of the First Round Series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has not amassed a point in five games during the spring tournament.