SPORTS

Canadiens seek to improve in front of Price with Senators up first in playoffs

04/12/2015 04:35 EDT | Updated 06/16/2015 04:59 EDT
TORONTO - Michel Therrien called Carey Price the reason the Montreal Canadiens won 50 games for the first time since 1988-89, and there's no one in hockey who would refute that.

If the Canadiens make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Price will be the biggest reason. But as they prepare for Game 1 Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators, Montreal's skaters know there's an onus on them to also step up their game.

"For us, you can't win unless you have everyone going," forward Brendan Gallagher said Saturday at Air Canada Centre. "We have that accountability, that pride in this dressing-room for us to focus. We know what we have back end and what Price is going to do for us, but it's up to us to execute our own game plan."

Price, the NHL leader in victories (a franchise-record 44), goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.933), has bailed out his teammates a lot this season. Montreal is one of two playoff teams, along with the Calgary Flames to be out-shot by opponents.

Therrien said when the Habs have needed timely, key saves, Price has been there. But that's not all that got them the Atlantic Division title and home ice through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

"As far as I'm concerned he's the best player in the league right now," Therrien said. "Guys take a lot of pride about playing really solid defensively. When there's breakdowns, we're fortunate to get a guy like Carey Price. But we take a lot of pride about the way we want to play, and to play some tight hockey and make sure we're ready for the playoffs."

Price was key to last spring's run to the Eastern Conference final before getting injured, but P.K. Subban pointed out that there were other contributors. Subban was the leading scorer, followed closely by Lars Eller, and even Dale Weise chipped in with some big goals.

"We had different guys stepping up at key moments and making big plays, and not just putting pucks in the net, but whether it's blocking shots, making solid defensive plays or making a big hit at the right time," Subban said. "We're going to need those plays, and they're going to prove huge for us in the playoffs."

Therrien likes the Habs' focus of late, and Subban thinks he and his teammates have been playing playoff-style hockey for some time.

"We've done a good job of paying attention to the details that are going to make us a better hockey team come the post-season," Subban said.

But there are still some things to sharpen up before facing the Senators. Gallagher said the Habs want to round out their game and improve on special teams.

"Our power play for the most part this year — we haven't been great, we'd like to be better in that area," Gallagher said. "And in the playoffs if you can get a big, timely power-play goal at a certain time, it can make all the difference."

On the penalty kill, the Habs do have the NHL's best goaltender behind them. He's a good fail safe short-handed and at even-strength.

"He does his job probably the best in the league," forward Alex Galchenyuk said. "It's nice to have that kind of piece on your team."

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