Getty

Julien considered break, but couldn’t pass on Habs

11 Comments

To hear him explain it, Claude Julien expected his unemployment to last longer than a week.

“When I was let go by the Bruins, I felt like I should sit back and let the season finish, and go from there,” Julien said in his introductory presser as Montreal’s new bench boss. “That was my initial thought. But I always said ‘unless something comes along that I can’t turn down, that would be what I was looking for.'”

That something was a return to the Canadiens, the club he coached from 2003-06.

Enticed by the opportunity to lead the first-place team in the Atlantic Division — “this team has the best goalie in the world, good defensemen, players who can move the puck, and talent up front,” he said — Julien decided against taking a wait-and-see approach, opting instead to jump right back into coaching.

And surely, GM Marc Bergevin’s contract offer helped him make the leap.

Julien confirmed he received a deal that goes through this season and the next five as well (which, not coincidentally, is the same length of term as Bergevin’s.) That puts Julien under contract through 2022.

Despite this opportunity, Julien did admit he thought seriously about taking some time away. He called his dismissal in Boston “not a shocker, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it,” and admitted it was disappointing for his 10-year tenure to end the way it did.

But now, it’s onto Montreal.

Here are some other key takeaways from today’s presser:

— Julien confirmed no changes will be made to the Canadiens’ coaching staff of associate coach Kirk Muller, assistants Dan Lacroix, Clement Jodoin and J.J. Daigneault, and goalie coach Stephane Waite.

— He didn’t delve too deeply into strategic changes he wanted to employ, or how differently the Habs will play under his guidance. Julien did allude to the club “playing with pace,” and referenced a forward group that’s had a difficult time finding the back of the net lately.

— “I want the puck,” Julien said with regards to style of play. “If you watch the Bruins we also recovered pucks, but I want both. I want a good statistic for puck possession.”

In the end, though, everything came back to opportunity. Bergevin clearly saw one when Julien became available, even though his remarks tried to suggest otherwise.

“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,” the GM explained. “That’s just not how I did it, no.”

But Bergevin pounced, and ensured he landed his target with a lucrative offer.

As for Julien, he too saw a major opportunity. To lead another Original Six team. To get closer to home. To take the reins of a team he belives that, when rolling, can be among the league’s best.

“When Marc called me and started talking to me about the situation, it kind of intrigued me,” Julien explained. “By the end of it, and discussing with my wife and everything else, we felt it was a good move — not just business-wise, but also family-wise.

“We really felt it was the right decision to make. Even though it was a little bit quicker than expected, sometimes you have to make some adjustments in your life, and we’re making them.

“We’re happily making them.”

Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

Getty
Leave a comment

It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

————

Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Canucks defeat the Sabres, as the losing continues in Buffalo

Getty
1 Comment

The Buffalo Sabres remain stuck on just a single win to begin the season. Jack Eichel is sick of losing, but the losing continues.

Returning home from a four-game road trip out west, the Sabres had an opportunity ahead of them to get back into the win column. The Vancouver Canucks, hardly a powerhouse in any way, were in town. They had played — and lost — the night before in Boston. And then the Sabres went out and were thoroughly outplayed in a 4-2 loss that, one could argue, flattered the hosts.

They weren’t able to take advantage of an early lead after Justin Bailey was allowed access to the net off the rush. They couldn’t hold the lead after Eichel dangled Ben Hutton and then scored on a shot Jacob Markstrom should’ve stopped. They gave up yet another short-handed goal, putting that number at six for the Sabres just eight games into the season.

Instead, Buffalo spent most of the night in its own end, giving up 37 shots through two periods. Hard to pin this, in any way, on goalie Chad Johnson.

“First of all, I thought we didn’t defend well and close quick enough in our defensive zone. We were a little bit slow there tonight. We need to be more aggressive and on the puck,” said head coach Phil Housley after the game.

While the Sabres were badly outplayed, one of the deciding moments in this game was a controversial video review in the second period. Vancouver took the lead on a goal from Daniel Sedin, although Housley challenged for a potential offside after it looked like Jake Virtanen didn’t have control of the puck as he entered the zone.

The linesmen looked over the play for a lengthy review before officials came to the conclusion that Virtanen did have control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line. The goal stood and the Canucks controlled the remainder of the game.

“I disagree with the call, totally,” said Housley. “In my opinion, he knocks the puck out of the air. He never has possession.

“But I call that 10 out of 10 times offside and I would continue to challenge that again.”

————

Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Roberto Luongo leaves game with apparent injury, as Panthers fall to Penguins

Getty
Leave a comment

The Florida Panthers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Making matters worse was the fact their goalie Roberto Luongo left the game in the third period with an apparent hand injury.

The injury occurred after a collision in the crease with Penguins forward Conor Sheary.

Luongo immediately went down to the ice in pain. A replay from above the net showed Luongo’s right hand getting caught in an awkward position against the post after coming into contact with Sheary as he cut through in front of the crease in pursuit of the puck.

The injury forced James Reimer off the bench and into the game with the Panthers trailing by a goal. MacKenzie Weegar tied the game for Florida before Sheary scored the eventual winner about eight minutes later, on a night when the Penguins fired 48 shots on the two Panthers goalies.

Luongo gave up three goals on 36 shots before leaving the game. The Panthers now head out on the road. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

————

Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Video: More offside drama had Sabres coach Phil Housley up in arms

Getty
4 Comments

Just hours after the NHL admitted to an offside challenge error, there was another controversy during the Sabres-Canucks game on Friday.

Vancouver appeared to take the lead on a Daniel Sedin goal. However, Buffalo coach Phil Housley challenged the play for offside, after replays showed Jake Virtanen may not have had complete control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line.

The following challenge resulted in a brutally long review. For Buffalo, it was also unsuccessful as, surprisingly, officials deemed Virtanen did have control of the puck as he entered the zone. The goal counted, Vancouver took the lead.

Housley was not happy about it.

Not only was the challenge unsuccessful, but the Sabres were penalized for delay of game as a result.

From the NHL:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff confirmed that Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 83.1, “a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered ‘off-side,’ provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line.”

Therefore the original call stands – good goal Vancouver Canucks.

It took 4:27 to come to a decision, too.

————

Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS: