Game Day: Montreal Canadiens Seeking Offensive Change In Visit To New York
It’s certainly fair to say that Montreal Canadiens new head coach Claude Julien was not exactly pleased with his team’s results on Saturday afternoon when they played host to the Winnipeg Jets during Hockey Day In Canada.
A matter of fact, it was only the starting point for the changes in which the 56-year-old hopes to implement as time goes forward in his second tenure managing such a successful and overly historic NHL franchise.
Perhaps from the start, Julien had a perfect idea of where he needed to get things going as the team’s offensive woes have reached a point of much needed guidelines.
Taking a look back at the matinee in which had been played at Bell Centre over the weekend, the only source of effort from Montreal’s side of things was seen early on when veteran defensemen Andrei Markov slapped his fourth of the season right by Connor Hellebuyck at the 11:04 mark of the first period, giving the Habs a 1–0 advantage. Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty recorded assists on the game’s first goal, which would be the team’s only goal as they would then go on to fall by a final score of 3–1.
As far as the former Boston Bruins bench boss had to be concerned for the remainder of that afternoon, it would be an understatement to say the least that amongst Julien’s first tasks upon joining the Canadiens organization would be to switch around the lines in an effort to seek further production which may just be hiding.
With that in mind, a widespread cluster of local media arrived to the Bell Sports Complex for the team’s first practice, which lasted roughly an hour under Julien’s reigns, and were expecting several modifications, and as you may expect, that they did indeed as Galchenyuk was immediately placed alongside Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov on the front line, which could use a permenent swap of sorts in order to be re-established.
Aside from that, main focuses which attention was drawn to includes defensive-zone coverage, puck protection as well as zone breakouts, all to be followed by three-on-three drills near the conclusion as Julien likes to end off his sessions with what perhaps is a challenge as he describes it to be players batting it out for the puck down low.
Brendan Gallagher shared his take on this where he said, “You can’t win in this league if you’re not ready to compete, if you’re not ready to battle down low and win in those tight areas. It’s just getting us ready, and as players I think it’s good for us. It’s hard work, you compete, you push each other, but that’s the only way you’re going to get better.”
“Every day is a chance to improve, every day is a chance to get better, and (Julien’s) throwing more and more at us each day. We’re going to get comfortable with him, he’s going to get more comfortable with us and if we continue to grow, continue to build, we’ll get to where we want to get to.”
When all came to an official end, players had a chance to speak with the media and amongst those with early opinions, Shea Weber said, “It was a good practice. Good tempo. Guys were going and we should be ready to go tomorrow.”
Next to speak was Michael McCarron who said, “It was fun, it got the intensity up. There was a lot of battles and we need to work on winning the one-on-one battles more and that’s the kind of practice that helps you do that.”
McCarron was recently recalled from the St. John’s IceCaps, the team’s current affiliate in the American Hockey League.
In a statement from Julien himself, he said, “I think I got a good group of guys in that dressing room that really want to do well, they want to succeed. They’ve been very receptive to everything we’ve been talking about and they believe in it.
“The thing is, I think what we want to try and do — what we did today — was obviously to try and be better defensively for the goals-against, chances against. But also more than that is if we’re better defensively, we can turn the puck over quickly. I want us to play with the puck, not without. We tried to instill that in the players and the players obviously know that if they do it right the first time that we’re not going to spend as much time in our own end.
“And that’s what I’m looking for — puck-possession time and it’s not necessarily about analytics. It’s about puck-possession time. If we have the puck more than we don’t, our chances are much better of winning.
“The guys seem really receptive right now. I haven’t had any push backs and I’m being honest about that. I like the attitude of the group.”
According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, Bergevin has informed teams that Greg Pateryn is available on the trade market, however, that is not expected to play such a huge effect on tonight’s game as he will be drawn into the club’s starting lineup, replacing Nikita Nesterov on the third line alongside Nathan Beaulieu. David Desharnais and Sven Andrighetto will also take the night off as both have been marked as healthy scratches.
Pateryn has been a healthy scratch for six of the team’s last eight games. In a statement from the 26-year-old defensemen, he said, “It’s been difficult to stay focused when you’re not playing. I just have to go out and show the coach what I can do.”
Julien was asked about the effect in which this plays on the team, where he said, “You don’t want to overwhelm these guys with too much and so you fix a couple of things and you try to bring the compete level that you need.”
As far as his concern goes for the status of the entire squad with such a sudden mixup having been brought about just one week ago, Julien said, “I’m trying to make the transition as quickly as possible, but not overwhelm them. You can’t give them too much but I’m hoping its going to be shorter rather than longer.”
Julien also mentioned to the media that it was difficult to make judgments based on one game following only one practice, but the team has had the luxury of two practices and a morning skate leading up to the Rangers game.
Looking ahead to what tonight’s match could bring to the table, Julien said, “Our goal is to be a better team tonight. Hopefully, we’ll bring the things we worked on to the game and hopefully see a positive result come out of it.”
The Rangers, who currently hold a record of 38–19–1, have won seven of their last eight games, not to mention five consecutive games on home ice. That to be said, they still have a ways to go as well as they currently stand in fourth place in the Metropolitan division.
When asked to speak about the club, Julien said, “They have three good scoring lines and they’re playing some of their best hockey right now.”
Captain Max Pacioretty had a chance to speak about where he and his teammates are currently at in terms of their condition where he said, “We’ve had good practices and we had a good dinner last night so we’re fuelled up for this game. Even the guys from small-town Canada will tell you they’re excited to play here.”
Pacioretty also shared that he is always excited to play at Madison Square Garden, which is just a short treck out from his childhood home, located in Connecticut.
In other team news, the Canadiens announced a minor acquisition on Tuesday afternoon, as they brought aboard Keegan Lowe from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Philip Samuelsson.
Taking a brief look at Lowe’s statistics for the 2016–17 season, he has appeared in a total of 49 games played with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League, scoring three goals to go alongside nine assists and 53 penalty minutes. Lowe will continue at the AHL level as he is due to report to the St. John’s IceCaps.
Tonight’s game will begin at 7:00pm ET as the Montreal Canadiens make their second-last visit of the regular season to Madison Square Garden before heading back home for a match against the New York Islanders on Thursday at the Bell Centre.
This game can be seen on Sportsnet East and RDS, meanwhile, it can be heard on TSN Radio 690.