BROSSARD, Que. _ Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin makes no apologies for a defence-first philosophy that has helped propel the club into the second round of the NHL playoffs.
“Are we missing offence? I’m firm, my mentality is you’re going to go far with a strong defence and I’m not going to change that,” he said.
Bergevin met the media Wednesday as his team returned to work after dispatching Ottawa in a tough six-game set.
“It took a lot of character from our team to beat the hottest team in the league coming in,” Bergevin said. “I’m sure a lot of teams didn’t want to play the Ottawa Senators in the first round.”
Many of the questions put to the general manager revolved around the club’s deep defensive corps and a lack of goal scoring. The Canadiens managed just one power-play goal in 20 tries against Ottawa.
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Bergevin said the team is looking at ways to improve its poor play with the man advantage _ a season-long problem _ with the Eastern Conference semifinal set to begin Friday at home.
“You want to get better and we’ll try to get better, but I don’t have a magic wand to say this is why it’s not working,” Bergevin said.
Forward Max Pacioretty, who scored the only power-play goal in the first round, said they’ve discussed the issue internally.
“We have ideas of what we have to do better,” Pacioretty said. “As a group we have to come up with a solution, find a way to score.”
Scoring woes aside, Bergevin said he’s comfortable with the defence-first approach.
He had nothing but praise for his defensive unit, led by Norris Trophy nominee P.K. Subban, who Bergevin said was gaining more confidence with age, reading plays better and was being rewarded for his hard work.
For his part, Subban returned the credit to his bosses and his fellow defencemen. Subban’s second career Norris nomination this week came in just his fifth NHL season _ he won the award in 2013.
“This award is not just about myself, it’s about the guys I play with too,” Subban said. “(You’ve) got to talk about Andrei Markov and my ability to play with him.”
Markov had a few hiccups in the first-round series, but Bergevin brushed those off and said he expects the veteran Russian to rebound.
“There will be eight teams left and they’d all want Andrei Markov in their lineup,” said Bergevin. “We’re lucky to have him and the rest will help _ the extra three or four days we’ve gotten.”
Bergevin also noted blue-liner Jeff Petry has played important minutes and young defenceman Greg Pateryn has also settled into the lineup due to injuries.
“I’ve always believed in him (Pateryn), I watched him develop in Hamilton and I was waiting for him to next step,” Bergevin said. “I think he’s finally arrived and he’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
The man Pateryn replaced, Nathan Beaulieu, skated on his own for the first time since taking a check from Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson in Game 3 that eventually knocked him out of the lineup. Bergevin said Beaulieu will be unavailable for the first four games of the second round and will then be re-evaluated.
The GM defended the perceived secrecy surrounding Beaulieu’s injury, termed officially as an “upper-body injury.”
“To protect the player, you hide things,” Bergevin said. “You don’t want the player becoming a target later in the playoffs. This is nothing new.”
Notes: Sergei Gonchar was missing from practice on Wednesday for personal reasons. Bergevin suggested that Gonchar, a veteran addition earlier this year who has played sparingly of late, could still have an impact. “At one point or another, we’re going to need everyone and Sergei will help us at some point,” Bergevin said.