Smiles come easily from the Canadian, who surprises at the start of the season
Alexis Belanger-Champagne, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — The joie de vivre of Montreal Canadiens rookies is contagious to their teammates, but also to fans.
The crowd was cheering Thursday night after Arber Xhekaj’s fight and Juraj Slafkovsky’s first career goal in a 6-2 Habs win over the Arizona Coyotes. She continued to chant the 18-year-old Slovak’s name during an on-ice interview after the game – a television tradition reserved for the game’s first star.
Slafkovsky had just walked around the rink to throw three pucks into the crowd. He even had fun listening to which side shouted the loudest before sending the last puck into the stands.
Xhekaj and Slafkovsky were still very playful in the locker room after the game. Head coach Martin St-Louis was also happy for them and hopes to see all of his players keep that energy going for as long as possible.
“Obviously the majority of the time you want your players to be in control of their emotions. But counting his first goal and fighting a first battle are things that only happen once, recalled St-Louis on Friday. You have to let them experience their emotions and I’m happy for them.
« We have a pack mentality and it’s nice to see that, » he added. Me, what I like is to see the guys being happy for the other, for the one who is playing a game, who has his moment. That’s nice to see. »
The Canadiens players were all happy for Slafkovsky after the game, flashing wide smiles as they looked in his direction or commented on his first goal.
Good humor reigns at the Habs after five games, with the team posting a 3-2-0 record. However, nothing foreshadowed such a start to the season during the camp, when the team lost its eight preparatory games.
“We were 0-8, but the way we were playing was reassuring for me, insisted St-Louis. It was rare that we had a better formation than the other team. We had many young people in our formation. We were working on a lot of things.
“We weren’t focused on the results, but rather how to improve collectively, yes, but also individually. So I’m not surprised with our good start because we prepared well during the camp, if we forget the results.
While results weren’t paramount during camp, St. Louis has reiterated over the past few days that winning is important, even though the focus has been on development this season.
« If you just focus on winning and forget about the process, you’ll grow less, » St-Louis said earlier this week. We focus on the process, but not thinking that winning is unimportant. It is important to achieve the result, otherwise the process may not be the right one.”
That should appeal to veterans, who refuse to say the team is rebuilding.
“We have a competitive team. We are counting on veterans who have already won a lot and young people who have important roles and who play well. We come to the arena every day with the conviction that we are going to win,” hammered Brendan Gallagher after the meeting on Thursday.
The vagaries of a long season
The Canadiens took their first team photo on Friday at the Bell Centre. The president, sports and entertainment, France Margaret Bélanger, became the first woman on the executive committee of the team to appear in the official photo of the Canadiens.
Jodi van Rees, an assistant athletic therapist and massage therapist, was the first woman to appear in the Habs’ official team photo in the early 2000s.
General manager Kent Hughes and goaltender Carey Price were the two notable absentees. A spokeswoman for the Canadian indicated that Hughes was outside to recruit and that he will be added to the photo by computer. She was unable to confirm whether Price will also be added or not. Paul Byron, the other Canadian player whose name is on the long-term injured list, was present.
The Canadiens players were then to train, but the session was canceled due to an aqueduct problem in the area.
« I don’t think it bothers the guys much today, » St-Louis said with laughing eyes.
The Dallas Stars, who will be the Canadian’s opponent on Saturday night, have also canceled their training.