Marc Bergevin
AP

A ‘change had to be made’ — Bergevin explains firing of Therrien

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The way Marc Bergevin sold it, the firing of Michel Therrien had everything to do with the way the Canadiens were playing and nothing to do with, well, anything else.

It didn’t happen because Claude Julien suddenly became available.

It didn’t happen because the owner stepped in.

It didn’t happen because Carey Price was never the same after that game in December when Price glared at the bench after being pulled.

And it had nothing to do with that reported meeting in Arizona that Bergevin held with his team leaders, and without Therrien.

It was simply this — after starting the season 25-9-6, the Canadiens are 6-10-2 in their last 18 games. On Sunday, in Therrien’s last game behind the bench, they got blasted, 4-0, in Boston.

“We were not the same team as we were earlier on,” Bergevin said at a press conference today. “There was something missing. The team’s performance showed that there was something not right, and the change had to be made.”

The general manager did want to clear one thing up, about that meeting in Arizona that caused such a buzz back home in Montreal.

“I want to be clear on this, because that was blown out of proportion,” he said. “Michel and I had a meeting in the morning, and we were talking like we talk every day, and I mentioned that I was going to meet some players and (I invited him) to join me. And Michel said, ‘You know what, Marc? Today’s a day off for the team, for the coaches. Maybe you just go alone.’

“So Michel was aware of the situation, and it was not about Michel Therrien, my conversation (with the players). I’m not going to go into detail what we talked about, but it was not about Michel.”

Surely, though, last week’s firing of Julien by the Boston Bruins was partly related to the timing of Therrien’s dismissal.

“I just felt we weren’t playing the way we’re capable of,” said Bergevin. “So, everything happened for a reason. Maybe the timing was — you know, Claude let go by Boston last week — but I didn’t make my decision based on how Boston operates, that’s just not how I did it, no.”

Read more: No real surprise that Therrien was fired

Looking ahead to the March 1 trade deadline, Bergevin left the door open for some minor tinkering. However, he insisted that a young prospect like Mikhail Sergachev would not be sacrificed for a short-term fix.

“It’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen,” Bergevin said. “As you see, there’s barely any trades in the NHL, and there’s a reason why. You make your team in July, you hope you stay healthy, and you try to address some needs at the deadline. But again, it’s what the price is going to be. And if it’s asking for our young prospect, it will not happen.”

Did you hear that Joe Sakic in Colorado?

The Canadiens’ first game under Julien is Saturday against Winnipeg.

“In my opinion, with his track record, he’s a superstar,” Bergevin said of his new bench boss. “He’s a great coach. I think his record speaks for itself.”

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 6: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Zach Parise #11 and Jason Pominville #29 of the Minnesota Wild during the first period in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Price didn’t just play for Habs; he made the difference vs. Rangers

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It’s one thing for Carey Price to shake off that Paul Byron shot in warm-ups. And, honestly, that bump from Shea Weber during the game. But to play like, well, Carey Price? That would be something else.

Well, you probably saw this one coming … but Price had some absolutely great moments against the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.

He was the main difference-maker, although it must be said that there’s some comic relief in Byron scoring the shootout-winner.

Price vs. Rick Nash felt like a subplot of the overall story.

On one occasion, Price made a resounding stop on a Nash breakaway:

It was quite the night for the aging power forward, however, as he nailed his other opportunity.

Some might be a little sad that Nash vs. Price didn’t go against each other in the shootout, but hey, maybe the two teams could save that for next time?

The Canadiens needed this win more than the Rangers. The Ottawa Senators actually briefly went ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division, but now Montreal has 72 points to Ottawa’s 70 … while the Sens hold two games in hand.

Similar tweets might end up being relevant, however. Though betting against Price is also a dicey proposition.

Video: Laine hits 30 goals vs. Matthews and Leafs, Byfuglien battles Martin

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Patrik Laine might rub some people the wrong way with his matter-of-fact brand of swagger, but the Winnipeg Jets rookie can back up that talk.

Just look at how he performs against fellow Calder Trophy hopeful Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Back in October, Laine stole the show with a hat trick. He has a chance to do that again, but either way, with two goals in as many periods, Laine hit the 30-goal mark as a rookie. In February.

His 29th goal came less than five minutes into the game:

He then hit the big 3-0 in the dying seconds of the middle frame, though that was far from the only noteworthy moment of the clip above this post’s headline.

As you can see, there were bodies being thrown around, culminating with a brief bout between Dustin Byfuglien and Matt Martin. The earth may or may not have shook from such an altercation. It wasn’t the only example of violence between the two teams tonight.

***

It’s been a nice milestone night for young Jets scorers, as Nikolaj Ehlers also scored his 20th goal of 2016-17.

That 30th goal came less than 30 seconds after Leo Komarov‘s second goal of the contest, putting Winnipeg up 4-3 heading into the third period. For all we know, the Jets might need even more from Laine tonight.