WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 9:  Head Coach Claude Julien of the Montreal Canadiens watches the NHL game against the Washington Capitals at MCI Center on February 9, 2003 in Washington, DC.  The Canadiens defeated the Capitals 2-0. (Photo By Mitchell Layton/Getty Images/NHLI)
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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.”

Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

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Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

Misc.

Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

  • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
  • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.