Craig Ramsay

Craig Ramsay holds meetings with Thrashers, hopes 8-2 loss doesn’t linger

During the long grind of an 82-game season, it’s often nice to get the kind of break the Atlanta Thrashers received this week, as the team’s schedule features a significant gap between their last game on Saturday and their upcoming contest on Thursday. Yet when you consider the crushing 8-2 loss the team suffered against the Buffalo Sabres, one would think that the Thrashers would have preferred back-to-back games to cleanse their palates.

Having a long time to languish in that defeat presents the latest problem for head coach Craig Ramsay in his up-and-down first year behind Atlanta’s bench. There are many ways a coach can react to such a dilemma – football great Bill Parcells was known for being tough on his team after a win, but relatively gentle following a defeat – so Chris Vivlamore asked Ramsay how he’s dealing with the problem.

Ramsay seems like he’s trying to find the right mix between providing “tough love” and not kicking his team while it’s down. Here’s an excerpt from Vivlamore’s Q & A with Ramsay after the Thrashers’ morning skate.

Q. How do you not let such a loss fester? With the NHL schedule you normally have a day or two between games. After this particularly bad loss you have five days before you play the Islanders on Thursday night.

A. That can make it much more difficult. As a coach you want to, perhaps, go out and skate them until, perhaps, they fall down. Or show video that is truly embarrassing. What I’ve tried to do is give them a good hard off-ice workout so I wasn’t involved. We are having an individual meeting that is short. I want them to understand that their accountability is to themselves and to their teammates, not just to me as a coach or the coaching staff. They have to hold themselves to a higher standard. That has to come from them. You can point them in the right direction but at the end of the day it has to be a standard, a very high standard, that’s within the dressing room.

Q. You were very candid after that loss with some pretty harsh words; were you trying to deliver a message or were you just speaking from the heart? What do you hope is the impact of those words?

A. You have to be very careful after a game, and you say things you don’t mean, so I try not to. Certainly for me to go into Buffalo at this time of year with a score like that is pretty disheartening. But it’s also something that you can build on. It’s something that you can use. It’s something that can be part of the growth of you as a person and you as a team. That you can take something that is a big negative and use it and understand it and grow with it.

To some extent, it seems like Ramsay accepts the fact that this season might be a learning experience more than anything else for this mostly young team. They seemed to overachieve in the early part of the season before falling apart badly in the second half. There’s reason for big picture optimism, even if their chances of making the playoffs are dim (but not totally gone yet).

Even the Flames’ struggling power play capitalized against the Blackhawks’ struggling penalty kill

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The Calgary Flames had the league’s worst power play at just four per cent coming into Monday’s game against Chicago.

Yeah. Awful.

The Blackhawks had the league’s worst penalty kill at just 42.9 per cent, which is also awful, although their issues go deeper than that aspect.

So, of course special teams played an important role in this game. Despite their previous struggles with the advantage, the Flames scored twice on the power play, on goals from Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan, taking their turn capitalizing on Chicago’s early-season difficulties short handed.

The Flames finished two-for-five on the power play, giving them three power play goals in 30 opportunities so far. They jumped all the way to 27th in the league in that category (!!) at 10 per cent. The Blackhawks have given up 14 power play goals against on 26 chances.

This is not the company you’d expect the Blackhawks to be keeping.

The Blackhawks did come back to force overtime, but they ultimately lost 3-2 in the shootout.

Former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg scored the only goal in the deciding breakaway contest, giving Calgary the win.

While the Flames power play came alive for this game, the play of goalie Brian Elliott was significant.

He, too, had struggled mightily with three losses in three starts, and a .839 save percentage, prompting his former teammate Jake Allen to say Flames fans shouldn’t be worried about Elliott despite his dreadful start.

Against Chicago, Elliott made 31 saves on 33 shots and then made five saves in the seven-round shootout.

The Habs took a chance signing Radulov and (so far) they’ve been rewarded

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 20:  Alexander Radulov #47 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at the Bell Centre on October 20, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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The Montreal Canadiens took a chance on Alexander Radulov.

The cost? One year at $5.75 million, which is a significant investment for a 30-year-old player with plenty of talent but past off-ice discipline issues. So far, Radulov has been a welcomed addition to a Habs lineup that needed a skilled forward capable of putting up good numbers and taking a top-six role.

The success — or lack of — for the Habs will always focus around the play and health of goalie Carey Price.

But Radulov is off to a nice start to the season, which should provide some optimism for Canadiens fans after a disappointing 2015-16 season and the tumultuous summer that followed.

He entered Monday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with two points in five games, but had solid puck possession numbers. Against the Flyers, he was once again a central figure for the Habs on the attack.

And the production followed.

He had a three-point night, setting up Shea Weber‘s goal in the second period — Weber’s slap shot busted the stick of Brayden Schenn and still had enough to get by goalie Steve Mason — and Brendan Gallagher for the eventual winner late in the third period.

Radulov then secured the win with an empty-net goal, giving him five points in six games. The Habs, following their 3-1 win over the Flyers, remain the only team in the league without a regulation loss.

Radulov entered the season as a potential X-factor for the Habs.

General manager Marc Bergevin received plenty of criticism for trading P.K. Subban. But so far, the returns from signing Radulov have been promising for the Habs.

Video: Shea Weber scores with blistering slap shot that destroyed Schenn’s stick


In case you didn’t know by now, here is more evidence that Shea Weber possesses a devastating slap shot.

The Montreal Canadiens defenseman on Monday scored his second goal of the season, once again deploying his shot from the blue line. This time, he ripped a shot that busted the stick of Brayden Schenn, who was trying to get into the shooting lane, and still had enough behind it to beat Flyers’ goalie Steve Mason.

That gave the Habs the lead.

The Flyers responded later on in the second period on Jakub Voracek‘s third goal of the season.

Christian Ehrhoff signs with Kolner Haie in Germany

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27: Christian Ehrhoff #10 of Team Europe looks on against Team Canada during the second period during Game One of the World Cup of Hockey final series at Air Canada Centre on September 27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Christian Ehrhoff is finally under contract for this season, but not in the NHL.

Ehrhoff, 34, signed with Kolner Haie in Germany, the team announced via Twitter on Monday.

Most recently, Ehrhoff was with the Boston Bruins on a professional tryout (PTO) prior to the beginning of the season, but he opted not to sign with that club, instead deciding to return home to Germany.

Ehrhoff also suited up for Team Europe at this fall’s World Cup of Hockey.

In 789 NHL games, the puck-moving defenseman scored 74 goals and 339 points. His most productive seasons came with the Vancouver Canucks, as he helped that team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.