(Minneapolis) “We work hard, we play hard. » The phrase does not come from a Canadiens player, but from a worker in a steel factory that Homer visits with Bart in The Simpsons.

But the CH players could certainly have used these same words in training on Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center.

Each goal, especially during special teams exercises, was followed by loud cries of joy. A relay from reservist Emil Heineman aroused the enthusiasm of director of hockey development, Adam Nicholas. “What a pass, we’re going to see her again on SportsCenter’s top 10! “exclaimed Nicholas.

Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau were having fun attempting one-timers – with their goalie sticks! – while waiting for Éric Raymond to come onto the ice. “Before, I did it a lot, but it’s been a really long time since I practiced with the puck like that,” Allen told La Presse.

It’s a good hour-long workout that Martin St-Louis put together. The youngest, notably Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky, stretched it out for around thirty minutes while their coach and teammates spoke with the media.

One of the exercises began with a three against zero against a goalkeeper, then the attack returned to the other zone, where the game took place five against five. Asked about the purpose of the exercise, St-Louis dropped an interesting bit of information.

“It’s a 200-foot drill, there’s a lot of stuff, dealing with the attack [on restart], how you get into your zone, how you defend it. I don’t think you have to do every 200 foot exercise, so we try to alternate between 100 foot and 200 foot exercises. Otherwise, it would be too physically demanding.

“We have a level of intensity that we can reach. We have live data from the bench, so I know how hard I’m pushing my team. We can always adjust. »

Players have been wearing sensors for a few years, but this is the first time in living memory that we’ve heard a coach talk about using real-time data.

“I’m skating to the bench, I ask where we’re at, and he [Dale Lablans, strength and conditioning coach] gives me a number. That tells me where we are. We are targeting a certain area. Sometimes I will add, stretch or remove an exercise. »

The schedule for the second half of December lent itself to a more demanding session on Wednesday. Saturday was match day, Sunday training was canceled due to the flight to Winnipeg, Monday was also match day and Tuesday the players had training off. So this was the first training in five days; the next one will only take place next Wednesday, the 27th, since the Christmas break will begin after the duels on Thursday in Minnesota and Friday in Chicago.

“The goal is for it to be optimal tomorrow evening,” recalled St-Louis.

The magic number and how it is measured remains a mystery. ” I do not know. That’s a question for Adam [Douglas, director of sports science and performance]. He gives me a number, but I don’t really know what it means! » St-Louis specifies, however, that this is a collective measure.

The players weren’t any more aware, for the simple reason that most of it went 10 feet over their heads.

“It’s a good tool to manage our energy,” explained forward Sean Monahan. The coaches can answer our questions, but I don’t look at it too much. I know how I feel when I get up. »

“I never watch that!” admitted Samuel Montembeault. Dale takes care of it here, Adam at home. If there is something, they will say it, but more to the coaches than to me. »

Ditto for his partner in front of the net Jake Allen. “I don’t look at it too much, I know when I’m tired or not, over the years. Maybe it was different when I was younger. »

And what was all this work for? The Canadian may have won his last two matches, but he has work to do.

The numerical advantage monopolized the first portion of the training. The team is 22nd this season at 18%, but fares better in December (22%). On the other hand, on Monday in Winnipeg, both goals were scored in these particular circumstances; the first, by Christian Dvorak, required a lengthy video review due to a possible hand pass, and the second, by Justin Barron, was scored four against three.

The numerical advantage exercises necessarily made it possible to work on the numerical inferiority, which continues to struggle (70% in December, 30th in the NHL). Joel Armia, who formed an attacking duo with Jake Evans, however allowed himself a disadvantaged goal, a goal which was greeted with joy and joy.

“It was a big goal. We simulated a match situation and we lost by one goal. We were trying to score a goal, we were lucky! “, noted Evans.

These same special units had sunk the Canadian during his other duel against the Wild on October 17. Montreal had a 2-0 advantage at five-on-five, but lost 5-2.

“It was so early in the season that we shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from it,” argued Evans. We will be able to correct certain things compared to the last match, but there is also the fact that it was very early in the schedule and that we were not ready for certain situations, for which we are now. »