Cale Fleury swears that he has not yet experienced a "welcome to the NHL" moment. No blunder, no wacky moments, no major insults on the part of an opponent, nothing. Which does not mean that he will not remember his first two games in the big league.
The first took place Thursday night in Carolina, against the Hurricanes brother Haydn. The second was Saturday night in Toronto, where he was able to experience the rivalry between the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs.
For a guy from Saskatchewan, who was playing junior hockey just two years ago, it starts to do a lot of digestion at the same time.
"I probably would have remembered my first game all my life anyway, but it was even more special because my brother was just in front," said the young defender yesterday in Brossard. Then, play a Saturday night game in Toronto, really, we can not ask for better! "
There is never anything certain about hockey – and life in general, by the way – but if you have to trust those first two games, Fleury is with the Canadiens for good. At 20, and having spent the previous season in Laval, in the AHL, this choice of third round of the draft of 2017 does not seem at all overtaken by the events.
Even if everything is not perfect.
"I talked to the coaches and I know there are aspects of my game that I have to work on," he admitted. I already know that I have to work on my positioning.
"But I would say that the biggest difference when you get into this league is that you can not afford to stay too long on the ice and get caught at the end of a presence, otherwise face fresh guys who have just jumped on the game. Stretching the presences, we can get away with the AHL and the junior ranks, but not in the NHL.
"I do not think it's going so fast. It's not going faster than in our last preseason game against the Senators, who had a pretty full training that night. The game may be a bit more physical than in the pre-season games, but other than that, it's not that different. "
If you have noticed that Fleury seems unshakeable, phlegmatic, the kind not to be bothered by anything, tell yourself that Brett Kulak, his partner in the blue line, has also noticed the same thing.
"He impressed me in the first two games," said the defender. He plays well and he knows how to use his strength. He plays physically and he circulates the puck. He is always ready for the next presence on the ice. "
Challenges in defense
In the Montreal camp, the emergence of Fleury is certainly a nice surprise, and it will have to last, because the young season already shows that the Canadian will have challenges in defense in 2019-2020. We will also agree that this team will not always be able to do like Saturday night and win 6-5 threes.
"We left the goalkeeper to himself in the Toronto game," said Kulak. This is probably not a good habit to take … we know how good Carey (Price) is, but you should not abuse it and trust it too much. So we will have to be better than that in front of him. "
The good news for the Canadiens and their fans is that many of the defenders feel they can do better. Starting with the greenest group.
"I'm happy with my first two games, but I know I can be better," said Fleury. I know that I still have some way to go. "
Next match: Canadian c. Sabers, tomorrow (7 pm) in Buffalo