Basking in early season success would undermine the plan for everything the Montreal Canadiens hope accomplish roughly eight months from now.
The Canadiens can become the third team in history to open with 10 wins by extending their point streak against the host Vancouver Canucks to 10 on Tuesday night.
Only Toronto in 1993-94 and Buffalo in 2006-07 have started 10-0-0. Both of those clubs reached the conference finals, but the Canadiens have their sights set on winning their first championship since 1992-93 whether or not they beat the Canucks (3-2-3).
”Our goal is not to break records, it’s to win a Stanley Cup,” defenseman P.K. Subban said after registering a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Toronto. ”I think we’ll save the champagne or whatever anyone expects us to do for another day.
”Personally, I think all we’ve accomplished is a good start. That’s really all it is. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played. Everybody’s going to be talking about a lot of things over the next couple of days and that’s fine, but for our team, it’s about the next game and getting ready to play our best.”
Montreal has outscored the opposition 35-12 while setting an NHL mark by winning its first nine in regulation. Carey Price has a 1.29 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in seven starts after the reigning Vezina and Hart Trophy winner recorded 49 saves Saturday.
"We have to be aware of something: From now on, we are going to see the best from every hockey team," coach Michel Therrien said. "That’s a huge challenge mentally to be at the top at this time of the year. The story of (Saturday’s) game is simple. Our special teams units were good and Carey Price was outstanding."
Price faced only 16 shots while winning 3-1 on Dec. 9 in the last meeting with Vancouver, giving the Canadiens a 7-0-2 mark in the past nine matchups. He has posted a 1.60 GAA while starting eight of those.
Montreal had won three straight at Vancouver before Daniel Sedin’s overtime goal gave the Canucks a 3-2 victory Oct. 30. Vancouver, though, is 0-2-3 at Rogers Arena and in danger of finishing winless on a five-game homestand.
Vancouver had a one-goal lead heading into the third period Thursday before losing 3-2 to Washington, then squandered a two-goal edge in the final 20 minutes Saturday before Detroit won 3-2 in overtime.
”If we knew why (we can’t hold a lead) it would be a lot easier," said center Brandon Sutter, who scored his third goal. ”It’s not fun when you have a homestand like this. You look at the hockey we’ve played through it all, we’ve played pretty well. We’ve just have five- or 10-minute lapses where we’re mentally not sharp and not doing things right.”
The Canucks have at least put their power-play woes behind them, going 3 for 7 over the last two after starting the season 1 for 22. Montreal’s opponents have come up empty 30 times in 33 opportunities with the man advantage, though.
Ryan Miller has started each contest this season and has a 2.98 GAA over the last four after posting a 1.21 mark during a 3-0-1 start. He has a 3.13 GAA in his last seven against the Canadiens.