Posted on 11 December 2013 | Comments OffBROSSARD - The Habs had a short, up-tempo practice at the Bell Sports Complex before heading to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers on Thursday. Rest and recover: Left winger Max Pacioretty and defenseman Josh Gorges didn't practice Wednesday morning, but both players are healthy and will be ready to face the Flyers on Thursday. With a jam-packed December schedule, coach Michel Therrien has allowed his players to get all the rest and therapy they need in order to perform. “The schedule has been busy recently, and the coaching staff is doing a great job balancing rest and practice days,” offered captain Brian Gionta, who was on the ice for practice. For Gionta, it’s more important to think long-term rather than get too caught up in the one-sided loss to the Kings on Tuesday night. “At the end of the day, you have to look at the couple of weeks that we’ve had, and focus on what’s still ahead. If we can come out and win the next three games this week, the loss would just go unnoticed. It’s just about not letting things snowball and getting back on track as soon as possible,” he added. Second life: Daniel Briere, who spent six season in Philadelphia, will be returning to Wells Fargo Center for the first time since being bought out by the Flyers in the summer of 2013. While Briere has already faced off against his former team once at the Bell Centre, he knows there will be nothing brotherly or loving about the welcome he is bound to receive in Philly. “I’m expecting both the best and the worst from the fans. I’ve been treated in different ways by the crowd during my career, so I’m ready for pretty much anything,” explained Briere, who is looking forward to playing in front of friends and family. “I’ll have a chance to play in front of my kids and a few good friends, so it’ll be easy to find the motivation to do well.” Though the Canadiens had a convincing 4-1 home win against the Flyers earlier this season, Briere knows his former teammates are on the upswing, and the game will be anything but easy for the Habs. “We’re playing against a totally different team than at the start of the season,” he insisted regarding the team now coached by Craig Berube rather than Peter Laviolette, who was behind the bench during the early-season game at the Bell Center. “It won’t be an easy game, especially at their rink in front of their fans.” Learning from the best: Practice is all about powerplays, penalty kills, faceoffs and breakouts. Still, one can ill afford to neglect the more physical parts of hockey. At the end of practice, two apprentice pugilists stopped by for a fighting clinic with Brandon Prust, the team’s resident middleweight champ. “I don’t know whether we can call that a class. It’s not the first time he’s tried to show me a few things, but he’s not really a great teacher,” joked Alex Galchenyuk, who was on the receiving end of Prust’s jersey tugs before the veteran turned his attention to P.K. Subban. “It only lasted one round today, but I’ll get him back. I told him we have a game tomorrow and that he shouldn’t beat me up too much. He got a few good shots in so it was a good time to stop.” Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
Posted on 11 December 2013 | Comments OffMONTREAL – The Canadiens saw their five-game win streak snapped by one of the hottest teams in the NHL on Tuesday night. Coming off a stretch where the team had collected 19 of a possible 20 points in the past 10 games, the Habs dropped their first game on home ice since Nov. 16. Facing the league’s second-stingiest defense in the Kings, who had allowed just 60 goals in 30 games prior to their arrival in Montreal, the Canadiens had trouble beating L.A. netminder Martin Jones, who registered his second career shutout in his third career NHL game. “A loss is a loss, no matter what the score is; what matters is how you played,” explained assistant captain Josh Gorges following the 6-0 loss, his team’s first in regulation time in over three weeks. “There are games where you can play awful and lose by one goal and then you can play a good hockey game and you just can’t score and lose by a couple. Tonight we didn’t play. So now we go to work tomorrow with a reminder that we have to come to play every night. There’s no such thing as a night off.” There are lessons to be mined from any loss and after seeing the 2012 Stanley Cup champs in action on Tuesday night, Michel Therrien has found a few things he’d like to borrow from their playbook going forward. “You have to give the Kings a lot of credit. They played a solid game and there’s a lot we can learn from them,” admitted the Canadiens’ coach. “There aren’t a whole lot of positives we can take from that one; when you lose like that at home in front of our fans, it hurts. We’ve been doing some good things on our side lately, though. We have to just put this one behind us and come back with a good attitude and make sure we’re ready to go for the next one against Philadelphia.” Despite coming out hard against the third-best team in the league, peppering Jones with 17 shots in the first period including seven on a power play in the game’s opening minutes, the Canadiens couldn’t find an answer for the rookie Kings netminder and headed into the first intermission nursing a two-goal deficit. “We didn’t come out and respond after that. That was the disappointing part,” confessed Gorges, referring to the goal Anze Kopitar scored with just 13 seconds remaining in the first to make it a two-goal game. “Sometimes that stuff happens where you have breakdowns and mistakes and get behind the 8 Ball, but we have to show more resiliency than that.” After landing just three shots on goal in the second period, the Canadiens dug themselves into a hole they just couldn’t escape. Instead of looking at the game as a let-down performance, Gorges would prefer if his team could use it as a character-building experience that will pay dividends come springtime. “The biggest thing we have to take from this game is to understand the importance that if you want to play with the top teams in this league and you want to compete with the teams that are competing for the Stanley Cup, you’ve got to come to play,” he stressed. “It’s going to be a fight. It’s not going to be easy. And when things don’t go our way, what kind of team are we? We need to be a team that pushes back.” That shouldn’t be an issue. The last time the Habs were shut out on home ice, they responded by rattling off nine wins in the next 10 games. Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Posted on 11 December 2013 | Comments OffMONTREAL - Here's a numerical look at the Canadiens-Kings game at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night. 14 – Number of years, minus one day, since the Kings last picked up a win in Montreal, dating back to a 4-2 L.A. win on Dec. 11, 1999. 38 – Number of seconds needed for the first power play of the game to be awarded, with Drew Doughty heading off for tripping on his opening shift of the night. 8 – Number of seconds needed by Alex Galchenyuk to land three shots on goal during that man advantage, helping the Habs rack up seven shots on that initial power play opportunity. 865 – Number of kilometers separating the birth cities of the two starting netminders in the game, with Anahim Lake, BC native, Carey Price, facing off against North Vancouver’s Martin Jones, who suited up for just his third career NHL game on Tuesday. 10 – Consecutive number of games in which Price had given up two or fewer goals prior to Tuesday night. The 26-year-old was replaced between the pipes by Peter Budaj after allowing four goals for just the fourth time this season. 6 – Number of hits dished out by Alexei Emelin in the outing, making up for lost time after missing the first 20 games of the campaign by bringing his season total to 43 hits in just 11 games, good enough for second on the team in that category. 15 – Number of Habs who threw at least one hit in the game, with only three Canadiens players failing to get on the stats sheet in that category. 36 – Number of games since the Habs last allowed six or more goals in a single night, dating back to a 6-4 loss to the Penguins on April 17, 2013 last season. - canadiens.com
Posted on 10 December 2013 | Comments OffMONTREAL – Peter Budaj is typically a calm guy just like Ned Flanders. But, if the renowned Simpsons character was to get very upset, he could easily resemble the image that artist David Gunnarsson decided to place atop the Canadiens netminder’s new mask. The Swedish artist is no rookie when it comes to putting his own personal touch on goaltenders’ headwear, having already worked on masks for Carey Price, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Ondrej Pavelec, Semyon Varlamov and others in 2013 alone. Not only did Budaj choose Gunnarsson to come up with a new concept for his mask, but he also gave him carte blanche when it came to its design. It was the eighth time that the talented artist had worked on a mask for the Slovakian netminder. “He designed it. I did a few of the designs for my masks in the past. I told him that I wanted something with Lionel Messi last time. This time around, I gave him carte blanche to do what he wanted to do. I just told him that I wanted Montreal colors and I wanted something cool. It came out great,” underlined Budaj, whose new mask features a large-scale image of Flanders as an angry netminder. While the drawing of the animated character is the predominant image, the sides of the mask feature giant Canadiens logos. True to form, the 31-year-old goaltender also had several other items inscribed, including his last name, his son’s date of birth, a verse from the Bible, in addition to drawings of the Canadian and Slovakian flags. “I’m hoping to wear it the next time that I play a game. But, at the same time, I haven’t made a decision yet. It looks really good with the red jersey and the other mask stands out better with the white jersey. So, I’ll have to see,” mentioned Budaj, who has only worn his newly acquired mask at practice. Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
Posted on 10 December 2013 | Comments OffCANADIENS (19-9-3) vs. KINGS (19-7-4) Undefeated in regulation time for the past three weeks, the Canadiens are shooting for first place in the Atlantic Division at the Bell Centre on Tuesday. Thanks to a three-goal second period against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, Michel Therrien’s troops dismissed the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 and are now the hottest team in the NHL, going 9-0-1 in their past ten games. Brandon Prust had a goal and an assist, Tomas Plekanec scored his team-leading eleventh, and Alex Galchenyuk completed the scoring off a precise Andrei Markov feed. Carey Price was not overly busy, turning aside 23 of 25 shots for his seventh consecutive win. Meanwhile, the Kings are coming off a royal performance on Saturday, having blanked the New York Islanders 3-0. Rookie Martin Jones only needed 16 saves to pick up his first career shutout, while Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Tyler Toffoli scored for the home team. Kevin Poulin made 21 saves in a losing effort for the Islanders, who fell to 8-17-5 on the season. The Kings can still count on the strong core of players who brought Los Angeles its first Stanley Cup back in 2012. Anze Kopitar leads the team in scoring (25 points in 30 games) and shares a team-best plus-11 differential with captain Dustin Brown. In addition, Mike Richards and Justin Williams are also producing at their usual pace. The only wildcard up front is sniper Jeff Carter, who is only shooting at an 8.4% efficiency since the start of the season and is currently sporting a minus-1 differential to go with 12 points in 20 games. He does, however, have nine goals in 23 career games versus the Habs, so look for him to make an impact on the outcome of Tuesday's game. In the absence of starter Jonathan Quick, who is out with a strained groin, coach Darryl Sutter has been relying on off-season acquisition Ben Scrivens, obtained from Toronto in the Jonathan Bernier trade. The 27-year-old Cornell grad has been excellent for the Kings, going 7-2 with a sparkling .943 save percentage since the start of the season. He’ll likely be in goal on Tuesday night. Aside from Quick, Matt Greene (upper body) is the only other injured player on the Kings roster. In all likelihood, Scrivens will go up against Carey Price, who is 14-8 with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage this year. Rene Bourque did not practice on Monday and will likely sit out with an upper-body injury. Tuesday’s game will be the first of two games this season between the Habs and the Kings. While L.A. comes to town with a fine record and a strong team, history is on Montreal’s side. The Kings have yet to win at the Bell Centre in the 21st century. Their last win in Montreal dates back to December 1999. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST.
Posted on 9 December 2013 | Comments OffMONTREAL -- Already an inspiration for the Metis community in his home town of Lac La Biche, Alberta, Rene Bourque also happens to be one of the most interesting players to ever don a Habs jersey. Though most fans would not consider the six-foot-two forward to be a once-in-a-generation star like Maurice Richard, Guy Lafleur or Patrick Roy, Bourque’s hockey journey is perhaps one of the greatest underdog stories never to be told in NHL history. Read on to find out why. The Decemberists In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, the famed English-Canadian author popularized a little-known theory about hockey, namely that players born earlier in the year (closer to January 1) are over-represented in the major leagues due to the cut-off birth dates for minor hockey registration. According to the book, kids born earlier are bigger, stronger and more mature than their younger counterparts, and are more likely to receive better coaching and play against better competition growing up – a recipe for success in any sport. Rene Bourque was born on December 10, 1981. Currently, there are only 12 forwards in the NHL born in the last month of the year who have scored more career points than the undrafted Bourque (268 in 520 games). Established players ranked above Bourque include All-Stars Paul Stastny (drafted 44th overall in 2005), Johan Franzen (97th overall, 2004), and Daniel Alfredsson (133rd, 1994). A road less taken At age 17, Alex Galchenyuk was coming off an 83-point-in-68-game performance for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, one of the toughest and tightest-checking Major Junior leagues in the world. A 17-year-old David Desharnais also competed in the Canadian Hockey League in the QMJHL, becoming the Chicoutimi Sagueneens’ fourth-best scorer as a rookie. Meanwhile, at the same age, Bourque was not even playing Major Junior hockey, but competing in Midget AAA as one of the oldest players in the SMHL. He had already decided to stay in Saskatchewan and play Junior AAA the following season instead of quitting school and pursuing CHL hockey at the expense of getting an education. As Canadian amateur scouts are usually busy keeping tabs on CHL players like Galchenyuk in the months leading up to the draft, few bothered to drive all to way to Saskatchewan to check on Bourque’s progress in Junior AAA, where he starred for the St. Alberts Saints. The 18-year-old would go unclaimed in the NHL Entry Draft and spent the next four years playing NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Wisconsin, graduating with a Consumer Behavior and Business degree. No expectations After difficult rookie and sophomore campaigns in Wisconsin, the winger clung on to his dream of both earning his degree and eventually playing in the NHL. Bourque’s physical and technical development throughout his collegiate career finally allowed him to score a team-leading 36 points in 42 games as a 22-year-old senior. However, he was still considered a long-shot prospect, considering that former Wisconsin teammate and fellow 22-year-old Dany Heatley (a January baby) had just scored 41 goals for the Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL after leaving the UW Badgers three years prior. At that moment, it would have been hard to imagine Bourque making an impact at the pro level. Still, the Chicago Blackhawks took a chance on the free agent, and Bourque, by then nearly up to his fighting weight of 213 pounds, earned Rookie of the Year honours during his lone AHL season before making the jump to the NHL and topping the 20-goal plateau three times as a Calgary Flame. What to expect now Coming off his career-best 27-goal, 58-point season in 2009-10, Calgary offered the power forward a six-year contract, banking on the fact that Bourque would continue to produce at the same rate up until his 35th birthday. However, that would be betting against the odds, as NHL forwards tend to peak in their mid-twenties, and then score gradually less over time. With time, exactly that happened, and the Flames traded Bourque to the Canadiens with Patrick Holland and the pick which would later become Zachary Fucale, in exchange for Michael Cammalleri, Karri Ramo and a fifth-round pick. As a comparison, Heatley went from a 50-goal scorer as a 25-year-old to someone who has yet to score more than 26 in a single campaign since turning 30. The best point of reference for Bourque could be the career arc of former Hab Martin Rucinsky. The Czech had his most productive years in Montreal, between the ages of 24 and 30, and then bounced around the league averaging 36 points per season up until his retirement at age 36. Going forward, in addition to making an impact off the ice with his charity work, focused on helping rural Alberta kids afford to compete in hockey, Bourque could still cause some damage on the ice thanks to his heavy shot and quick stride. After all, the aforementioned Rucinsky did put up 55 points in 52 games as a 34-year-old in 2005-06. Looking back at the way Bourque’s career evolved, it is fair to say that anything is possible. Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
Posted on 9 December 2013 | Comments OffBROSSARD – With the holidays fast approaching, the Habs’ depth at the forward position has been a welcome present for head coach Michel Therrien. Through 31 games, the Canadiens have gone 19-9-3, one of the franchise’s best starts to a season since the last dynasty of the late seventies. Like the squads that hoisted Stanley Cups under Scotty Bowman, the current edition of the Canadiens can count on a group of unsung heros to anchor the lower-half of the depth chart. “Our fourth line has been very responsible on both ends of the ice. They’re spending a lot of time in the offensive zone recently and we can count on them defensively,” acknowledged Therrien, who, at various times over the past week, has entrusted Brandon Prust, Ryan White, Travis Moen, George Parros and Michael Bournival to play these all-important minutes. The same mindset was applied decades ago by Bowman, the most successful coach in NHL history. During his tenure, the Hall-of-Famer shuffled players such as Doug Risebrough, Pierre Larouche, Mark Napier and Rick Chartraw in and out of the fourth forward line, depending primarily on their opponents and on the players’ effort level at practice. You couldn’t argue with the results then, and with the Habs nearly pacing the Eastern conference in points this season, there’s not much to say about the same approach now. “I think we have a great makeup on the fourth line,” stated Parros, who has dropped the gloves on seven occasions this season despite missing time with a concussion suffered in the season-opener against the Maple Leafs. “It was a rocky start for me, but it’s been good to get back into the lineup and get some wins.” White, who is no stranger no physical play himself, also chimed in on the subject of the Canadiens’ depth in the physicality department. “With Parros and Douglas Murray this season, we’re a bigger team, so that’s helped us quite a bit against some teams. Guys like Moen and Prust, too, have been stepping in and taking care of business,” suggested White. While it’s a plus for a coaching staff to have a variety of contributors to choose from, it also means that every game, one player worthy of suiting up will be watching from the press box. “There’s a lot of competition for the spots on the fourth line, but we all want the best for one another. It’s tough when you’re not playing, but it’s tough when a buddy’s not playing, either,” admitted White, who has sat out six games thus far this year. “Obviously I want to play and I want to help the team, but at the same time it’s nice to feel good about yourself and getting better even when you’re not playing. Having to fight for your spot in the lineup at practice is something that can help your game.” Parros also talked about the challenge of being ready to go when called upon, even when not dressing on a regular basis. “There’s not much to do except to work hard and keep doing what got you here. You have to be a good influence around the rink even when you’re not playing and just wait your turn until you get back into the lineup,” offered the hulking winger. With a game against the Los Angeles Kings on the horizon, Therrien will look over his notes in order to put together a line which figures to give his team the best chance of winning. “These are guys who are difficult to play against, who play within our system. As far as I’m concerned, I consider it a luxury to be able to have this kind of a fourth line,” mentioned the Habs bench boss, who can create a speedy, disruptive presence by uniting Moen or Prust to White and Bournival, or ice one of the most physically intimidating lines in the NHL by putting Parros alongside Moen and Prust. “Tuesday is another challenge. We approach each game with an open mind. If we see players who are at the top of their games, we’ll give these players more opportunities. My responsibility as a coach to put the best players on the ice and win hockey games. It’s as simple as that.” Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
Posted on 8 December 2013 | Comments OffMONTREAL – The Canadiens’ fourth line added some extra energy – and timely offense – to the lineup on Saturday night. Playing a seventh game in 11 nights, the Habs needed a little jumpstart to get going after a slow first period against the trap-happy Sabres. Going straight to the source, Michel Therrien called on his fourth line of Brandon Prust, Ryan White and Travis Moen to give the Canadiens just the spark the team needed to set the red light ablaze. “I didn’t like the intensity in the first period and I didn’t think we had the right attitude to start the game. We talked about it after the first period and decided to start with those guys and they got us a big goal,” confirmed the Habs bench boss of Prust’s quick release from the slot to get the Habs on the board 19 seconds into the second frame. “They were a big reason we won the game. They created some scoring chances with their intensity. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. That’s leadership to me. Those guys were leaders tonight.” With an assist of his own and a great change to help Tomas Plekanec pot his 11th of the campaign, one of the biggest catalysts behind the team’s energy surge on Saturday night was the well-rested White. After being slotted in and out of the lineup at various points in the last two weeks, the Brandon, MB native had suited up for just four of the Canadiens’ last seven games and was ready to earn every second of his 13:51 workload. “I’ve been pretty fresh the last few days,” he joked. “I’ve been working hard in the gym trying to make sure I’m ready to go and the guys who haven’t been playing, we’ve been pushing each other pretty hard. “My line played well and made it easy for me. We just wanted to make the most of the opportunity tonight and I wanted to make sure I was ready to go every time I got the chance to go out there,” added White, who had one assist and finished with a plus-1 differential. “I’m chomping at the bit every time I get a chance to go in there.” Also making the most of his ice time against the Sabres, Prust followed up his opening goal with an assist on Plekanec’s second-period marker. Tied for eighth in the NHL with six fights this season, the gritty winger debated dropping the gloves to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick – although he wasn’t the only Hab to come within a scrap of hitting the trifecta. “Pleky? I would have been upset if he got one before me,” he joked of the Czech center, whose name has yet to appear on hockeyfights.com through 629 career games. “I used to get them all the time in Junior – that was something I was known for, actually. I was definitely thinking about going for it but then they scored to make it 3-2 and I just wanted to focus on getting the win.” Helping the cause with a pair of multi-point nights in Prust and Moen – earning first and third-star honors, respectively, in the process – a combined plus-5 differential and eight hits between them, the fourth line did more than their part to help the team seal a fifth-straight win. “It’s good for us to chip in. Our top guys have been carrying a heavy load lately and they’ve been doing a great job,” stressed Prust. “We want to contribute any way we can. We were happy to do it tonight and we don’t want to stop. We know we’re going to keep it simple, chip in some pucks and support each other. That’s the key to our success.” Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Posted on 8 December 2013 | Comments OffMONTREAL - Here's a numerical look at the Canadiens-Sabres game on Saturday night. 13 – Number of games since Brandon Prust last found the back of the net, snapping that streak on Saturday night by opening the scoring with a quick release from the slot in the second period. 18 – Number of games, out of 30 so far this season, in which the Canadiens have gotten on the board first, doing so once again against the Sabres thanks to Prust. 6 – Number of multi-point nights enjoyed by Prust in 337 career NHL games, picking up a goal and an assist against the Sabres on Saturday night. 1 – Number of times the Canadiens have sent Enroth home with a loss since the Swedish netminder made his NHL debut, having previously gone 3-0-0 in his career against Montreal. 5 – Number of hits thrown by Alex Galchenyuk on Saturday night, leading all Habs players in the hits department to bring his season total to 27. 15 – Number of times the Canadiens have finished a game with fewer than 30 shots on goal, registering just 19, their second-fewest of the campaign. 6 – Number of points Galchenyuk has picked up against Buffalo in seven career games after his goal on Saturday night, the most he has against any NHL team. 5 – Consecutive number of home games won by the Canadiens, who have not lost at the Bell Centre since a 1-0 loss to the Rangers on Nov. 16. 5 – Consecutive number of victories registered by the Habs, having gone unbeaten in the month of December for their longest win streak of the season to date. - canadiens.com
Posted on 7 December 2013 | Comments OffSABRES (6-21-2) @ CANADIENS (18-9-3) The Canadiens conclude a tough stretch of four games in six days on Saturday night when they play host to the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre. The Habs are on a roll these days, as they continue to play stellar hockey. In their last outing on Thursday night, second-period goals from Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty lifted Michel Therrien’s troops to a 2-1 win over the rival Boston Bruins. Pacioretty’s tally was his ninth in as many games. For his part, Carey Price was solid once again in goal, making 33 stops en route to registering his 13th win of the season. It was also Price’s sixth straight victory. That win over Boston upped the Canadiens’ record to 8-0-1 in their last nine games, allowing the bleu-blanc-rouge to move into top spot in the Atlantic division with 39 points. The Canadiens will be looking for a fifth consecutive win on Saturday night, which would mark their longest winning-streak of the season. The odds are certainly in the Habs’ favor as the Sabres sit last in the NHL standings with just 14 points in 29 games. Despite sitting first in the division and second in the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens are 15th in the NHL in average goals per game with 2.67. Looking to spark some additional offense, Michel Therrien has once again juggled his lines, moving 2013 free agent acquisition Daniel Briere onto a trio with Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk and sliding Michael Bournival in alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. Before heading to Montreal, Ted Nolan’s contingent dropped a 3-1 decision to the New York Rangers on Thursday night. Tyler Ennis scored the lone goal for Buffalo. It was the Sabres’ eighth loss in their last nine games. Carey Price will get his 24th start of the season on Saturday night, looking to build on his 11-9-7 career record against the Sabres. Price currently sits second among all NHL netminders with a stellar .938 save percentage. He will go up against Jhonas Enroth who has a 1-5-2 record in nine games this season. The Swedish netminder did not face the Canadiens last week. Montreal and Buffalo will do battle for the second time in nine days. On November 27, the Canadiens downed the Sabres 3-1 at the First Niagara Center. Buffalo will be looking to snap a five-game road losing streak. The two clubs will square off two more times during the regular season following Saturday’s tilt.