MONTREAL -– Several Capitals players watched on television Thursday night in Ottawa as the Canadiens got waxed by the rival Bruins 7-0 in Boston. They knew they got a tough break on the schedule with a trip to Bell Centre on Saturday night with Montreal eager to erase the memories of that embarrassment.
“We think we’re in a hornet’s nest tonight,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I’ve been playing against the Canadiens since 1977, and I’ve watched them pretty closely. When they lose a game like that, they’re gonna come back pretty mad.”
The Caps expect a fired-up Montreal team from the get-go. Nicklas Backstrom said he and his teammates and the coaches talked about that hornet’s nest aspect of this game.
“I think they’re gonna be ready for us, so we gotta bring our A game because they’re gonna come out right away,” winger Jason Chimera said. “They didn’t have the game they wanted to in Boston, and I think they’re gonna come out pretty hard.”
Chimera and others expect a lot of pop out of the Canadiens, especially given that it’s a Saturday night in Montreal that’s part of “Hockey Night In Canada.” The Bell Centre crowd also has a certain reputation for doing “crazy things” to players, Eric Fehr said. Couple that with Montreal’s motivation and hornet’s nest seems like an apt description of what the Caps are skating into.
“We’re gonna have to be ready for them. The first period’s gonna be key, and hopefully we can try to keep the fans out of it,” said Fehr, who is set to return to the lineup after missing Friday night’s loss to the Senators. “They’re not happy with the way their last game went, and they’re gonna try to rally behind their fans, and it’s our job to make sure they can’t do that.”
In goal will be rookie Braden Holtby, who was told just before the Hershey Bears’ game at the Adirondack Phantoms on Friday night that he was heading to Montreal. He got in a car and made the three-hour trip from Glens Falls, N.Y. and will return to the place he made his last NHL start.
That was March 15, when Holtby beat the Canadiens in his first game at Bell Centre. The rookie, who starts because Michal Neuvirth is sick and the Caps don’t want to overextend Semyon Varlamov with back-to-back games, said the familiarity of playing in Montreal again does help a little.
“But at the same time it’s just another game. You have to approach it with the same mindset that you have with wherever else you play,” Holtby said. “Just try and block out the extras as much as you can with the fans and the atmosphere and whatever and just focus on the little things you need to do to be successful.”
He’ll be tasked with trying to stop an angry Canadiens team, but the Caps are mad, too. They weren’t satisfied with Friday night’s effort at Ottawa. The physical nature of their game and forechecking wasn’t there, so the goal is to bring it back to combat Montreal’s intensity.
“Obviously we know we can’t play the way we did [Friday] night,” Chimera said. “It wasn’t good enough the way we played, and it was just one of those games where we kinda lacked a little something.”
Added Backstrom: “We lost last night, too, so we wanna get back on track and play our best game tonight.”