With NHL aspirations nonetheless alive, Blandisi paces Rocket to opening-night victory


Montreal hockey followers may know little about him, however he is been round Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard sufficient to have already got left an enduring impression.

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At age 26, Joseph Blandisi talks in regards to the youngsters he performs with on the Laval Rocket. And but, as one of many veterans on this workforce, he believes his days within the NHL aren’t essentially over.

“That’s my purpose, why I’m right here and why I’ve labored so arduous,” Blandisi mentioned. “That is what I wish to do the remainder of my life. I like enjoying hockey. The NHL is everybody’s purpose.”

Blandisi paced Laval with a pair of targets — together with the winner and the opposite on the power-play — because the Rocket launched its AHL season in spectacular vogue Friday evening, simply defeating the Belleville Senators, 5-1, on the Bell Centre.

The identical two groups meet once more Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.) on the similar venue, a part of an opening-season four-game collection, all to be performed in Montreal.

Blandisi, a 6-foot, 200-pound centre, was drafted 162nd total by Colorado in 2012, which should appear to be a lifetime in the past to the native of Markham, Ont. He has 101 NHL video games to his credit score, together with 21 with Pittsburgh final season earlier than he was traded, together with Jake Lucchini, to the Canadiens for Riley Barber and Phil Varone.

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Blandisi was instantly assigned to Laval, enjoying solely 4 video games for the Rocket earlier than COVID-19 struck and the season got here to a crashing halt.

Montreal hockey followers may know little about him, however he’s been round Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard sufficient to have already got left an enduring impression.

“What I like probably the most about Joe is the best way he approaches hockey,” Bouchard mentioned. “He’s a passionate participant. He loves hockey. His recreation was nice.”

Whereas Bouchard’s opening-night lineup was crammed with veterans out of respect, he mentioned, the coach made the weird transfer of teaming Blandisi between Joël Teasdale and Jesse Ylönen, a pair of rookies.

Teasdale, who scored Laval’s remaining purpose, hadn’t performed a recreation since lifting the Memorial Cup in Could 2019, lacking all of final season after struggling torn knee ligaments. Whereas Ylönen was in a position to play in Finland this fall, this marked his first recreation on North American ice, alongside together with his AHL debut, clearly.

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“I requested him to play with two youngsters that by no means performed within the AHL,” Bouchard mentioned. “One by no means performed in North America. The opposite hasn’t performed in two years. He got here in with a smile, helped these youngsters and embraced the problem. Not each veteran would try this. Some really feel entitled.”

Blandisi had 4 photographs on internet — as did Laval captain Xavier Ouellet, who opened the scoring within the first interval — whereas Teasdale produced three.

“He’s a particular expertise and a really expert participant,” Blandisi mentioned of Ylönen. “He has eyes at the back of his head. I haven’t had that many scoring probabilities in a recreation in a very long time. He’s discovering me all around the ice.”

It was the Rocket’s first recreation since final March 11, after they blanked the Senators Three-Zero at Place Bell. Following three weeks of coaching camp, with out the good thing about any exhibition video games, this workforce performed with ardour and emotion, dominating a lot of the recreation from the opening faceoff, whereas outshooting Belleville 36-23.

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“It felt like we have been coaching for this recreation for 2 months,” Blandisi mentioned. “Simply to get on the market, be in our recreation jerseys, working with one another and having the ability to be coached. You miss the sensation. You miss being across the guys. There’s numerous little stuff you miss and we’re grateful to be again.”

The sport turned, and the momentum switched, after the Rocket efficiently killed off a two-man drawback for 1:43 early within the second interval, with the rating tied 1-1. Not lengthy after Blandisi scored the primary of his pair in a span of barely greater than two minutes.

Bouchard mentioned he might sense this group was able to play — like thoroughbreds, ready for the gate to open. However Bouchard additionally realizes one recreation doesn’t outline a season.

“I’m glad they did this, as a result of all people suffered the previous few months, not enjoying,” he mentioned. “Tonight, I allow them to play. There wasn’t a lot of a message, even behind the bench. They have been teaching themselves. It was their second.”

hzurkowsky@postmedia.com

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