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St. Louis Helping Montreal Canadiens Veterans To Evolve



Montreal Canadiens

Martin St. Louis has revitalized the Montreal Canadiens since he’s come on as the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens a little over two months ago. His most recent goal has been to get the struggling veterans on the team to diversify their game and consistently improve, a strategy that is paying dividends on the ice.

“I think it’s important. If you’re going to play in this league for a long time you got to evolve your game,” said St. Louis on the work he’s been doing with the veterans on the club. “You have to still play to your strengths.

With players like Brendan Gallagher, Christian Dvorak and, more recently, Josh Anderson fighting inconsistencies in their offensive production this season, St. Louis has taken the time to sit down with his veterans and show them the areas they could stand to improve in order to be successful long-term. With Gallagher and Dvorak, it became a question of modifying the style in which they play and adding extra facets to their game, while Anderson requires more of a change of pace in order to slow down his games at times to make smarter plays with the puck.

“Every player has holes in their game, and your job as a coach or an organization is to help the players work on those holes,” said St. Louis about his role on the club. “The more they do that, the more they evolve, the more productive they’ll be. They’ll probably have a better long-term career because of it.”

St. Louis is making a point to instill good habits and new ways of thinking on his roster, as they look to build on a strong end-of-season performance and take that momentum with them into the summer to prepare for Training Camp in September. Being out of a playoff spot, St. Louis voiced his desire to use this precious time to get ahead of the curve and prepare his players for what comes next.

“We’re trying to get on a head start for next year by trying to do all the right things that we’re learning and trying to execute on the ice,” said Anderson of his time working with St. Louis.

A Work in Progress

St. Louis’ effect on the Montreal Canadiens youngsters like Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield has been well documented, but the veterans of the team, who had struggled mightily to find consistency this season, have been the ones to come out of their shell lately. Dvorak and Gallagher have had difficulty getting on the scoresheet this season, but their work with St. Louis seems to be paying off over the last couple of games. Since their respective returns from injury, both players have been producing well, while offering sound defensive play and much-needed intensity.

“It’s been different since he’s gotten here and we’ve played pretty good,” said Dvorak of playing under St. Louis.” it’s a fun brand of hockey to play when you’re playing fast and playing with the puck a lot more out there. It’s been a good time.”

Dvorak is one of the veterans who has improved the most under St. Louis, as he’s maintained a near point-per-game pace over his last 10 games, putting up nine points in that span. On top of alleviating Suzuki’s defensive responsibilities, Dvorak has been far more noticeable in transition and in the offensive zone. He’s been making smarter plays and utilizing his teammates more, and that slight modification has translated into success.

“He’s very straightforward and honest with us and that’s the way you want it,” said Dvorak of his relationship with St. Louis. “You want him to come up to you, whether good or bad, and give you pointers so you know what he’s thinking. We all know the player he was so it’s nice to learn from him and bounce things off of him.

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Gallagher has also hit the ground running since coming back from his injury last week. In his four games since returning from injury, the Montreal Canadiens veteran has put up five points in his last four games and has gone back to what made him effective at even strength for the better part of the last decade. Brendan Gallagher has been more successful around the net, as he picks and chooses when to crash the net, opting to wait in the slot at times before pouncing on a loose puck; a small tweak in his game that’s made a world of a difference.

St. Louis has also recently started work with Josh Anderson in the video room to help him slow down his game at times and help him make better decisions when the puck is on his stick, moving away from the freight-train style he’s been used to his whole career. St. Louis believes that every player needs a specific approach, and his personalized teachings have already been shown to help other veterans on the team like Gallagher and Dvorak return to more sustainable success.

“If I’m here next season, I won’t feel like I’m starting from scratch,” said St. Louis. “I think this is a good opportunity to implement the concept, the culture I’m trying to bring, collectively, individually. The progression of the players. I’m not coaching everyone the same. I don’t know what will happen, but I understand when I talk to some of the players, it might make them think a little bit and, when you think, there may be a little more hesitation in the game. But once it becomes clear through repetition, through video, through the conversation, they’re in a better place.”



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