Photo: Graham Hughes The canadian Press
The Penguins are widely favorite in this series. They had 15 more points than the Habs at the counter, with two matches less, when the NHL season was put on hiatus on march 12, because of the pandemic.
No one plans to make a big speech in the locker room of the Montreal canadiens before the first match of the qualification phase in the face of the Pittsburgh Penguins. If someone makes one, it will be under the blow of the emotion, the passion.
A few hours before the launch of the series in the best of five games, the head coach of the montreal recalled that his company has confidence in its means.
“Look at the games against Pittsburgh, those against the good teams. When we play the right way, we are able to counter those teams. I don’t think we lack confidence, ” said Claude Julien.
“Everyone is excited,” said captain Shea Weber. A few months ago, we were essentially out of the race. There, it is almost like another season begins. No one has the wind in its sails. We do not know what will happen. We want to get through this qualification phase. We want to establish our intentions from the first game. “
On the side of the Penguins, the message was similar. Head coach Mike Sullivan recalled that it was not difficult to motivate yourself when you are playing for the Stanley Cup.
“The series, it is the most beautiful period of the season to play hockey, said Sullivan. The guys are happy to play. “
Play as a team, and with speed
The Penguins are widely favorite in this series. They had 15 more points than the Habs at the counter, in two meetings of less, when the NHL season was put on hiatus on march 12, because of the pandemic of the novel coronavirus.
They also have more experience than the Habs, who rely on a kernel that won the Stanley cup three times and participated in four finals since 2008.
The Canadian will, therefore, need to be at his best if he wants to succeed as to cause the surprise.
“We must rely on the contribution of the entire team. We don’t have the choice, acknowledged Julien. We don’t have a lot of leeway if we want to hope to win against Pittsburgh with the contribution of one-half or two-thirds of the team. We will need the help of everyone. “
Julien also recalled that his team shines when she plays with speed. This facet of the game is also part of the recipe for success of the Penguins.
“The speed can be defined in different ways, but it represents the ultimate advantage, said Sullivan. Over the years, Jim [Rutherford, the general manager] has improved our speed on skates, but our greatest strength in terms of speed is the speed of mind.
“We rely on players very smart, which can anticipate the game and pass games thanks to their quick thinking. “
A few issues remain outstanding in the two camps. In Canada, the composition of the third pair of defenders is perhaps not fully cast into the concrete. Xavier Ouellet and Victor Mete seem to have a head start, while Brett Kulak is expected to be found to the left of Jeff Petry, within the second pair.
However, Julien had suggested on Friday that the time-of-use defense may vary depending on the efficiency of the players.
On the side of the Penguins, Sullivan still has not revealed the identity of the goalkeeper to defend the net of the team. Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry split the work in to be a tough game to the Penguins on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The answers will be known at the arrival of the players on the ice at the Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night. It will be the fourth meeting of the day in the NHL, 142 days after the last match before the cessation of activities.
“The wait has been long and the anticipation is high after so many months without knowing what was going to happen. But we are here now and we all look forward to play hockey is significant, “concluded the star of the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby.