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Julien considered break, but couldn’t pass on Habs

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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.”

Ducks cement Pacific lead as Getzlaf continues his mammoth March

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By the end of Sunday night, the Anaheim Ducks removed all doubt: they’re on top of the Pacific Division.

Now, it’s not the sort of substantial lead that the sliding San Jose Sharks squandered; Anaheim merely leads the Sharks and Edmonton Oilers by two standings points after beating the New York Rangers 6-3.

With everyone at 75 games played, it’s kind of nice to enjoy the clarity that comes with a clear lead (though the Sharks and Oilers will disagree):

Pacific top four (all teams with 75 games played)

1. Ducks – 93 points (38 ROW, 41 W)
2. Sharks – 91 poitns (40 ROW, 42 W)
3. Oilers – 91 points (37 ROW, 41 W)

Flames – 88 points (38 ROW, 42 W)

The Ducks are now on a four-game winning streak and managed an 8-1-1 mark in their last 10 contests.

With all due respect to Patrick Eaves‘ two goals, it’s Ryan Getzlaf who’s really playing outstanding hockey. He generated four assists in this one, giving him eight helpers in his past four games. He now has a whopping 20 points in March.

A lot going on – fight included – between Corey Perry, Brendan Smith (Video)

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If there’s one thing that’s undeniable from the clip going on, it’s that Corey Perry and Brendan Smith squeezed a lot of activity (carnage?) into a single shift.

Early on in Sunday’s New York Rangers – Anaheim Ducks game, both player delivered hits that were at least borderline dangerous. After that, they traded punches in a pretty solid fight (especially since they seemed a little tired because, again, this was a fairly elaborate sequence).

It’s way too messy a sequence to call neat, but there is something efficient about trading hits and then getting into a fight. That’s a mini-hockey feud in short order.

If you want a pretty moment to counteract all that, check out the great puck movement on this 3-on-1 goal for the Rangers:

Penguins lose to Flyers and lose another key player to injury

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PITTSBURGH — Even with a ridiculously long injured list that would be the foundation of a pretty good hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins still found a way to go 8-1-3 in their previous 12 games entering Sunday’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The injuries finally seemed to start catching up to them on Sunday in a 6-2 loss, extending their current losing streak to three games, matching their season long.

While the loss certainly impacts their pursuit of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division (they remain three points back of the Washington Capitals), and even their quest for home ice advantage in the first round, it is still not the worst thing to come out of Sunday’s game.

The worst thing for them would be the fact the Penguins lost yet another key player to an injury when forward Conor Sheary had to leave the game mid-way through the first period.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the game that Sheary is dealing with a lower body injury and that right now he is considered to be day-to-day. It was initially believed that Sheary was injured blocking a shot, but Sullivan insisted that was not the case and that it happened in the offensive zone at some point in the first period.

With Jake Guentzel still sidelined due a concussion he suffered in a recent game against the Buffalo Sabres, that means two-thirds of the team’s recently assembled top line (Sidney Crosby-Sheary-Guentzel) is now sidelined due to injury. Sheary’s injury is especially concerning given how good he has been on Crosby’s wing dating back to the 2016 playoffs. Entering play on Sunday Sheary was averaging nearly a point per game (50 points in 54 games) with almost all of that production coming at even-strength.

They had yet another scare in the third period on Sunday when defenseman Brian Dumoulin had to briefly leave the game and head to the locker room after he was elbowed in the side of the head by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

On Sunday, all of the injuries finally seemed to be too much with the Flyers pretty much dominating the game over the final two periods.

The Flyers received goals from six different players (Jordan Weal, Valtteri Filppula, Dale Weise, Jakob Voracek, Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere) in the win and outshot the Penguins by a 24-15 margin over the final 40 minutes.

“That wasn’t a good effort and at this point of the season we can’t afford to have those,” said Penguins forward Matt Cullen after the game. “I don’t think that was a typical effort for us. I don’t think we had a lot of life, to be honest.”

Even more than winning games the rest of the way the biggest concern for the Penguins has to be getting their list of injured players healthy and finding a way to avoid adding to it, something that has proven to be difficult in recent weeks.

At this point, whether they win the Metropolitan Division or not, they know their path through the Eastern Conference playoffs is very likely going to have to go through both Washington and Columbus, and they are going to need their full complement of players to do it.

One of the biggest factors in winning a Stanley Cup is having all of your key players in the lineup come playoff time.

A year ago the Penguins did.

Right now they are not even close to having that.

Video: Dumoulin shakes off elbow, Sheary out day-to-day for Penguins

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Barring a major comeback, the Pittsburgh Penguins look like they’re going to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Their injury losses might be just as big.

On the bright side, it seems like Brian Dumoulin was able to shake off an elbow from Wayne Simmonds. You can watch the hit, which didn’t draw a penalty, in the video above.

Meanwhile, Conor Sheary has been missing since the first period with what might be a lower-body injury.

The Penguins’ list of injuries is already pretty ridiculous, so if one or both of these players miss significant time, tonight will sting deeper than a setback on the scoreboard.

Update after the Penguins’ loss: Seemingly good news, if very early and vague: