A refreshed and reset Jeff Petry made his return to the ice Tuesday after being away from the Montreal Canadiens for 26 days and will be on the ice Wednesday night in Boston when the Habs begin a seven-game road trip against their arch-rival Bruins.
After one of the best seasons of his career in 2021 and helping the Montreal Canadiens go on a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final – despite a broken pinky finger – Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry has had a season to forget so far this season. Coming off a season in which he lit the lamp 12 times and had 30 assists while finishing at a plus 6 in 55 games, Petry has just two assists and no goals and is a minus 7 in 27 games. While he will always try to find a silver lining and lessons in losing and struggling in the NHL, Petry, like many Montreal Canadiens players, decided to make the best of an extra-long and COVID-induced break through the holidays and into the New Year.
“I think it was nice to really step away and pretty much be away from everything hockey-related for a little bit,” said Petry who missed three games due to COVID and hasn’t played since December 16. “Obviously I think the circumstance wasn’t the best but for personal things, it was good to spend time with family, clear my head of everything that has gone on to start this year, and recover mentally and physically. I’m looking forward to getting back in and hopefully figure things out and play a better style of hockey.”
Petry came down with COVID on December 26 and was stranded at home in Michigan until this past Monday due to COVID restrictions on re-entry into Canada. Thankfully and ironically though, being at his Michigan home instead of his Montreal residence, worked out better for Petry in terms of staying in shape.
“It was a weird situation,” Petry explained. “I tested positive on the 26th, the day I was supposed to fly back to Montreal. So, obviously couldn’t get on the flight and so I was at home and fortunate to be there rather than in Montreal. …I had a gym in my house, a bike there to do workouts to stay in shape. I didn’t have my gear so I wasn’t able to skate but I think being there was nice. I got to spend a little extra time with my family as well. So, that’s how everything went down and I wasn’t allowed to cross back into Canada until the 15th day. So, that’s why I was there so long and returned [Monday].”
By no means was Petry making excuses for his season thus far, but he gave an honest answer when asked if he and his teammates had the dreaded Stanley Cup Final hangover? As Petry pointed out, that and the evolving new COVID world we live in as made for the perfect storm cloud over his and his teammates’ seasons.
“I think it does,” Petry admitted when asked about the effects of barely a six-week offseason. “You look at a normal offseason and going to the finals would normally end in June and you’re going to mid-July and then getting about six weeks off. So, that little break, obviously you need to let your body recover and heal but at the same time, you have to get ready for the start of a new year and that’s a short period to do so. So, I think that does have a factor on how prepared we were to come into the year and not completely recovered, refreshed, and ready to start.”
Petry’s frustration over the rough start boiled over after a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 14 and he made a statement that most interpreted as a shot at Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme.
“It seems like we’re always looking for where everyone else is. It’s as if we don’t have any structure on the ice,” a ticked-off Petry said at the time.
On Tuesday, Petry walked that back a bit and explained that it’s not always the system that is failing but he and his teammates failing to execute their game plan.
“I think it’s just a matter of the execution of those details,” Petry said. “There’s games where we’re on top of things. We might not get the results in the game but we’re playing well, we’re in the right spots, we’re executing our passes, our plays, and then there’s other games where we’re not as sharp and not as on top of those details. I think as a whole, just kind of limiting those games where you’re not as sharp and get back to playing within the system and the style and doing that on a more consistent basis.”
On Tuesday, Ducharme made it clear there are no hard feelings over what Petry said last month.
“We talk every day like we always do,” Ducharme said and then went on to praise how good Petry looked in practice despite the extended time he had off the ice.
“He’s one of the guys that we’ll make a decision on tomorrow and talk with him to see how he feels, but I like what I saw today. He was moving well, he had some jump in his skating and good energy. That’s how he has success. defensively and offensively,” explained Ducharme. “When Jeff is on his toes, when he’s moving well, he’s closing on guys quick, he’s killing plays quick, he’s making solid plays with the puck, and he’s supporting the attack. For him, it starts with that jump in his skating and playing on his toes. I’m just looking for him to go back to that and build his game from there.”
Here’s the full video via the Canadiens of Petry’s media session:
Jeff Petry est le suivant au micro.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) January 11, 2022