When the Montreal Canadiens made their run to the Eastern Conference final last spring, the majority of the lifting was done by goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who backstopped them through consecutive seven-game series before falling short to the Philadelphia Flyers.
On the offensive side, it was Michael Cammalleri who lead the charge by scoring a playoff-leading 13 goals, with 12 coming in the first two rounds against Washington and Pittsburgh.
Off the ice, Cammalleri is also a leader. Even though he doesn't wear an "A" on his sweater, Cammalleri has been a go-to guy in the Habs' locker room for the media and he showed why with his pointed comments when responding to Mark Recchi's thoughts on the Max Pacioretty injury.
An eight-year NHL veteran, Cammalleri spoke with us yesterday about his new Easton Stealth RS stick that he's been using for the past few weeks; whether or not it's vital to head into the postseason on a winning note; Carey Price and P.K. Subban; his thoughts on what can be done to help minimize headshot and concussions in hockey and more. Enjoy ...
Q. You guys have had a tough week, but I'm sure watching Michigan go back to the Frozen Four put a smile on your face.
CAMMALLERI: Yeah, I loved seeing that. I'd like to see them break through here. It's been a while since Michigan's broke through.
What is it about Red Berenson and the staff at Michigan that helps guys, such as yourself, take that next step in their development?
Red kind of has the model that we're gonna treat you like the pros and we expect you to play like pros. They really did do a great job with the program, as far as providing players with the ultimate resources to become the best players they can be and he kind of expects that out of you. I think at the same time Red allows you to really develop as a player and really use creativity and all of those natural attributes that a player has. He kind of knows how to really harness those in the developmental ages of your career, he really promotes those and it's a great place to work your game.
So tell me about this Easton Stealth RS stick. You're one of a few guys currently using it and it's not even available to the public yet, right?
Yeah, I just got it. It's brand new. I was privy to see a sample of it and I said I want them, so make one for me and then I got to be the first guy to use them actually, which was exciting. They're fantastic. I find that I get such a nice balance between the blade and the shaft, and the ratios and the flex and stiffness. The feel I get coming off the blade with the stiffness of the blade has just been really good, and I feel it's kind of added some pop to it. I got my first goal with it last night (Wednesday versus Carolina) and I hope to get many more with it.
That was a pretty slick goal last night. Can you attribute that all to the stick?
All the stick, man. All the stick.
Is this the lightest stick you've ever used?
Probably. You know, for me we kind of did some custom stuff and I worked on it with some different weight ideas, but they can make it as light as you want. I work closely with the guys at Easton and Mike McGrath, -- who's down in the factory in Mexico -- he does an exceptional job of understanding what a player needs in a stick. I can call him and say hey, I'm feeling this or that and he makes adjustments to my stick that are just fantastic.
Is it like the EQ 50 with the weights inside that you can change up?
No, it's not quite like that, it's a little different. It's not quite the weight change system. The biggest thing I can say is that the thing you'll notice is the balance between shaft and blade and how that feels for you as far as performance.
For your commercial with the EQ 50 last summer you were able to control things with the stick. Can you do anything supernatural with the Stealth other than your goal last night?
You'll have to wait. I'll back down in LA shooting another commercial for them this summer. We'll see what we can come up with.
For the skates commercial they had Zach Parise as a 1970s detective. Are you pining for any certain role?
I don't wanna be typecast, that's for sure. I think I have some flexibility as far as my acting goes.
Carey Price has been phenomenal this year and is getting some Vezina Trophy buzz, and even some Hart Trophy buzz. What's the difference you've seen in him this year compared to last when he was behind Jaroslav Halak?
Yeah, he's been real good for us this year. I think this year really started last year. Jaroslav played so well and Carey was going through kind of a tough year. And then coming down to the playoffs time when Jaro was playing, Carey seemed to make a decision, it was pretty evident to all of us he was gonna work his butt off and be amazing in practice and get better. He showed all of us a lot and he did that and it was kind of like he was sending a message right through practice as far what he was doing with his game. I think that whole maturity and the way he handled himself there has lended itself to his success this year.
Every team wants to head into the postseason on a roll, but do you think how you finish the season is a bit overrated when it comes to talking about the playoffs? Is it just a matter of the playoffs being a whole new slate?
You know, we've got four games left and if we win all four, I'll tell you that it means everything. And if we aren't able to win all four and don't do so well, and still get into the playoffs, then I would tell you the opposite. I think either way, you prepare the way you're going to. I don't know what the stats show if a team is coming in hot has done better or worse, but playoffs is a whole new season and takes a whole new level of focus and attention to detail.
Everyone's looking forward to seeing how you guys follow up last year's playoff run. Going back to last spring, what clicked for not only you, but for the team within Jacques Martin's system?
In the first series we did some good things. I thought that Jaro played exceptionally well. I think we gave up a lot more than we should have, as far as chances, and we did ride a hot goaltender. I think in the second series we played better and was maybe more deservedly so won. I think just overall we had a real consistent execution kind of mentality. A lot of guys were just doing what it took for them to help the team very well and very consistently.
Right now we're struggling. We haven't been very good and we've got to get back to there in a hurry.
P.K. Subban has gotten some grief this year from media and opposing players about respect. You're around him everyday … is that just a case of young kid maturing as his career goes on or is that something that helps make him a successful player?
Yeah, it's part of who and what he is, I think. He has a certain personality that isn't easy for everybody to handle and a certain kind of charisma that way. I think at the end of the day, the thing about P.K. is that he backs it up and he is that good and is that hard to play against. That adds sometime to the frustration of opposing players.
Are you satisfied with what's been done at this point in regards to concussions and headshots or do you think the NHL and the Players' Association can do more to help minimize them?
I just think that we have a fantastic game. I think it's also important that we're aware that we're not going to be ignorant to what's going on and what's taking place in the game today, and that the changes that have been made as far as the speed and strength of the game, and not be ignorant to the data that shows some of the trauma that's been related to it. I'm sure they're doing a good job. I don't know that we're done yet as far as handling the issue.
After the Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty incident, there were the stories about police getting involved and then sponsors threatening to pull out of the NHL. As a professional, to hear about all that stuff going on, is it going through your head, "This is our game, let the league police itself"?
No. The reason we have the game and the reason we have the business is because there's fans that are willing to come watch games and buy jerseys and turn on their TV and tune in to watch their team. I think it's very important to recognize these voices and this game isn't just for the people that play it at the pro level or just for the people that coach or manage at the pro level, it's for the whole world to enjoy really. I think it's important to be aware of what's going on as far as that.
What do think about the idea some have floated about bringing back the two-line pass or allowing some obstruction back will help slow the game down and therefore make it safer?
For me it goes back to the grassroots and I think this is a great PR opportunity for our league to say to everybody that we're going to make some changes that will clean up our game a little bit and make it a game that's still fast and exhilarating and all that much to play, but also again that it's safe and one that you can feel very comfortable putting your kids into.
I think if you build that grassroots and if all those kids can relate to what it feels like to skate down the ice with a stick in their hands and play the great game of hockey, then I really think that you're really building and growing the game of hockey in many different areas.
Your favorite NHL jersey of all-time.
Montreal's number one, you've got to document that. For me, it was always the Detroit Red Wings. I played for the Toronto Red Wings growing up so I was always a Red Wing, so Detroit was always a big one for me.
Do you have a least favorite jersey?
Maybe that old Vancouver jersey with the yellow and black "V". That was brutal.
I saw on the Habs website that when your teammates were asked which guy would look best in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, a majority of them chose you. Do you agree with that opinion?
I'll take that as a compliment.
Who's the one guy on the team nobody wants to room with?
I guess this is kind of bad based on the question I answered earlier … I'm fueling the fire, but his name is Pernell Karl Subban. He snores a lot.