BROSSARD, Que. — If Claude Julien's patience isn't being put to the test now, it may be soon.
For despite his team being shutout on home ice in Game 1 of its first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the New York Rangers on Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens coach said Thursday he was considering mere "adjustments" for Game 2.
And judging from what we saw at Canadiens practice on Thursday, it's clear that the adjustments will focus on tactics and not major personnel moves. While there was no official confirmation from Julien, all indications are that Phillip Danault will continue to centre the team's top line, at least for the time being. Danault began the season on the wing of Montreal's fourth line.
It also appears that Alex Galchenyuk, who scored 30 goals a year ago and was Montreal's third-leading point-getter this season, is going to remain on the fourth line, a unit that features two players who have a combined three goals in 57 career NHL playoff games.
But should the forwards fail to produce in Game 2, it stands to reason that Julien could shuffle his deck moving forward. He's just not there yet.
"I don't think there's any reason to panic here, and I don't think there's any reason to make major changes to even show panic," Julien said. "And we're not trying to hide anything. There's a couple of guys who would be the first to tell you, 'I need to be better,' and we all know that. But at the same time, I think we're a confident group, and if we play our game, I think we're very capable of winning with the lineup we have now."
From a tactical perspective, you have to wonder how much Julien can or would even want to make changes.
It's not as if the Canadiens didn't execute on their plan to make Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist uncomfortable in Game 1. They stormed out of the gates and recorded 16 shots in a first period played at warp speed. They held a steady territorial advantage and had plenty of dangerous looks.
When you review the tape of Wednesday's game, there were very few—if any—rush chances created by either team. There were no breakaways, no two-on-ones, and there was virtually no breathing room for talent to prevail. It's a part of the reason why a grinder like Tanner Glass, who spent the majority of his season with New York's AHL affiliate, ended up scoring the only goal that mattered. He did it by shovelling a backhand into the top shelf, and his chance to do so came off of a broken play in which it was hard to identify a mistake by the Canadiens.
"They got a break, we didn't," said Julien.
The players know what they have to do.
"We know that we have firepower on this team and we just gotta show it in the next game," said Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen, who had 18 goals this season and was arguably Montreal's best player in what was his first-ever NHL playoff game.
And even if they don't in Game 2, Julien said he expects the team's depth will be a factor in this series before too long.
"We're extremely confident that the depth that we have we'll help us along the way, whether it's the next game or the game after that," said the coach. "We're deep and we need to utilize that to our advantage at some point."
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