James O'Brien

Carey Price,

Under Pressure: Carey Price

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The good news is that Carey Price is coming off a season for the ages. The bad news is that the Montreal Canadiens are basically asking him to do it again.

Let’s make no mistake about it; Price was the reason why Montreal won its division and made it to the second round in 2014-15.

Price wasn’t just great in 2014-15; he was heads and shoulders above everyone else, winning the Hart, Vezina, Lindsay and Jennings Trophies. To make an understatement, he’d be hard-pressed to top 44 wins and a .933 save percentage next season.

P.K. Subban seems to understand that it’s not the kind of season that’s easily replicated.

“If we expect him to play the way he’s played this year every year, it’s unfair,” Subban said following their playoff exit, according to NHL.com “There’s going to be ups and downs, and it’s tough to be at that level every single game. He’s managed to do it this year, but we have to realize our job is to make his job easier, not to make it more difficult.”

Montreal didn’t really do much to boost its offense this summer, so any improvement would have to come from within … or they’ll need Price to pull a rabbit out of a hat once more.

Let’s not forget, either, that being the goalie in Montreal is an inherently pressure-packed job. It’s something Price acknowledged to ESPN way back in 2009.

“It’s impossible not to notice,” Price says. “I’ve gotten used to it, but every day, they’re there.”

And now “they” expect an encore performance.

Related: Montreal needs to be more than just Carey Price

Looking to make the leap: Robby Fabbri

Guelph Storm V Windsor Spitfires
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It feels like change is in the air for the St. Louis Blues, but that doesn’t have to be a (completely) bad thing.

During a fork-in-the-road phase for the Blues, a few young players have a chance to kick in the door, and Robby Fabbri may just lead that charge.

A few weeks ago, head coach Ken Hitchcock went far enough to say that the progress of Fabbri, Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin may just influence the course of the future for captain David Backes.

Lofty stuff? Sure, but the 19-year-old told NHL.com that a roster spot is exactly what he’s aiming for.

“I like to set my goals high,” Fabbri said. “Getting there as soon as possible is one of my goals. I’ve been here working hard with [Blues strength and conditioning coach] Nelson [Ayotte] and the trainers to make sure I’m ready and to make that possible. Obviously I’d like to (make the team), but it’s a big step.

The 21st pick of the 2014 draft actually made a lot of noise in 2014-15, even generating some preseason buzz.

Nothing about his past season gives much pause about his ability to generate offense, undoubtedly something the Blues seek. He scored 51 points in 30 OHL games for the Guelph Storm and managed four points in three games with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.

He’s young, obviously, and most players take more than a year to jump to the NHL. Things could change quickly if Fabbri has a strong training camp.

It’s St. Louis Blues day at PHT

Ken Hitchcock
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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The St. Louis Blues day.

Another strong regular season followed by an early playoff exit. Business as usual for the St. Louis Blues, right?

Well, maybe. You get the sense that the 2015-16 season is an ultimatum, with the T.J. Oshie trade being a warning: this might be the last shot for many, perhaps including head coach Ken Hitchcock.

On paper, there’s still a lot of promise in St. Louis.

Vladimir Tarasenko tore onto the scene as a true elite sniper in 2015-16, and he was paid handsomely for it. Jaden Schwartz lacks some of the sizzle, but he’s a blue chip of his own. There’s some uncertainty for the likes of David Backes, but let’s not forget that St. Louis scored 248 goals last season, more than any other Western Conference playoff squad.

Of course, a Hitch-helmed team is expected to be stout defensively, and the Blues boast two fantastic blueliners in Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo.

The two-headed dragon setup remains in net with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, but hey, at least they like each other.

Off-season recap

As mentioned above, the Blues re-upped with expected cornerstones Allen and Tarasenko. They also parted ways with Oshie and Barret Jackman.

St. Louis actually looks pretty similar heading into 2015-16, but young players could up the ante quite a bit. Could someone like Robby Fabbri and/or Ty Rattie become difference-makers for the Blues? Training camp might help decide that, but their development is one of the more important aspects of this off-season.

If fear isn’t enough of a motivator, there’s also avoiding sights like these in the future:

PHT Morning Skate: Wheeler says don’t put ads on ‘sacred’ jerseys

Blake Wheeler
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Is Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien really a changed man? (Sportsnet)

Speaking of changes, Alex Burmistrov discusses the ones he went through in two years away from Winnipeg. (TSN)

Jacques Lemaire explains why he left the New Jersey Devils. (Newark Star-Ledger)

So, how is the “Shana-plan” going? (Toronto Sun)

Martin Jones’ new lid.

NHL fans aren’t the only people cringing at the thought of advertisements being placed on uniforms. Blake Wheeler isn’t on board with the idea, either:

Speaking of hockey sweaters, check out this clash of two great logos outside of the NHL. (The Hockey News)

Coyotes’ Hanzal puts ‘shooting pain’ in leg behind him

Martin Hanzal, Martin Erat
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If the Arizona Coyotes are going to be successful in 2015-16, it will come down to grinding away wins like they managed to do years ago.

Towering center Martin Hanzal has been a big part of those more successful runs, yet his unyielding style has taken its toll on his body.

Really, his description of the left leg issues that plagued him last season was pretty disturbing, even if his overall message to Fox Sports Arizona was positive.

“I had pain that was shooting down my left leg and there were days where I couldn’t feel my leg,” Hanzal said. “They kind of cut the piece out that was pushing on my nerve and that was the reason I couldn’t feel my leg. Now it’s all good; all healed up.”

Hmm.

The 28-year-old acknowledged his frustration regarding all the time he’s missed over his career. Just look at his games played totals over the years, handing a partial mulligan to the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign:

2009-10 (made the playoffs): 81 games played
2010-11 (made): 61 GP
2011-12 (made): 64 GP
2012-13 (missed): 39 GP*
2013-14 (missed): 65 GP
2014-15 (missed): 37 GP

That’s a lot of missed games, and it’s not as if players who historically deal with injury issues consistently become more durable with age.

Head coach Dave Tippett admits those issues are “a concern,” and health problems only seem more frustrating when you consider his praise of Hanzal:

“When you look at the teams in our conference, he can play head-to-head with those big centers and he touches a lot of different situations for us,” Tippett said. “In a hard game, he’s one of those guys that helps you win.”

Of course, he can’t help the Coyotes if he’s unable to suit up, which is an all-too-frequent issue for the powerhouse pivot.