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

McDavid will center Hall and Slepyshev

1 Comment

ST. LOUIS (AP) Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid said he didn’t have any trouble falling asleep on the eve of his professional debut.

But when he woke up on Thursday he said it finally hit him.

“In the days leading up I wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” McDavid said. “Kind of when I woke up this morning, I guess that’s kind of when it hit me that I’ll be playing in my first NHL game. I think that’s when I first realized.”

When the Oilers play at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, all eyes will be on the 18-year-old McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and the most hyped player to enter the NHL since Sidney Crosby of the Penguins made his debut a decade ago.

Speaking in front of a crowd of reporters on Thursday following his team’s morning skate, the soft-spoken rookie admitted to having some butterflies but said he felt pretty good and was excited to get going.

“It’s just special,” McDavid said of his NHL debut. “I’m living out my dream, so there’s nothing better than that. I’m just really looking forward to tonight.”

McDavid will be centering the Oilers’ second line against the Blues with Taylor Hall on the left wing and Anton Slepyshev on the right. Hall was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, while Slepyshev will also be making his NHL debut on Thursday night.

“We all see what he can do in practice and the games,” Hall said of McDavid. “It’s important to remember he’s 18. I’m 23 and I still have bad games. Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world and still has bad games. There’s going to be some trials and some errors, but I think that he’s in a position to succeed and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow.”

Oilers coach Todd McLellan, hired in May after spending seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks, has already gotten accustomed to receiving questions about McDavid.

The first few questions McLellan was asked on Thursday were about the NHL’s most popular newcomer.

“What I’ve found with him is he’s working really hard to just be himself and fit in,” the coach said. “He doesn’t want to be special, he doesn’t want to be treated any differently but he obviously is. He’s trying to adapt to that and he’s doing a very good job of it personally and collectively I think our team has done a good job around him.”

McLellan said there are three levels of pressure surrounding him.

The first is McDavid’s individual expectations, which he is sure are extremely high. The second comes from the rookie’s teammates, coaching staff, organization and city of Edmonton.

“But where it really changes is the national, international and world-wide eyes being on him,” McLellan said. “How does that compare to some of the other players I’ve been around? I haven’t been around an 18-year-old who has had to deal with that. It’s new to all of us.

“I did spend some time talking to Sid (Sidney Crosby) about his experience and even since then the world’s really changed as far as media and social media and that type of stuff. This is a new adventure for everybody involved. I know Connor has the tools to handle the pressure and we’ll do everything we can to help him.”

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope


While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”