Sports Canadiens Notebook: Jonathan Drouin says staying positive is the key
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.
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.”
Stu Cowan: Jonathan Drouin turns corner in fourth season with Canadiens
It’s going on four years since the Canadiens acquired Jonathan Drouin and he arrived in Montreal with the weight of a province on his shoulders. “There’s obviously the pressure of playing in Montreal … everybody knows that,” Drouin said during a news conference after GM Marc Bergevin acquired him on June 15, 2017, from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenceman Mikhail Sergachev. “But for me as a player, I think I’d rather have that pressure on myself than some other places. I’m a French-Canadian and I like pressure … I like that stuff. I’ve played at the Bell Centre many times as an away guy and just to be on the home side is going to be even better.
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.
Canadiens Game Day: Carey Price in goal, Paul Byron back in the lineup
Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens Saturday night at the Bell Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, SN, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and forward Paul Byron will return to the lineup. The Canadiens placed Byron on waivers last Sunday and after clearing waivers he was placed on the team’s taxi squad on Monday. Byron has struggled this season with 0-3-3 totals in 14 games. The 31-year-old is in the second season of a four-year, US$13.6-million contract with a $3.4 million salary-cap hit.
“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.
Here's what happened to Jonathan Drouin
????— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay)
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.
Stu Cowan: Canadiens need more than an attitude shift to get on track
“If ‘Attitude’ can play centre and score 30 goals next season, the Canadiens might get back in the playoffs.” That was the lead to a column I wrote after the Canadiens finished the 2017-18 season in 28th place in the overall NHL standings with a 29-40-13 record and then during a post-mortem news conference GM Marc Bergevin spoke about how a bad attitude was the biggest problem with the team. “If you played a drinking game during the news conference that lasted more than an hour — taking a shot of booze every time the word ‘attitude’ or ‘transparent’ was used — you would have been hammered after about 15 minutes, which might have been a good thing,” I added in the column.
“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.
By the numbers: Canadiens' identity a riddle wrapped in an enigma
Who are the Montreal Canadiens? In the wake of the axe falling on head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller on Wednesday, it might be a little while longer before we find a solid answer. With a newly minted interim head coach tag, Dominique Ducharme has an opportunity to resuscitate a season that has gone from a promising 7-1-2 start to a dreadful 2-4-2 slide heading into Saturday’s game against the Jets in Winnipeg (10 p.m., SN, SN360, CBC, TVA Sports, TSN690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The start of the season for the Canadiens was always a bit of a mirage. No team is going to average 4.
“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.”
Jonathan Drouin — Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva)
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.”
Stu Cowan: Players forced Canadiens GM's hand in firing of Julien
This is the third column I have written in the last two weeks about the Canadiens firing Claude Julien, but the first to be published. When the Canadiens cancelled a scheduled practice two Mondays ago and announced that GM Marc Bergevin would speak with the media at noon, I was pretty sure Julien was gone, so I had the column written that morning and ready to hit publish when the news broke. I was wrong. It seemed like the perfect time to make a coaching change because the struggling Canadiens had a six-day break in the schedule and it would have given the new coach time to work on changes he might want to make to the system, or the lines, during what would be like a mini-training
Julien vient d’y aller d’un speech de plus de 2 minutes au centre de la glace après la pratique. On entendait une mouche voler ????— Marc-André Perreault (@MA_PerreaultTVA)
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.”
Canadiens coach Claude Julien plans to keep rolling his four lines
Coach Claude Julien plans to continue his strategy of rolling four lines when the Canadiens return to action Saturday night at the Bell Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, CITY, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The Canadiens went 7-1-2 in their first 10 games while scoring 44 goals. They are 2-3-0 in their last five games while scoring eight goals. Tyler Toffoli, who leads the Canadiens with 10 goals and ranked third in the NHL through Monday’s games, is averaging 16:53 of ice time. Josh Anderson, who has nine goals, is averaging 14:34. The Canadiens forward with the most ice time is Nick Suzuki, who is averaging 18:11.
Shea Weber est le suivant au micro.
Shea Weber is up next at the mic.— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL)
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.”
Back to work!— Ottawa Senators (@Senators)
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
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 .