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Sports Canadiens Game Day: Habs face a big challenge against Maple Leafs

23:15  07 april  2021
23:15  07 april  2021 Source:   montrealgazette.com

Stu Cowan: Math works in Canadiens' favour down the stretch

  Stu Cowan: Math works in Canadiens' favour down the stretch Are you ready for some hockey — lots of hockey? Heading into Thursday night’s game against the Senators in Ottawa, the Canadiens had 24 games left in this condensed 56-game NHL season. Those 24 games will be played over 41 days. Starting next week, the Canadiens will play four games a week for five straight weeks before wrapping up the regular season with back-to-back games against the Edmonton Oilers on May 10 and 11 at the Bell Centre. There’s Heading into Thursday night’s game against the Senators in Ottawa, the Canadiens had 24 games left in this condensed 56-game NHL season. Those 24 games will be played over 41 days.

In previous seasons, long-term injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher would have basically meant the end of the season for the Canadiens.

Jake Allen will be in goal Wednesday night against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. He has been solid all season with a 5-3-4 record, a 2.23 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. © Provided by The Gazette Jake Allen will be in goal Wednesday night against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. He has been solid all season with a 5-3-4 record, a 2.23 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.

In the words of former Monday Night Football commentator “Dandy” Don Meredith: “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

Price is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, while the Canadiens announced Wednesday afternoon that Gallagher has been placed on long-term injured reserve with a fractured right thumb and is expected to miss at least six weeks, which means his regular season is over with 14-9-23 totals in 35 games.

Canadiens at Maple Leafs: Five things you should know

  Canadiens at Maple Leafs: Five things you should know Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Maple Leafs game Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena (7:30 p.m., SN, SN1, RDS, TSN Radio 690, 98.5 FM). The matchup: This is the fifth of 10 meetings between the teams and, while each game has been decided by no more than two goals, the Canadiens have only one victory to show for their efforts. Toronto (26-10-3) has spent most of the season in first place in the all-Canadian North Division and returns home following a successful four-game road trip, having swept both Winnipeg and Calgary twice. The Maple Leafs are undefeated in their last eight games (7-0-1).

Jake Allen will be in goal for the Canadiens Wednesday night in Toronto against the Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m., SN, NBCSN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

“It’s a huge test against the No. 1 team in the division, our biggest rival,” Allen said Tuesday about facing the Leafs. “They just have a really good hockey team, so I think it’s a good chance to set our bar where we want to be is where they are right now. It’s a good measuring stick. It’s going to be a good opportunity for us to go out there, compete hard, play hard and build what we’re continuing to build here and have some fun with it.”

The Canadiens now have the depth that should allow them to survive without Price and Gallagher. Allen has been solid all season with a 5-3-4 record, a 2.23 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. Price has a 12-6-5 record, a 2.66 GAA and a .903 save percentage.

Trade-deadline primer: Toronto Maple Leafs

  Trade-deadline primer: Toronto Maple Leafs After bringing in some experience and character in the offseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been the unquestioned leader of the North Division for most of the season. They now sit seven points clear of the second place Winnipeg Jets, meaning if there was ever a year for GM Kyle Dubas to push his chips to the middle, this might be it. Dubas himself has admitted that the team’s cap situation may lend itself to going after a rental instead of a player with term this year, meaning nearly everyone on an expiring contract could be a target for the Maple Leafs.

Gallagher tied Tomas Tatar for the team lead in goals last season with 22 and led the Canadiens in goals the previous two seasons with 33 in 2018-19 and 31 in 2017-18. This season Gallagher has had some more help in the goal-scoring department and his 14 goals were tied for second with Josh Anderson before Wednesday’s game, while Tyler Toffoli led the Canadiens with 19 goals.

But the Canadiens are still going to miss Gallagher — a lot.

“He’s the engine,” Allen said about Gallagher. “He really is. Even when I wasn’t here, part of this organization, you knew from afar this guy was the engine of the team. He’s the bulldog out there. You know what you’re getting from Gally every game. He’s going to be in the hard areas, he’s going to do the things that you need to do and pay the price to win.

“Don’t get me wrong, those are big shoes to fill and those are real tough shoes to fill,” Allen added. “But I think we have a lot of guys in this room that can really fill that. I think we’ve put a lot of pieces together to this puzzle that when one piece is taken away we can fill in another piece and gap that solution.”

Veteran forwards Kyle Turris, Paul Byron put on waivers

  Veteran forwards Kyle Turris, Paul Byron put on waivers Once reliable scoring options, Byron and Turris have seen their stocks fall dramatically the past few seasons.For Bishop and the Senators, this is a simple move to regain the roster flexibility they have had for most of the season. After clearing waivers before the season began, Bishop was able to move freely between the active roster and taxi squad depending on need, saving the Senators some cash on off days. His exempt status expired earlier this month, meaning he needed to clear again to be assigned to the taxi squad. With just three points in 12 games, Bishop is likely to clear again.

Putting Gallagher on long-term injured reserve does free up some salary-cap space for GM Marc Bergevin ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

“He’s one of a kind, that’s for sure,” Canadiens defenceman Joel Edmundson said about Gallagher following an optional morning skate Wednesday. “A great guy in the dressing room, he’s always a chatterbox. But on the ice he’s the type of player that goes to the paint hard. He likes to stir the pot once in a while and just goes to the hard areas.

“I just don’t think one guy can fill his role,” Edmundson added. “It will be  a team effort to fill the empty space that Gally has. We’re definitely going to miss him, but hopefully a quick recovery and he’ll be good to go in a couple of weeks.”

Jesperi Kotkaniemi will move from centre on the fourth line to fill Gallagher’s spot at right wing on the No. 1 line with Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar. Jake Evans, who was a healthy scratch for Monday night’s 3-2 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers, returns to the lineup and will centre the fourth line.

Trade-deadline primer: Vegas Golden Knights

  Trade-deadline primer: Vegas Golden Knights While GM Kelly McCrimmon would certainly like to try to add to his roster, the Golden Knights will be hard-pressed to try to do so..Vegas was expected to be a contender this season, and despite some key players missing time due to injury and salary-cap constraints forcing them to play below the minimum number of skaters on multiple occasions, they’ve done just that. They will also be tap-dancing around the salary cap for the rest of the season, so while GM Kelly McCrimmon would certainly like to try to add to his roster, the Golden Knights will be hard-pressed to try to do so. Nevertheless, here is a closer look at their situation.

“Gally is an important part of the heart of this team,” Danault said. “It definitely hurts to lose him. At the same time, we also lost (Tyler) Toffoli for a few games and the guys stepped up. Gally got hurt last game, and we still found a way to win. It’s these types of situations that really showcase the culture of the team. We have to battle together. We’ve lost a big piece of the puzzle, but we have a lot of players who can step in.”

Head coach Dominique Ducharme said Wednesday morning he still wasn’t certain if Gallagher would need surgery on his fractured thumb.

“He’s still seeing the doctors,” Ducharme said. “I think, from what I understand, they need just a little bit of time to see everything with the swelling and everything to make sure that everything is in place. So we’re confident he won’t need (surgery), but you never know.”

Game 5 vs. Leafs

This will be the fifth of 10 games this season between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs. The Canadiens have a 1-2-1 record in the first four games.

The Leafs (26-10-3) are in first place in the all-Canadian North Division, 12 points ahead of the fourth-place Canadiens (17-9-9) with Montreal holding four games in hand.

Maple Leafs at Canadiens: Five things you should know

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“Obviously, they got a lot of skill, strong power play,” Danault said. “But I think we got everything to match them up. We got four really good lines. They got some experience, we got experience as well. Big matchup and big game for both teams.”

The Leafs rank fourth in the NHL in offence, scoring an average of 3.31 goals per game, and rank ninth on the power play with a 23.9 per cent success rate. The Leafs’ Mitch Marner ranks fourth in the NHL scoring race with 13-34-47 totals and teammate Auston Matthews ranks fifth with 27-19-46 totals. Matthews leads the NHL with 27 goals (including nine on the power play) five more than the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid, who ranks second with 22.

“It’s a big challenge, of course,” Edmundson said about facing the Leafs. “But these are the games I think as a team we get up for. Obviously, this rivalry goes way back, but it’s two good hockey teams going at it. They got a highly offensive team, so for us defencemen it’s a huge challenge and we look forward to these games.”

Said Ducharme: “Games against the Maple Leafs are always intense. We know we’ll be seeing them a lot between now and the end of the regular season. We’ll likely see them in the playoffs at some point, too. It’s an important game. We want to make the most of this game to see where we’re at.”

The Canadiens have an 8-4-5 record since Ducharme took over from Claude Julien.

“Since Dom’s taken over, I think our defensive game has been more structured,” Edmundson said. “We know what we’re doing, we know (how) we’re supporting each other all over the ice, which makes it easy for everyone’s game. We can break out the puck as a five-man unit. When we do that right, we’re a hard team to play against and we don’t give up many chances. So we’re going to have to do that tonight against Toronto.”

Canadiens end three-game losing streak against first-place Leafs

  Canadiens end three-game losing streak against first-place Leafs Hold the epitaph — there’s still some life in the Canadiens. Not only did Montreal end a three-game losing streak Monday night, it defeated the best team in the North Division and one of the NHL’s hottest clubs. Josh Anderson provided the winning goal in the second period, as the Canadiens edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 at the Bell Centre. Not only had the visitors won their last six games, Toronto goaltender Jack Campbell had established a league record, winning his first 11 appearances to start a season — the old record held by the Canadiens’ Carey Price.

PK problems

The Canadiens head into Wednesday night’s game ranked 25th in the NHL in penalty-killing with a 76.1 per cent success rate and had given up a power-play goal in each of the last three games. Those three goals came on eight power-play chances for the opposition.

“We haven’t really changed too much throughout the season,” Edmundson said about the penalty-killing unit, which is run by assistant coach Luke Richardson. “It’s just little tips here and there. I think we’re most effective when we’re aggressive, when we take the time and space away. We see a bubble puck, we pressure. I think the more we do that the better success we have. Sometimes we get away from it, but if we stick to that more often I think that percentage is going to go up.”

The Canadiens rank 14th on the power play with a 21.4 per cent success rate.

The Chiarot factor

Wednesday night’s game will be the 11th for the Canadiens without Ben Chiarot since the defenceman fractured his right hand in a fight with the Vancouver Canucks on March 10.

Chiarot’s injury forced Ducharme to juggle his defence pairings, splitting up Jeff Petry and Joel Edmundson. Petry is now paired with Brett Kulak and Edmundson is with Shea Weber.

In the first 10 games without Chiarot in the lineup, Petry has 1-3-4 totals. In the first 25 games with Chiarot in the lineup Petry had 10-14-24 totals.

Edmundson is a stay-at-home defenceman, while Kulak also likes to rush the puck. When asked if that might have had an impact on Petry’s reduced offensive numbers, Ducharme said: “We’ve seen him hit a few posts and things like that where maybe a few games before it would go post and in. I don’t think it’s holding him back. Obviously, when you see your partner jumping you need to cover for him, which maybe Kuly’s doing a little bit more than Eddie does. But, overall, I really liked (Petry’s) game against Edmonton Monday night. He was solid on both sides and picked his time to jump into the play.

What the Puck: Habs' Ducharme stuck between a rock and a hard cap place

  What the Puck: Habs' Ducharme stuck between a rock and a hard cap place You have to feel for Dominique Ducharme. The Canadiens’ interim head coach looked like a deer caught in the headlights during a video conference after the team’s pathetic 4-0 loss Saturday to the Ottawa Senators. Did I mention that the Sens are the second-worst team in the National Hockey League? Ducharme sounded exasperated when journalists repeatedly asked him about potentially making changes to the lineup. “This is going to be the third time I say it, I can’t make changes,” said Ducharme. What he means is that there is simply no room under the salary cap for him to make any changes to the roster.

“At times (points) aren’t the only things you can look at as a defenceman,” the coach added. “It’s more the chances you’re producing. So it’s not only about points.”

When asked about the third defence pairing of Alexander Romanov and Victor Mete, Ducharme said: “They’ve been playing well overall. Like everyone on the team, we all didn’t have a good game against Ottawa in Montreal (a 6-3 loss last Saturday). But beside that I think they’ve been doing a good job.”

The lines

Here’s how the Canadiens’ forward lines and defence pairings are expected to look against the Leafs:

Tatar – Danault – Kotkaniemi

Drouin – Staal – Toffoli

Perry – Suzuki – Anderson

Byron – Evans – Lehkonen

Edmundson – Weber

Kulak – Petry

Romanov – Mete

The forgotten goalie

Charlie Lindgren became the forgotten goalie after Bergevin acquired Allen from the St. Louis Blues during the offseason and then signed the veteran to a two-year, US$5.75-million contract extension that takes him through the 2022-23 season.

Lindgren has been on the taxi squad since the beginning of the season, but hasn’t dressed for a game. He has, however, been kept busy at practices and morning skates.

“I have a big appreciation for Charlie,” Allen said. “Essentially, I came in here and sort of took his spot. In the way he’s handled it has just been unreal. He’s been so good to me and he’s such a good guy. I’ve never heard a complaint from him at all. It’s real easy to sit there if you’re not playing all year and complain — this sucks, it’s unfair, it is what it is. But he comes to work every day. And going out there at the end of practice when the players are shooting bar-in, bar-in, bar-in every time isn’t always fun. But he does it with a smile and a good attitude.

“That’s why he’s going to be a goalie in the league for a long time,” Allen added. “When his opportunity arises he’s going to be here and I think he’s a really good goalie. He’s proved that at the NHL level. He’s doing everything he possibly can to do it in the right way.”

The 27-year-old Lindgren is in the final season of his three-year, US$2.25-million contract that is a one-way deal, paying him an average of $750,000 per season. He can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Armia update

Joel Armia remains on the NHL’s COVID-related absences list, but Ducharme said he is now out of quarantine. The coach added that now it’s a matter of Armia getting back into shape after testing positive for a COVID-19 variant on March 22, resulting in four Canadiens games being postponed.

“I think he’s doing pretty well,” Kotkaniemi said Tuesday when asked about his teammate and friend. “He hasn’t done much, of course. Now he just needs to get back into shape and hopefully he will be back with us soon.”

Related

What’s next?

The Canadiens will be back in action Thursday night when they play the first of back-to-back games against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Centre on (7 p.m., TSN2, TSN3, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The Canadiens and Jets will play again Saturday night (7 p.m., SNE, SNW, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Next week, the Canadiens will play four games at the Bell Centre. The Leafs will be in town Monday (7 p.m., TSN2, TSN4, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), followed by back-to-back games against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and Friday (6 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The Canadiens will wrap up the week with an afternoon game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday (4 p.m., TSN2, TSN5, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

What the Puck: Habs' Ducharme stuck between a rock and a hard cap place .
You have to feel for Dominique Ducharme. The Canadiens’ interim head coach looked like a deer caught in the headlights during a video conference after the team’s pathetic 4-0 loss Saturday to the Ottawa Senators. Did I mention that the Sens are the second-worst team in the National Hockey League? Ducharme sounded exasperated when journalists repeatedly asked him about potentially making changes to the lineup. “This is going to be the third time I say it, I can’t make changes,” said Ducharme. What he means is that there is simply no room under the salary cap for him to make any changes to the roster.

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