BROSSARD, Que. – Josh Gorges says the Montreal Canadiens’ playoff rookies should be prepared for a wall of noise when they step onto the ice for their first NHL post-season game at the Bell Centre.
Five Canadiens, including rookies Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Jarred Tinordi as well as older first-timers Max Pacioretty and Raphael Diaz, will see their first post-season action when the Canadiens open a best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final on Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators.
They will step into an atmosphere that Gorges says is unique in the 30-team league.
“I mean, there’s no comparison anywhere in hockey to playing a playoff game here in Montreal,” the veteran defenceman said Tuesday.
The Bell Centre rocks in the regular season, but everything is amplified in the post-season when hopes for a 25th Stanley Cup are rekindled, even if their last one came 20 years ago.
“I was saying to (Gallagher) the other day driving home that it’s different here,” Gorges said. “You’ve seen how fun it can be to play here, but wait until you get into the playoffs.
“You can hear (the pre-game entertainment) in the dressing room and you get all amped up. You get all tingley. You think this is going to be so much fun. You go out there and the place is rocking.
“It’s tough to try to remember that you still have to play hockey. You can’t go out and try to run around and get out of position to make a big hit because the crowd’s going to go crazy, or try to make a fancy play. It’s fine to use the crowd for energy and emotion, but at the same time keep it calm, simple. Keep your emotions in check.”
The five-foot-eight Gallagher, a fifth-round draft pick in 2010, played himself into the rookie-of-the-year conversation with fearless, energetic play that produced 15 goals and 28 points in 44 games.
The gifted 19-year-old Galchenyuk, picked third overall last June, was right behind with 27 points despite limited ice time for most of the season.
Down the stretch, the two played together with 24-year-old centre Lars Eller and were the team’s most productive unit, even if they weren’t used on the power play. Now the challenge is to keep it going in the playoffs.
“I guess we’ll find out as we go on in the series, but we’ll need it from everybody,” Eller said. “I don’t think any one is more important than the others.”
Gallagher is looking forward to it.
“This city’s really excited,” the Edmonton native said. “They’re almost as passionate about the game as we are.
“It’s important that the energy will be there and it’s important for us to give them something to cheer about.”
Tinordi, a 2010 first rounder, was called up from AHL Hamilton for the final week of the regular season and looks to have played his way into the starting lineup for the playoffs.
The six-foot-six son of former NHL rearguard Mark Tinordi brings size and physical play that was lacking since Alexei Emelin’s season ended with a torn knee ligament on April 6.
Diaz, who returned from a concussion on April 20, joined the Canadiens from Swiss club Zug last season, when Montreal finished last in the conference and out of the playoffs.
The surprising playoff newcomer is Pacioretty, who played his first NHL games in 2008. He missed one playoff chance when he was sent down to Hamilton late in the season, then missed the 2011 post-season when he suffered a fractured neck vertebra and a concussion from a horrific check into a Bell Centre stanchion by Boston’s Zdeno Chara late in the season.
“I’ve been waiting years for this,” the 24-year-old said. “It seems like the NHL playoffs and I haven’t seen eye to eye until this year.
“I’m excited to finally show the world what I can do.”
Pacioretty led the team in scoring with 15 goals and 39 points, one more than defenceman P.K. Subban. It was his best campaign in terms of points per game and came after a breakout 33-goal season in 2011-12.
“I’ve played AHL playoffs and I’ve watched closely the NHL playoffs when I was hurt,” he said. “There’s no time and space out there.
“There’s no time to make cute, fancy plays. You’ve got to play simple and that’s my specialty. Hopefully I can step up and achieve what I want to achieve.”
The six-foot-two Pacioretty and his regular centre David Desharnais have recently found Rene Bourque on their right wing. The so-called first line has Tomas Plekanec between sniper Michael Ryder and captain Brian Gionta.
Physical centre Ryan White looks to be back in coach Michel Therrien’s good graces after serving a five-game suspension late in the season. He has practised on the fourth line with Travis Moen and Brandon Prust.
The Canadien with the most playoff experience, Tomas Kaberle with 102 games, is not likely to play unless there are injuries on defence. Next is Gionta with 93 games, Ryder with 70 and Moen with 68. Among career Canadiens, defenceman Andrei Markov is the leader with 49 playoff games.