Associate coach Kirk Muller says the Canadiens’ power play has to show some swagger when playing at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens’ power play ranked 22nd in the NHL last season, with a success rate of 17.7 per cent, but there was one anomaly that had observers shaking their heads — the power play was much better on the road. Montreal converted 24.7 per cent of its opportunities away from home to rank third in the league. They were successful on only 12.4 per cent of their chances at the Bell Centre — the worst record in the league.
“We have to find a way to get the guys to do the same things at home that they do on the road,” Muller said Wednesday during a video conference call from his home in Kingston, Ont. “We just seem to be more relaxed on the road. It’s the same philosophy, the same plays, but we seem to tighten up a little bit at home. You’ve seen over the years that Montreal has always been a tough place for the teams to come in and play, and we have to get that swagger back. We have great fans, passionate fans, and we have to use that to our advantage.”
Muller, whose responsibilities include the power play, said the off-season additions of Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli will add a different dimension to the power play.
“Anderson and Toffoli have great hands,” said Muller. “I’ve looked at their clips from their previous teams and they’re adaptable. They can play on the half-wall or they can fit in the middle, provide a goal line-type presence. They’ve had some success in those areas and that will help us because we have some good guys on the perimeter like (Jeff Petry) that can establish shots, but these are guys that are willing to play inside and make plays in tight areas.
“If you look at the Edmonton Oilers, who have the No. 1 power play, if you look at their goals, they’re not from one-dimensional shots from the outside,” added Muller. “It’s guys playing inside, making close plays. (The new) guys give us that element.”
The Canadiens are still waiting to find out the details of the new season, but he said the coaching staff led by Claude Julien is taking the same approach as it did prior to going into the bubble in Toronto last summer.
“We’re communicating by Zoom and identifying the areas where we need improvement,” said Muller.
He said one key is to get better in front of the net. Defensively, that means not giving the opponent a second or third scoring chance after Carey Price or Jake Allen makes the initial save. On the offensive end, it means getting into the dirty areas for deflections or rebounds.
When the season does begin, it appears there will be a two-week training camp and Muller thinks that will be sufficient.
“One thing I was impressed with in Toronto, in the playoffs, was how quickly players realized that they could start playing,” said Muller. “They’re in such great shape, let’s be honest, as compared to players in our generation. These guys not only were ready to play a game, but it was playoffs and the intensity was high.”
It’s almost a certainty the Canadiens will be playing in an all-Canadian division and Muller said that will require adjustments. The Canadiens are facing longer flights and time changes as they venture to Western Canada. Muller noted the team has been spoiled playing in the Atlantic Division, where most of the teams are separated by flights of less than two hours.
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