MONTREAL — No, assistant coach Perry Pearn’s dismissal doesn’t have anything to do with the Montreal Canadiens sudden turnaround.
It would be easy to connect the dots between Montreal’s six-game losing streak, firing Pearn and a subsequent four-game win streak, but Habs winger Erik Cole says the rather shocking decision didn’t spark anything.
“I don’t think so,” said the former Oiler, in the first of a four-year deal with the Canadiens. “That (Pearn firing) was more of a management decision about the direction of the team.”
The turnaround, says Cole, was about to happen anyway, and everybody in the room knew it.
“We played some quality games in that stretch that we should have won and we all saw it. We were playing well enough to win, but just didn’t get the results.
“But we felt like we weren’t that far off, that we had it in the room to push it a little bit harder, give just a little bit more for the guy sitting next to you, and mentally we were already committed to doing that.”
That Pearn being made a scapegoat coincided with a 5-1 win over Philadelphia, followed by a home-and-home sweep of the Bruins and a win at division rival Ottawa is pure coincidence.
“We knew we were right there,” said Cole, adding the situation wasn’t anywhere near as desperate as it seemed in the permanently-boiling cauldron that is Canadiens hockey. “Inside the room it wasn’t as dire.”
Outside the room, however, in the rest of Montreal, a six-game losing streak is as dire as it gets. Especially from a team that just took the Stanley Cup champs to seven games.
But while fear, panic and anger ran rampant in the streets, they never managed to breach the dressing room door.
“(A losing streak) can turn into a bit more with the media attention that you don’t always have in other cities, or maybe it’s just the expectations,” said Cole, who credits the poise and leadership of his new teammates with helping them survive the tumultuous start.
“When there’s stuff being said in the media it’s important not to let that dictate the feeling in the room. That’s what’s great about the group of guys we have here; they’ve all been here for a couple of years, they’ve been through it and they don’t let things in the room that are going to be a disruption.
“That’s one of the reasons we could get through a slow start, we knew what our situation was and what we’re capable of when we play the right way.”
The roll came to an end when the Habs, forced to cool their heels during a six-day break in the schedule, spilt a back-to-back road set in Ottawa and New York, beating the Sens and losing to the Rangers on Saturday.
Now, just like the Oilers team they host on Tuesday, Montreal is determined to get back on track after having their win streak snapped.
“I had a great time in Edmonton and there are a lot of great people there, but I hope we kick the crap out of those guys,” chuckled Cole.
With only six players and one assistant coach left from March 2009, the Oilers look nothing like the team Cole left.
Or do they?
“I said to somebody the other day that they kind of remind me of when I was there, with the three young guys playing together like Cogs and Gags and Nilsson, the youthfulness of the team,” said Cole, who celebrated his 33rd birthday on Sunday.
“They’re playing fantastic hockey, off to a great start. Great, power play, penalty killing, great goaltending. There’s not a lot of places where you look and see a weakness.”