They say that close high-scoring games are fun for everyone except the coaches. When Claude Julien spoke to the media after the Montreal Canadiens’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday night, he didn’t want to dwell on the negatives, choosing to point out the positives instead.
That should tell you a lot about what the Canadiens showed in a losing effort against the Maple Leafs.
“You never like to lose,” said Julien. “We started well. For the first half of the game we had done as good a job as you could do for a first game. We had a 3-1 lead and control of the game and then penalties gave them a chance to get back into the game.”
“The penalties cost us the game.”
“We talked before the game that we have to stay out of the box against these guys because that’s where they get momentum and obviously they did [Wednesday],” said Canadiens forward Josh Anderson.
With a short training camp, a lot of newcomers, and no pre-season games it was expected that the Canadiens would struggle. Both teams battled sloppiness throughout the game, as most teams will in the early part of the shortened season.
“We knew coming into the first game that things were maybe going to be a little bit sloppy because you don’t have that much time to prepare for the start of the season,” said Anderson. “There are going to be mistakes but after this game we’re going to forget about this one, watch some tape of what we did wrong and correct it.”
“It’s easy to criticize all the little mistakes we did, but there are still some good things that happened today,” Julien said pointing specifically to Alexander Romanov, the Nick Suzuki line with Anderson and Jonathan Drouin, as well as Carey Price. “We will build on that and try to improve in the situations where we struggled.”
He also praised the ability for the team to come out in the third period. Even after allowing two power play goals that made the game 3-3, Montreal came out and re-took the lead. It was a positive sign that continues something that the team did in the bubble — the team has the ability to overcome adversity.
The fact that they played as well as they did and should get better as the year goes on is as positive a sign as the point they earned for losing in overtime.
Most of the things that had the people excited about the Canadiens this season were front and centre in the opener. Anderson scored, Romanov shone, and the depth of the team came through. The base is there to build upon and the Canadiens can focus on refining instead of making major changes.
“Anybody who watched the game... we were the better team out there,” Anderson said. “We’ll come out next time and play better.”
The Canadiens will travel to Edmonton on Thursday and will practice on Friday before they face the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday and Monday.