Sports Stu Cowan: Canadiens need to revive dormant offence
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.
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is hoping a new goalie coach will help Carey Price get back on track.
Butand replacing him with Sean Burke won’t help the Canadiens’ struggling offence.
The Canadiens scored 44 goals in their first 10 games this season while getting off to a 7-1-2 start. After losing 4-3 in OT to the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens are 3-5-4 in their last 12 games while scoring only 27 goals over that span. They have scored less than three goals in seven of their last 12 games.
Montreal Canadiens fire Claude Julien and Kirk Muller
The Canadiens announced Wednesday morning that head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller have both been fired. Dominique Ducharme has been named interim head coach, while Alex Burrows, who was an assistant coach with the AHL’s Laval Rocket, has been added to the Canadiens’ coaching staff. After getting off to a 7-1-2 start this season while scoring 44 goals, the Canadiens were looking great and Montreal fans were excited. Bergevin’s off-season player additions had given the team a big boost and for the first time in a long time it didn’t seem like a question of if the Canadiens would make the playoffs, but how far they might go once they get there.
The Canadiens have scored 10 goals in their first four games with Dominique Ducharme as head coach and have a 1-1-2 record. The bright spot is that the Canadiens have gone 3-for-4 on the power play over the last two games, with Brendan Gallagher getting one against the Jets. Tyler Toffoli and Corey Perry also scored Thursday night.
“I don’t know if you can pinpoint one thing,” centre Nick Suzuki said when asked what’s wrong with the offence after Thursday’s morning skate in Brossard. “I think we’ve generated a lot of good chances. Our power play was brutal up to the last few games, so that’s a big issue that we’re fixing. As a forward core, we’re getting more confidence now in the way we’re playing. We can see the impact that the new systems are bringing us and I think moving forward we’ll definitely be scoring more goals.”
Canadiens Game Day: Dominique Ducharme trying to put his stamp on team
Dominique Ducharme was thrown into the deep end without a life jacket as new head coach of the Canadiens. Ducharme didn’t even have a chance to hold one full practice before his first game behind the bench, Thursday night’s 6-3 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg, one day after taking over from Claude Julien It would have made much more sense for GM Marc Bergevin to have made the coaching move early last week when the Canadiens had a six-day break in the schedule and Ducharme would have had time to make the changes he wants to put in place.
After the first 10 games, it looked like the Canadiens would challenge Toronto for first place in the all-Canadian North Division, but they have now fallen 12 points behind the Leafs, who have an 18-5-2 record. The Leafs have the best record in the NHL and are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the best offence, averaging 3.52 goals per game. Toronto ranks second in the NHL on the power play with a 31.7-per-cent success rate and ranks fourth in defence, allowing an average of 2.36 goals per game.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine Montreal beating Toronto in a playoff series — if the Canadiens even get there.
Successful teams are built down the middle and Toronto’s four centres have combined for 30 goals this season. Auston Matthews has 18, John Tavares has seven, Travis Boyd has three and Pierre Engvall has two.have nine goals. Suzuki has five, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jake Evans have two each and Phillip Danault has none. The four Leafs’ centres have combined for 65 points, while the four Canadiens centres have 37.
Canadiens Notebook: Dominique Ducharme keeps working on his new system
New Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme likes to limit his practices to 30-35 minutes, but he wants them to be intense. About 30 minutes into practice Monday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, Ducharme blew his whistle, stopped the action and held a mini team meeting on the ice. The Canadiens were working on Ducharme’s new forechecking system and the coach didn’t like what he was seeing. “I said instead of keeping going for three minutes and not doing it the right way I’ll stop, we’ll walk through it and they’ll understand and we’ll leave here better,” Ducharme explained after practice. “You always start with a plan,” Ducharme added.
is leading the Canadiens in scoring with 7-14-21 totals. Toffoli leads the Canadiens forwards in scoring with 14-5-19 totals, followed by Suzuki with 5-11-16. They are the only two Montreal forwards with more points than 37-year-old Leafs forward Jason Spezza, who has 5-10-15 totals.
The Canadiens are still ranked seventh in the NHL in scoring with an average of 3.23 goals per game, but they are falling fast. This is a franchise that hasn’t had a player finish in the top 10 in NHL scoring since Mats Naslund finished eighth in 1985-86 with 43-67-110 totals. The Leafs’ Mitch Marner (10-24-34) and Matthews (18-13-31) are both in the top five in NHL scoring this season and Matthews has missed three games with a wrist injury.
has one goal in his last 45 regular-season games, dating to last year. Suzuki has two goals in the last 13 games, Kotkaniemi has one goal in the last 18 and Evans hasn’t scored in his last 16 games.
Canadiens Game Day: Jake Allen will be in goal for Habs vs. Jets
Jake Allen will be in goal for the Canadiens when they face the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). Allen has a 4-2-2 record this season, along with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. The Canadiens were shut out in both of his regulation-time losses. The Canadiens are coming off a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, in which Carey Price made 26 saves for the win, improving his record to 6-4-3 with a 2.96 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage. Canadiens goalie coach Stéphane Waite was fired after the second period of that game.
Ducharme’s new system is based on creating two-on-one opportunities and Danault said the players are working on little plays at practice.
“I’m obviously not going to tell everything,” Danault said. “But (Ducharme’s) working hard offensively, which we love. It brings something different.”
It’s not just the centres who aren’t scoring for the Canadiens.
Paul Byron has one goal in 21 games this season, Artturi Lehkonen has one goal in his last 17 games and none in his last 11, Tomas Tatar has two goals in his last 19 games and Jonathan Drouin has one goal in the last 16 games.
“I think we’re building our game in every aspect of every zone,” Ducharme said after Thursday’s morning skate when asked about his team’s offence. “We’re working on things offensively right now. I think our guys are feeling more and more comfortable. I think they’re getting into that groove. We have chances where we’re hitting a post by Drouin in the second period (in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Senators, which included an empty-net goal). Those were clear, really good chances. We had others like Toffoli a couple of times.
“Confidence comes in to play at one point in those kind of stretches, but with the number of chances, quality chances, that we had I know we’re going to finish better and we’re going to create even more,” Ducharme added. “So I’m confident that the number of goals will be back.”
Canadiens Game Day: Jake Allen will start in goal against Vancouver .
Jake Allen will be in goal for the Canadiens when they play the Vancouver Canucks Friday night at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). That’s the only change Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme will make to his lineup following Wednesday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Jets in Winnipeg. That means foward Artturi Lehkonen and defenceman Victor Mete will be healthy scratches again. Carey Price had started the last three games in goal for the Canadiens. This will be Allen’s first start since a 2-1 loss to the Flames in Calgary on March 11. Allen has a 4-3-3 record with a 2.66 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.