Habs look to finish regular season on a high after two tough losses
The St. Paul Canadiens dropped a pair of games this weekend, 5-4 to the Cold Lake Ice in Lac La Biche on Friday, and 9-3 at home against the Lloydminster Bandits on Saturday night.
The pair of losses hold the Canadiens at 25 points in the standings with five games remaining in the regular season. While the team has already solidified a spot in the playoffs, the next five games will be vitally important in locking up a good spot in the rankings.
Canadiens Assistant Coach Dwayne Karbashewski said that the team will need to improve its mentality heading into the final five games of the season if they hope to find success in the playoffs.
“For the most part we need to get back into coming prepared for every game. Every one of these last games that we have coming up is very winnable and they’re against teams that we have beaten before,” said Karbashewski. “It’s about getting ready for playoffs and getting their mentality to where it needs to be. Get their aggressiveness up, and their intensity, and keep it there.”
Karbashewski added that while the team put forth a spirited effort in its 5-4 loss to the Ice in Lac La Biche on Friday, they lacked the mental preparation to play host to the Bandits on Saturday.
“These guys put it all on the line (on Friday), I think mentally they just weren’t prepared for this game (against Lloydminster),” said Karbashewski. “They came out quick, popped the first goal, and then I don’t know, they just forgot to follow up.”
While Ryley Wozniak opened the scoring under three minutes into the game, the Bandits answered right back, delivering two goals in just over two minutes to take hold of the lead, and the Habs failed to generate any more offense until the third period, when the game was already out of reach.
“Everyone battled (in Lac La Biche), we played the game that we know and we stayed with them, we could have beaten them easily, it was a close game. Tonight we just came here flat-footed,” said Habs centre Jalel Abougouche, who had an assist in Saturday night’s game. “We scored the first goal and after that we put it on cruise control and just let them do everything. We just let them dictate the play.”
Karbashewski added that while an improved mentality would bode well for the Canadiens, it comes down to playing as a team as well.
“You need the strong mentality to make the smart plays in the first place. We need to get our defence working a little bit better, but it’s the whole team,” he said. “When it comes down to it, they’ve got to play as a unit and in our zone it seems like they’re not playing as a unit sometimes, and that causes big problems.”
Defenceman Derrick Boulianne, who returned to the line up from injury last week, said his team needs to improve defensively in order to build some consistency heading into the post season, but with a crop of defencemen set to return for next weekend, he feels positive about the future.
“We were missing three D-men this weekend, and it’s a little tough when you have three regular guys out,” said Boulianne. “They’ll be back next week so from here on out we should have a full staff back there, so we won’t have to throw a forward back there every once in a while.”
Abougouche said that games like the Habs’ 9-3 loss on Saturday are the type that need to be expelled from the team’s memory banks, and added the locker room will be focusing only on the positives moving forward.
“We’ve got to forget about this kind of game, we can’t think about this anymore. We’ve got to throw this away and just think about what we did against Cold Lake and in previous games,” said Abougouche. “We’ve just got to stick with what we know on our power plays, our breakouts, everything.”
Karbashewski added with playoffs now in sight, the Habs main focus is locking up a good spot in the standings.
The way it’s going here, it’s all in the head anyways. It doesn’t really matter who we match up with, hopefully we show up to play those games. For the most part we usually have good games against Lloydminster, we have all year except for this one where we didn’t show up. Preferably . . . just maybe not Cold Lake right off the bat, but either way I think we’ll show up and do very well against them, give them a run for their money and hopefully advance to the second round.”