Therrien says Habs must be willing to adjust on the fly

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Recently extended Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien’s name conjures a lot of thoughts, yet “eager to change” doesn’t really make the top of the list.

That’s what he’s asking of his players after receiving a four-year extension, however: be willing to roll with the punches.

The best stuff revolves around a spaghetti sauce analogy, though.

“You always have to want to improve. Hockey is a game that changes quickly. We’re always working on a plan of action we want to instill in our team. You can’t be afraid to make changes during the year. The players are used to it by now,” Therrien said. “The coaching staff gets together a lot during the summer to scout player tendencies and stay as current as possible. You want to be up-to-date on systems and new technology. You don’t want to have the same spaghetti sauce again and again. You’re always looking to improve it.”

Naturally, such a comment begs the counter: will Therrien embrace the same open-mindedness he’s demanding of his players?

During the 2014 postseason, he certainly was OK with making bold moves. When Carey Price was injured, the safe choice would have been to go with Peter Budaj. Instead, Therrien opted for unconventional goalie Dustin Tokarski, whose aggressive play helped the Canadiens push the New York Rangers harder in an Eastern Conference final series that many thought would be a cakewalk following Price’s injury.

Even so, with talk of dissent with P.K. Subban and a general feeling that he’s the rigid, defensive-minded type, the question’s still there.

Canadiens blog Habs Eyes on the Prize took an in-depth look at Therrien’s strengths and weaknesses, with quite a bit of attention paid to his ability to adapt. It seems like the ultimate observation was that he’s been a mixed bag lately:

The Canadiens started the next season the same way, blitzing teams early, only to stray from the method that was working for them just a month in, changing to a much more rigid structure based on safe plays. Chipping and chasing became much more common, and exits out of their own zone would be up the boards, or not happen at all. This led to one of the NHL’s premier possession teams in 2012-13 becoming one of the worst in 2013-14. In fact, it was the biggest year over year drop in possession that’s ever been recorded.

Yet spectacular play from Carey Price and the team’s other superstars kept them in games all through the year, ending up in a 100-point season. Then in the playoffs, Therrien switched right back to the system of the previous year, leading to the Canadiens absolutely demolishing the Tampa Bay Lightning in four games, and defeating the powerhouse Bruins in seven.

So for fans, media, and analysts, this is kind of confusing. Who is the real Therrien?

Maybe that definition will change multiple times (and on the fly) going forward …

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.