Sports Canadiens Notebook: Jonathan Drouin says staying positive is the key

04:40  23 february  2021
04:40  23 february  2021 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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  By the numbers: Canadiens' Drouin hits stride on both sides of puck Expectations can drastically alter perceptions and hockey is no exception. When a general manager makes a big trade and moves the team’s top prospect for a player who is billed as a superstar French-Canadian centre, it becomes difficult for fans to fully appreciate a player who is good, but isn’t a superstar or a centre. Despite averaging 50 points per 82 games on a team that struggled to score during his first three seasons with the Canadiens, winger Jonathan Drouin has been the subject of a disproportionate amount of venom from the fan base. That isn’t to suggest that Drouin is beyond criticism, because there are legitimate holes in his game.

a baseball player holding a bat © Provided by The Gazette

Apart from having a bunch of stitches on his upper lip, Jonathan Drouin was feeling fine at practice Monday afternoon in Ottawa.

Drouin left the ice late in the second period of Sunday night’s 3-2 overtime loss in Ottawa and didn’t return after being checked face-first into the glass by Senators defenceman Mike Reilly. Drouin said he went through the NHL’s concussion protocol and was held out of the rest of the game for precautionary reasons.

“I felt 100 per cent today,” Drouin said during a video conference after practice. “It was just precautionary. A little bit of a stun. I didn’t get a chance to defend myself at all. I just really hit that stanchion right away. It was bleeding from the mouth and inside the mouth. But I felt fine after the game last night. It was precautionary and back to 100 per cent today. Everything’s normal.”

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Everything’s not normal right now for the Canadiens, who are 2-4-1 in their last seven games after getting off to a 7-1-2 start. They have scored only 13 goals in their last seven games and have fallen to fourth place in the North Division standings with a 9-5-3 record.

“Everyone’s got to stay positive,” said Drouin, who has 1-10-11 totals in 17 games. “These times aren’t easy. Everyone’s in a little slump, not playing the way we want to play. Negativity comes pretty early and you want to put that away real soon and make sure we’re positive. If it’s a mistake and it (results) in a goal, the bench has to be alive, make sure this guy is ready for his next shift after his mistake. If you’re positive, you have good energy, things are going to go well. You’re going to feel well at least and make sure you can play the right way.

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“We got to get back to just playing and being excited to play and positive.”

The Canadiens will play the Senators again Tuesday night in Ottawa (7 p.m., TSN2, TSN5, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The Senators (5-14-1) are the worst team in the NHL, but they have won two of their three games against the Canadiens and limited them to two goals in each game, winning 3-2 at the Bell Centre on Feb. 4 and losing 2-1 in Ottawa on Feb. 6.

The Toronto Maple Leafs (14-3-2) are in first place in the North Division, but have lost two of their five games against the Senators, including one in overtime.

Managing expectations

Expectations were high for the Canadiens after they got off to their 7-1-2 start while outscoring the opposition 44-27.

Now some fans are starting to get upset, worried this team could actually miss the playoffs.

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“You don’t want to listen to the outside too much,” Drouin said. “It’s inside that room … the answer’s inside the room and it’s inside that group. When you start listening to the outside, the expectations … we have expectations from ourself in the room and the coaching staff does.

“The players we got this summer and the way we started the season, we want to be a top team in our division,” Drouin added. “We’re not happy being fourth, we want to be up there and make sure we’re battling for that first spot. We want to be the best team in our division. That’s part of the expectation we have as a team, but the outside world doesn’t really matter for us. It’s just about making sure we’re ready to play every night and we stay positive.”

When asked if it’s up to the coaches or the players to get things back on track, Drouin said: “It’s both. Coaches put a system, players have to execute it. It’s pretty simple. Sometimes adjustments happen … you got to make sure you’re ready for those adjustments in the games. Players play …. players have to do their job and make sure they’re ready to do their job — and we are. Like I said, we got to play the way we played earlier in the season with the energy we had.

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“We know what’s at stake,” Drouin added. “We know how we’ve played in the past. We know when we’re not playing well why we’re not playing well. … You got to grab that frustration in a good way and a positive way and make sure we’re ready to play. If we take that on the right side and the right way we’re going to be fine here. Like I said, it’s cliché, but staying positive as a team is going to make this go easier and faster through this little slump we have.”

What’s the problem?

Drouin was also asked what’s the biggest problem with the Canadiens right now.

“I think we’re too far apart,” he said. “We’re a good team when we’re five around (the puck) and we’re breaking all together. We’ve got good speed and the Ds move the puck well. I think right now there’s maybe one guy that stretches a little too much and we’re kind of too spread apart where we can’t create speed. We’re late getting that stretch guy. I think it’s everyone getting back to that kind of five-man unit. It’s a cliché, but when we’re playing well we’re close together, we’re making little plays and going up the ice together.

“We’re not skating the way we’re used to,” Drouin added. “We’re not tracking. Our team’s make a turnover and pounce on it … that’s how we play and that’s how we’re good when we’re playing our game at a high speed. Creating the offence comes from defence on our team and I don’t think we’ve done a good job enough to create turnovers, make stops in our end and go right at their end with speed. That’s the biggest part of our game and we got to correct that.”

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Shortening the bench

With Drouin out of the game and the Canadiens trailing 2-1, Julien decided to shorten his bench in the third period while moving Corey Perry up from the fourth line to take Tomas Tatar’s spot on the third line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia.

Perry scored the tying goal at 14:35 of the third period, while Tatar stayed on the bench for the final eight minutes of the period and all of the overtime. Tatar, the Canadiens’ leading scorer last season with 22-39-61 totals, finished the game with 10:59 of ice time, while Perry had 10:19 and Jake Evans had a team-low 10:18.

Tatar has 4-5-9 totals in 16 games this season and has been made a healthy scratch once. He has scored at least 20 goals in each of the last six seasons and is in the final season of a four year, US$21.2-million contract with a $5.3 million salary-cap hit.

“Some of the changes we made yesterday in the game where some guys played a lot more and others played a lot less,” Julien said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s really strategy more than it’s we’re just not executing well.

“When you find your game, all of a sudden your strategy’s good again and that’s what we have to do right now,” the coach added. “We’re not in synch and we’re not playing well. It’s as simple as that. If you’re not playing well you’re not going to have success. So we got to find a way to tidy up our game here and get some confidence going.”

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Kulak back with Romanov

Brett Kulak, who has been a healthy scratch for the last three games, was back with Alexander Romanov on the third defence pairing at practice Monday while Victor Mete was the odd man out.

Kulak and Romanov were partners for the first eight games this season and played very well together while Mete was a healthy scratch. But after Mete’s agent went public with a trade request for the player, Mete was put in the lineup the next game with Kulak coming out.

Mete is pointless in the five games he has now played and is even in plus/minus while averaging 14:49 of ice time. Meanwhile, the play of both Kulak and Romanov has regressed. Romanov had a season-low 12:45 of ice time Sunday night in Ottawa, while Mete only played 10:50.

Romanov, who was made a healthy scratch for one game, has 1-3-4 totals and is plus-4 in 16 games while averaging 17:56 of ice time. Kulak, who has been made a healthy scratch for four games, has 0-3-3 totals in 14 games and is plus-3 while averaging 14:02 of ice time.

“There’s times where he gets really, really busy and I think that’s where we’re trying to settle his game down a little bit,” Julien said about the 21-year-old rookie Romanov. “Keep the game simple, good first pass and that kind of thing. But it’s more about settling him down. We talk about sometimes he’s got happy feet and really, really busy out there. So that’s probably the main thing. If you can, I guess, control his game or calm it down a little bit, I think that will be a big plus for him.”

The lines

Here’s how the forward lines and defence pairings looked at practice Monday:

Drouin – Suzuki – Anderson

Toffoli – Danault – Gallagher

Tatar – Kotkaniemi – Armia

Byron – Evans – Perry


Chiarot – Weber

Edmundson – Petry

Kulak – Romanov



What’s next?

The Canadiens will play the Senators Tuesday night in Ottawa (7 p.m., TSN2, TSN5, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The Canadiens will then fly to Winnipeg on Wednesday and play two games against the Jets on Thursday (8 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and Saturday (10 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio). The Jets are the only team in the North Division the Canadiens have yet to face this season.

Next week, the Canadiens will play three straight games at the Bell Centre. The Senators will be the visitors on Tuesday (7 p.m., TSN2, TSN5, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), followed by two games against the Jets on Thursday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and Saturday (7 p.m., SNE, SNW, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).



Canadiens Notebook: Jake Allen will be in goal for Habs Saturday night .
Claude Julien wouldn’t reveal who his starting goalie would be until the day of a game. Dominique Ducharme is not Claude Julien. The new Canadiens head coach announced Friday that Jake Allen will start in goal Saturday night in Winnipeg against the Jets (10 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). Ducharme went with Carey Price in goal for his NHL head-coaching debut Thursday night in Winnipeg and the goalie allowed five goals on 29 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Jets (the sixth goal was an empty-netter). Price now has a 5-4-3 record with a 3.13 goals-against average and a .888 save percentage. Allen has a 4-2-1 record with a 2.14 goals-against average and a .

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