Michel Therrien

Habs voice support for struggling Vanek


Thomas Vanek seemed to be the major topic of conversation for the Montreal Canadiens today, as evidenced by the transcripts we received from the NHL.

Question for Brian Gionta: When you’re a captain, and a veteran guy like Vanek is struggling, do you need to go talk to the veteran guys like that as much as young guys?

BG: The thing with this room is everybody cares, so he wants to be a big part of this team, and he is a big part of this team. So, obviously, the first two games when you lose, things are more amplified than when you are winning. So we have confidence in everybody in this room and the way guys will respond.

Question for Max Pacioretty: It seems to be tough for Vanek right now, did you have a conversation with him…to help and find his game again?

MP: He’s a veteran. He doesn’t need that. He’s contributed to this team’s success in the playoffs. He knows it. We all talk. Behind closed doors we’re all having a good team and we all want to help this team win, and we all like where we stand right now with the team. He’s fine. He’s going to be fine. It seems there’s always got to be a story when you lose, and obviously, with the questions I’m being asked, that is the story right now. But he’s a tremendous player and he’s helped us a lot in these playoffs and he’ll continue to do that.

Question for coach Michel Therrien: On Thomas Vanek practicing with the fourth line, is that a demotion or is that an attempt to balance the lines now?

MT: Don’t read too much, okay. All right. Today, don’t read too much.

Too late, coach. We’re reading into it.

We wrote yesterday on Vanek, about how his performance in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final led to a real skewering by the critics. The 30-year-old winger, a pending unrestricted free agent, does have five goals in the playoffs, but he’s been ineffective, to say the least, against the Rangers.

Yesterday, Therrien said that Vanek is “healthy,” but otherwise didn’t want to say too much.

“I’m not going to start talking about individual players because one of the reasons we’re in the conference final is that everyone’s contributed in their own way in the playoffs,” the coach said. “Thomas is a member of our team and he’s also made a contribution for us to reach the conference final.”

Related: Habs to start Tokarski again in Game 3

Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record

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When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.

So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?


You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.

Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

Mike Condon, John Moore,
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If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.