Canadiens’ Alzner drawing motivation from forgetful 2017-18

Karl-Alzner-Canadiens-hits-Tyson-Jost

Karl Alzner of the Montreal Canadiens lays a hit on Colorado's Tyson Jost. (David Zalubowski/AP)

The 2017-18 season didn’t hold a lot of highlights for the Montreal Canadiens, but it did bring several valuable lessons for Karl Alzner.

“There were definitely some growing pains,” the defenceman told NHL.com on Friday, reflecting on his first year with the Canadiens. “It wasn’t a very fun year of hockey.”

The team limped their way to the draft lottery with their 28th-place finish at the end of a season filled with trade rumours, bad luck, and injuries. It was a year most Montrealers would likely rather forget — but not Alzner.

“We just have to really, really remember the feeling and try our best to never have that again,” he said. “It wasn’t the way I would have liked to have started my time with Montreal, but you can’t go back now. You just kind of deal with it. We have good players there. If we tweak a few things with the way we play, I think we should be good.”

The 29-year-old registered a goal and 11 assists in his first season with the Canadiens, his least-productive full season since 2010-11.

One of a few cap casualties to leave Washington in free agency last summer, Alzner was in the un-enviable position of watching his former club claim their first-ever Stanley Cup the season after his departure. The Burnaby, B.C. native signed a five-year, $23.125-million deal with the Canadiens on July 1, 2017 after nine seasons — and plenty of playoff heartbreak — with the Capitals.

He spoke about the experience of watching the success of his former teammates as well as how he’s preparing for his second season in Montreal in Friday’s interview. Here are a few excerpts:

On Washington’s Cup win:
“If you can have a year where you can see a whole group of your really good friends realize a dream that they’ve been trying to reach for so many years, it’s cool. You have to be happy for them. I did get to watch the final game and the celebration and follow along on social media with what they were doing after winning. You go through a bit of an emotional rollercoaster of another year not winning yourself, so you get mixed emotions. The bottom line, though, is that I pretty much know everyone on that team, even the new guys. When you get to see them win, it’s so darn cool.”

On Ovechkin’s celebrations:
“With Ovi, I wasn’t surprised at all. (laughs) You kind of knew that was going to happen. I could just feel the release of the monkey off his back, just finally being able to let go and have fun.”

On what he’s most looking forward to in 2018-19:
“I’m looking forward to having a year under my belt there and feeling more comfortable to voice my opinions and really help out a little more. In your first year somewhere – for me and for other guys on teams I’ve been on – you kind of just sit back and let things happen and kind of go with the flow. But once you feel a little bit more comfortable, you can kind of try to help out a little bit more. I’m excited to have that. It’s another kick at the can. Last year was so disappointing. I just want to get back out there, try to do something different and have a different result. It’s not fun ending as early as we did and in the way we did. I’m happy to just try and start fresh.”

On how he’s looking to up his game:
“If I’m put in the same situations as last year, I know that I need to try to help the team be better on the penalty kill. I’ll do my best to be a guy that can help sort things out and settle that down. In a lot of games that we ended up losing that were tight, the difference was special teams. Our power play was pretty decent. We had some pretty good runs, but we didn’t have many good runs on the penalty kill. If we can change that around – and I pride myself on being a good penalty killer – then I think that will be a big difference.”

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