Going into the post-season, I wrote an article about how we would finally see — for better or for worse — what this Montreal Canadiens team really was. As it turns out, for them to really show what was possible, they needed their backs against the wall.
After winning their first game of the post-season, they then lost three straight games to fall behind the Toronto Maple Leafs three games to one. After their win in Game 2 against the Winnipeg Jets, they have now won five straight games. During the entire regular season, they didn’t win more than three games in a row.
“When we had our backs against the wall, I think we looked at ourselves in the mirror, and I think we all saw that we had much better and this couldn’t be it. It couldn’t our year,” said Canadiens forward Phillip Danault. “We had to step up and we all did it together at the same time.”
“I don’t think we ever really lost confidence in our group. I think people have been doubting us all season long,” Game 2’s lone goal scorer Tyler Toffoli said prior to the game. “We might have snuck into the playoffs so to speak but we’ve had times during the season where we were probably one of the best teams in the league.”
Throughout the winning streak, a few things have stuck out, notably how interim head coach Dominique Ducharme says that everyone has bought in. It’s something subtle, but something that Laval Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard talks about a lot. Buying in is more than just doing what your coach expects or asks of you. Most importantly, it’s doing what your teammates expect you to do.
For a lot of the second part of the season, it looked like the Canadiens never played together. You had players on different pages, and that led to mistakes. They also had issues with mental mistakes. The desperation, the ability to practice, and the rest seem to have combined to give them the perfect mix at the perfect time.
When you add that to Carey Price who currently has a 2.08 goals against average and a .935 save percentage through nine games, it makes for a dangerous combination.
The job isn’t done yet, but after finding their games with their backs against the wall, they managed to get themselves some breathing room.