VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks are hoping a visit from the NHL’s top team will help shake them from their home-ice slumber.
The Montreal Canadiens enter Tuesday’s game at Rogers Arena as the first team in league history to open a season with nine straight regulation victories and are on the verge of joining elite company as one of only three franchises to start a year with 10 consecutive wins.
The Canucks, meanwhile, have blown third-period leads in three of their five home defeats, including Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
“For us it’s a great measuring stick (against) probably the best team in the league right now,” Vancouver forward Alexandre Burrows said after Monday’s practice. “We’ll try to end that streak.”
Montreal is of course led by reining Vezina and Hart Trophy winner Carey Price, who has seven of his team’s nine wins, including two shutouts, to go along with a 1.29 goal-against average and a .961 save percentage. A victory on Tuesday would see the Canadiens join the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres as the only teams to start a season with 10 straight wins.
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“We’re not really focused on going 10 for 10, we’re just focused on the first shift of the game and executing the way we want to play,” said Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: all we’ve accomplished is to have a good start to the season, and that’s it.
“There’s still a lot of hockey left to be played and we’re not going to be the ones leading this type of parade.”
The Canadiens are coming off a 5-3 home win over Toronto on Saturday that came on the heels of a 7-2 victory in Buffalo the night before. Tuesday marks the start of a three-game road trip through Western Canada that will also see Montreal visit the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames.
“The majority of the games that we’ve won, we’ve earned those victories by the way we’ve played and the way we’ve executed,” said Subban. “When we’re a rested group I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can keep up with us when we’re playing our style.”
Canucks goalie Ryan Miller was part of that Buffalo team that started the season with 10 straight wins back in 2006-07 and reflected on what that run did for the Sabres.
“It certainly helps with the confidence when things were going our way that early,” he said. “I think it set us up for the rest of the season.”
Vancouver forward Brandon Prust, who was a member of the Canadiens for three seasons before a trade to the Canucks this summer, said he’s eager to face his old team and help end their impressive run.
“We’re trying to get our home identity rolling,” said Prust. “We want teams coming in here knowing they’re in for a long night. I don’t think there’s a better time to turn things around than (Tuesday) night. Playing a team that’s 9-0-0, we’ve got a lot to prove.”
The Canucks (3-2-3) have lost two games in regulation and three more in 3-on-3 overtime at home, with critical lapses at key times the main culprit. Vancouver, which has dropped the first four of a five-game homestand, dominated Detroit through 40 minutes on Saturday before inexplicably giving the Red Wings life with a sleepy start to the third period.
“We did a lot of good things, but we’ve got to clean up turnovers and keep getting after teams,” said Burrows. “We just have to playing our game and keep coming in waves and have that mentality that we’re going to finish them off instead of waiting for the clock to run out.”