The stands were filled at the Montreal Canadiens training facility on Sunday. Close to 1200 fans came out to watch the team’s first day of training camp, a surprise to many newcomers to the team this year.
“That’s pretty unique,” said forward Scott Gomez. “It just shows what a great place this is.”
Gomez was paired with fellow off-season acquisition Mike Cammalleri and Andre Kostitsyn in the first day of practice, and scored during the team scrimmage.
“It’s only the first day,” he said when asked if this could be a potential starting line. “So let’s not get crazy.”
“We made some great plays out there,” said Paul Mara, another newcomer who was paired on the point with Andrei Markov for day one. “We’ll see what happens.”
Mara too was overwhelmed by the fan turnout and cheering on the first day, “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It really welcomes you and makes you want to play in Montreal.”
“It was real fun,” added Jaroslav Spacek. “I’ve never seen something like that.”
Habs hopeful P.K. Subban laid out a couple hits, including an open ice one on Max Pacioretty, during the scrimmage.
“He’s OK.,” he said after talking to Pacioretty after practice. “I wasn’t trying to hit him. He must not have seen me coming.”
Head coach Jacques Martin wants his defenseman to join in the offensive rush whenever possible, something that would suit the young blueliner just right.
“You have to pick the right times to jump up, and when to stay back,” Subban said. “I wanna prove that I’m reliable also, and that I know that I can play and be a sound defenseman back there.”
Coach Martin seemed generally impressed with what he saw from the first day of camp, noting the physical work of Guillaume Latendresse as well as the performance of the four goalies during scrimmage.
The coach stressed, as the players had, that immediate decisions can’t be made from one practice alone.
“My approach, to our team, is we have to find two lines that are gonna give us some good production",he said.
“I’m not sure who’s going to be our first left winger or who’s going to be our fourth left winger. I think we’ve got some battles. It’s going to be up to the players to determine that.”
Martin then gave some insight into how he formulates his lines and that he will take the pre-season to work on that.
“When I look at line combinations, a lot of times I look at a duo, a center and a winger,” he said. “If we have good a combination, for instance, center and right wing, we may see a rotation on the left side, or vice-versa.”
The coach then discussed the necessities of taking the roster GM Bob Gainey put together, and getting the players all on the same page.
“It’s going to be important for us to develop our own identity,” Martin said. “..where we all have the same goal, the same objective. That’s what we’re going to develop in the next twenty days.”
Martin later emphasized puck possession, work ethic and commitment at both ends of the ice.
“We have to work at developing that mentality and identity,” he said. “It has to come from them (the players).”
“I like the enthusiasm that’s been around the team. I like our skill level.” he added. “We just gotta keep progressing.”
Training camp resumes Monday at 10am to 1pm, with a scrimmage between practice groups A and C at 11am.
This article originally appears on my blog Ya! The Habs Rule!