MONTREAL — A question that came up in the beginning of the season was the one about the probability to see the Canadian play with the same energy throughout the season.
A fast-paced style and a willingness to never give up have been the strength of the club during the first half of the campaign. But now that the team has a little more difficult to score since the beginning of the new year. The peculiarities of the calendar don’t help the players to play with the same energy every night.
The offensive has been rather silent in the last six meetings, while it has generated 10 goals, including Jordie Benn empty net on Saturday night in a gain of a 3-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche. This victory concluded a week in which the Canadian has not often shown its most beautiful face, especially Thursday, in a reversal of the 4-1 defeat to the Blues in St. Louis.
While Claude Julien has repeated for a few weeks as the game tightens up in the second half of the season, will it be more difficult for the Canadian to continue to display the same passion and enthusiasm as when the first portion of the calendar?
“That’s a good question, but it can’t serve as an excuse, replied Phillip Danault after the victory against the Avalanche. It is necessary to continue to play with energy and believe in our system. The staff try to ensure that we have a lot of energy. The rest days will be very important.”
Even if the chances were not many in the first two periods against the Avalanche, captain Shea Weber did not believe that it was the result of a lack of energy on the part of the Habs. He was even satisfied with the effort provided by the team during the duel at the end of a week of four games in six days, including trips to Detroit and St. Louis.
“I think we played with energy and that is what we need to do each night,” he recalled. It is for this reason that we have had success in the first half of the season. When we play with energy, we give ourselves every time a chance to win.
“There is less and less space on the ice, he added about the game in the second half of the campaign. And the game will be even more closed in the series.”
Jesperi Kotkaniemi has benefited from the visit of the Avalanche to score a first goal in 13 encounters. The Finnish 18-year-old has made more discreet on the ice for a few weeks. The second half of the season will be a whole new challenge for him who has never known a season of 82 matches.
“This is new to me, but I try to enjoy each day and offer the best of myself,” said Kotkaniemi.
“Even if he scored a big goal (against the Avalanche), he has also had in attendance more difficult, analysed Julien. This is the second half of the season. But he is a young player who learns quickly. We had seen between the camp of the recruits and the training camp of the team. There had been a progression. I think this will be the same thing with the second half of the season. I think he will quickly see how the game changes and how it will have to adjust on this side here.”
If Kotkaniemi is able to increase its contribution to the offensive, this could remove a bit of weight on the shoulders of Max Domi, who has not hit the target in his last 16 outings, and Jonathan Drouin, author of six points in his last 13 games.
The calendar will not be thanks to the Canadian in the next week. The cast of Claude Julien will be in Boston on Monday to face the Bruins before returning to Montreal to host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. The ride will be repeated Friday and Saturday, with first a duel in the face of the Blue Jackets in Columbus, and then another against the Philadelphia Flyers the next day at the Bell Centre.