Michel Therrien

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 …

Habs’ win was a showcase for P.K. Subban, Connor McDavid

Montreal Canadiens defensemen  P.K. Subban (76) holds off Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (Graham Hughes /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Times have been tough for Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers fans lately, even if they’ve been frustrating in different ways.

Saturday’s 5-1 Habs win highlights a few things, but the most tantalizing thought for those fans is that it’s likely that we’ll see more great things from P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid … sometimes against each other.

Perhaps this will be a confidence booster for Montreal. More than anything else, it directed attention to Subban, who’s quietly been absolutely fantastic for the floundering Canadiens.

Consider how much of an offensive burden he’s currently carrying:

From one current All-Star to someone who could be a perennial one: McDavid certainly seemed to grab Subban’s attention.

Then again, when you make moves like these, who won’t notice?

The Oilers did lose, mind you, so it’s not surprising that Todd McLellan mentioned that the team can’t depend upon McDavid for everything.

That said, the funny thing about that quote is that McDavid might just carry the Oilers for two decades, at least if health and other factors go the right way.

If that’s true, Subban vs. McDavid could be a fun matchup to watch a few times per season for a long, long time.

Rangers beat Flyers in a shootout, but lose McDonagh

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason, left, looks towards New York Rangers' T.J. Miller, center rear, as his teammates finish celebrating Miller's goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
Associated Press
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The New York Rangers got a big divisional win on Saturday afternoon, but it came at a price.

Captain Ryan McDonagh was knocked out of the game after he took a sucker-punch from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

McDonagh wasn’t innocent here. He delivered a cross-check to Simmonds’ head moments before the punch.

To watch the entire sequence, click here.

Getting back to the game…

With the Flyers leading 2-1 in the dying moments of the game, defenseman Keith Yandle beat Steve Mason to force overtime.

Philadelphia’s struggles continued in the shootout.

They missed on both their attempts (Sam Gagner and Claude Giroux) while the Rangers converted on both their attempts (Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan).

After the game, both sides addressed the Simmonds/McDonagh incident.

It’ll be interesting to see how the NHL’s Department of Player Safety handles this situation. Both McDonagh and Simmonds are at fault here, but Simmonds’ action caused an injury.

The shootout loss puts an end to Philadelphia’s three-game winning streak. The Flyers are three points behind the Red Wings for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

Capitals’ Carey ties it late before Ovechkin beats Devils in the shootout

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The 2015-16 Washington Capitals always seem to find a way to get the job done.

That’s exactly what they did in Saturday’s matinee against the New Jersey Devils.

The Capitals opened the scoring when Andrei Burakovsky beat Cory Schneider in the second period, but the Devils answered with back-to-back goals by Joseph Blandisi and Adam Henrique.

Washington got the game-tying goal from an unlikely source as Paul Carey scored his first career goal with under six minutes remaining in regulation.

In overtime, Ovechkin dished out this huge hit:

And in typical Ovechkin fashion, he finished the game off in the shootout (top of the page).

The Caps have now won back-to-back games and they remain 15 points ahead of the Rangers, who beat Philadelphia 3-2 in a shootout this afternoon, with two games in hand.

For the Devils, the loser point allows them to move ahead of the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan division, but New York still has four games in hand.

Here’s an updated look at the division standings:

division

Video: Flyers’ Simmonds gets tossed for sucker-punch after retaliating to McDonagh’s cross-check

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Some rough stuff in Saturday’s matinee between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

Wayne Simmonds was thrown out of the game after he punched Ryan McDonagh.

As you can see from the video at the top of the page, McDonagh nails Simmonds with a cross-check to the head before the Flyers forward went after him.

McDonagh left the game with a possible concussion.

Here’s how the referees handed out the penalties:

penalties

Simmonds received a five-minute major and was tossed from the game while McDonagh received two separate two-minute penalties.

The Rangers were unable to score on the ensuing power play, and that’s when more weird stuff happened.

Here’s how the New York Daily News described the moments after the penalty expired:

The Rangers were already upset with Simmonds’ sucker punch, but then Alain Vigneault lost his mind all over again at the end of the Rangers’ unsuccessful power play: The Flyers had forgotten to put a player in the penalty box, with Simmonds having been sent off.

Illegally, during the flow of play, forward Jake Voracek just jumped off Philly’s bench as the power play expired and was sprung on a breakaway. Lundqvist made the save but the Rangers were flabbergasted at the officials’ lack of control or apparent knowledge of the rule book, which would require the Flyers in that situation to wait until a whistle to put their fifth man back on the ice.

By the way, the referees for this game are Dave Lewis and Kelly Sutherland.