Stu Cowan: Max Domi has been Mr. Cool with the Canadiens

No single player has had more of an impact on the Montreal’s surprising and impressive turnaround this season.

STU COWAN, MONTREAL GAZETTE

NEW YORK — Max Domi is a pretty cool dude — from his sleeve tattoos on both arms, to his fashion sense, to his demeanour off the ice when dealing with the media.

On the ice it’s a different story, where sometimes Domi’s emotions get the best of him.

“Max is Max,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said when he met with the media Monday in New Jersey following the NHL trade deadline. “He’s producing and you see how he plays … his (fuse) is about this long, but that’s how he is and you got to work with that. But also, you don’t want to take that away from him because that’s what makes him who he is. He brought a different look to our team and I really like it.”

No single player has had more of an impact on the Canadiens’ surprising and impressive turnaround this season than Domi.

After Monday night’s disappointing 2-1 loss to the Devils in New Jersey, Domi remained calm, cool and collected while answering questions from the media.

“We have the confidence in ourselves as a group,” he said. “We know we can be a playoff team. We just got to go and execute. We’re not going to think too far ahead and we’re not going to dwell on this loss. We got to find a way to get a little bit better and a way to get that next one.”

The next one was Tuesday night in Detroit, where Domi had a career-high five points (two goals, three assists) as the Canadiens pounded the Red Wings 8-1 to maintain their hold on the first wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. After the game, Domi was asked what the previous 24 hours had been like following the stinker in New Jersey.

“No different than every other 24 hours,” he answered in a very cool manner. “Just getting ready for a big hockey game in the NHL. We knew that team was going to come out hungry and we had to find a way to start on time and we did that. Big goal by Tuna (Tomas Tatar) and then we just kind of rode that wave. I think every period we started, we didn’t get complacent, we didn’t get satisfied. We just found a way to keep plugging away and find a way to score more goals. I think that’s a huge thing for our group and something to really build on from here on out.”

The Canadiens flew to New York after Tuesday night’s game and enjoyed a day off Wednesday in Manhattan. They will practise Thursday at the Prudential Center in New Jersey and then play the New York Rangers Friday night at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

Domi is leading the Canadiens in scoring with 22-37-59 totals and has a plus-15 rating — second to Phillip Danault’s plus-18. Domi has already set career highs in goals and points after scoring only 18 goals over the previous two seasons combined with the Arizona Coyotes. Four of Domi’s nine goals with the Coyotes last season were empty-netters. None of his 22 goals this season have been into an empty net.

Domi is now playing centre between Jonathan Drouin and Andrew Shaw and the line combined for five goals — including Shaw’s first career hat trick — and 12 points against the Red Wings, with Drouin picking up four assists.

“He’s unbelievable,” Shaw said about Domi. “He’s the type of player that plays fast, plays hard, plays physical, goes to the dirty areas and he’s got the capability to make plays and put the puck in the back of the net.”

Domi has done exactly what GM Marc Bergevin was hoping for — and probably more — since acquiring him from Arizona last summer in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk, who has 14-21-35 totals with the Coyotes and is minus-18 while playing as a left-winger and not a centre. Domi was thrilled about getting the opportunity to play in an Original Six hockey market and wear the CH on his chest.

“Part of the history of the Montreal Canadiens is to win and, ultimately, that’s all that matters to myself and now my teammates and I’m really excited about that,” Domi said after the trade was made. “Montreal has an unbelievable hockey team right now. A combination of an unbelievable good veteran leadership, some great young players and ultimately the best goalie in the league. It’s a great mix and I’m just going to try and slide in and give my part in helping this team win in any way I possibly can.”

After Tuesday’s win in Detroit, Domi said: “It’s a huge win tonight. That’s all we’re concerned on. Obviously, we’re not going to get too ahead of ourselves here. We got a big one in New York. So regroup now, recover. We got a couple of days to prepare for the next one and be ready to go.”

Keeping it cool.

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