This one opens with the Montreal Canadiens preparing for a road trip to start the 2014-2015 season. The team's changed over the offseason; they've gotten younger and, the expectation is, better. Dustin Tokarski, with his perfect hair and smart shirt talks about the challenges ahead of him as Carey Price's new backup goalie, with the departure of Peter Budaj. The playoffs were tough, and a great test for the AHLer. Time for the big time.
The first game of the regular season is against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the first of four games on the road before the home opener in Montreal. Habs' fans are gathered at Schuey's in Toronto, likely the most affordable place to catch a Leafs' home game in Toronto.
Max Pacioretty opens the season's scoring with the first goal agains the Leafs. Tomas Plekanec and P.K. Subban score in an eventual tie and the game is won in regulation by Alex Galchenyuk. Afterwards, the team is elated in the dressing room and poses for what will now be a post-victory tradition: a candid team photo. So we know there have been five by now. Wonder if they'll share the photos somehow with fans, a la glossy magazine style, say 81 pages long?
Next game against the Capitals marks Tokarski's first start as the Habs' official backup goalie. Habs don't make it easy on him as they go down early in the first. Brandon Prust gets into a scrap to spark his teammates and Travis Moen follows suit. In the third, a P.A. Parenteau goal gets waved off but then a legit Plekanec goal ties it up, and in the eventual shootout, David Desharnais gets a goal and Tokarski gets his first regular-season win, earning no less than a first star.
Next up, the city of brotherly love and orange outfits. It's fun at practice to see P.K. getting fighting pointers from Prusty and we for sure know P.K. ain't never gonna be a fighter. But it's fun. Philadelphia's the comeback game, down 3-0 after two periods. There's a new voice in the dressing room at second intermission, that of sweet and soft-spoken Manny Malhotra. He's still soft-spoken now but also profane when he tries to get his team to wake up. And didn't they? Another shootout win, with Parenteau as the latest hero. You guys know that I called a win after we were down 3-0, right? It was obviously going to happen.
The team's new makeup is ostensibly a very big change due to the departures of Josh Gorges and Brian Gionta, who were two big presences in the room, and that of Budaj, who was universally beloved. But the addition of Malhotra, Parenteau, Jiri Sekac, Jarred Tinordi and Tokarski weren't made without a culture and philosophy fit in mind. Although there are always growning pains, these guys are all pros and the clicking seems to be happening.
We got introduced this episode to the new assistant coach, Dan Lacroix, who last worked under Guy Boucher in Tampa Bay. He sounds like a great fit for the Habs' culture and a former player himself, he gets to know the players first and foremost, knowing the each individual responds differently to different methods.
Something is happening this season, at least with what we see in interviews and now on 24CH, and that is, winning the Stanley Cup is mentioned regularly. P.K.'s said it, Tokarski has said it, Lacroix has said it too. Is it just me, but that being on everyone's lips is new. There is a standard now, having left behind the humility and logical, obvious goal of having a solid regular season and making the playoffs. We're talking Cup now. Cup. That's what we're here for and that's what they've got their eyes on.
In last season's post mortem, Marc Bergevin spoke of the value of players experiencing a deep playoff run. It's evident now. After coming close to making it to the final last year, like true achievers who aim to exceed previous goals, these guys seem to expect an even better outcome this year. I know that not all the wins thus far have been analytically perfect, and a couple have been ugly, but it's early going, and wins are wins. You can be down 3-0 on the road and win. Because like during the playoffs, every win in the regular season counts, and when you wake up, even if it's late, you still wake up. I feel like the playoff attitude has carried over, and but for the Tampa game, we've been very entertained.
We were told that this season's 24CH would include home lives of players; hopefully next week we'll be treated to some of that as thus far there's really only been highlight coverage of games that hasn't even included intermission Therrienisms. I'm looking for a little more personal touch to this season as though the highlights are cool, I've seen them all before.