Author: James O'Brien

Montreal Canadiens v Edmonton Oilers

Habs scratch Rene Bourque for second straight game


Rene Bourque’s impressive 2014 postseason run seems like a distant memory today, as the Montreal Canadiens will make him a healthy scratch against the Minnesota Wild. That’s the second straight game in which Bourque will be in street clothes.

(But, hey, you have to make room for Travis Moen, right?)

One is tempted to joke that the Canadiens should hypnotize Bourque into thinking every game’s a playoff contest. He scored nine goals in 63 regular season contests in 2013-14 and then almost matched that total with 8 tallies in just 17 playoff matches.

The 32-year-old’s been especially dismal in 2014-15. Bourque doesn’t have a goal yet, managing two assists and a garish -9 rating in 13 games. It’s not like he’s plagued by bad puck luck alone, either; Bourque only has 18 shots on goal (well under two per game).

About the best thing you can say for Bourque is that his possession stats have been inoffensive.

It’s tough not to overreact and wonder about Bourque’s future in Montreal in situations like these. Still, it’s early November and it’s often unwise to trade a guy when his value is low, so any conjecture about a move should be taken with a grain/pound of salt.

That said, Bourque has plenty of room for improvement.

Hope on the horizon? Columbus’ Bobrovsky skates on his own

Columbus Blue Jackets v Los Angeles Kings

It’s easy to see why the Columbus Blue Jackets seem so excited about Sergei Bobrovsky merely skating on his own on Saturday.

A goalie skating on his own doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s that close to returning, yet it’s certainly not a bad sign either. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Blue Jackets need him back; they’re carrying a seven-game losing streak into a home contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. This ties up a back-to-back contest, so it won’t be easy for the Blue Jackets to avoid an eighth consecutive loss.

It’s not as if Bobrovsky (as valuable as he is) would be a cure-all. He was in net for the first of two losses before giving way to Curtis McElhinney. Still, the 2013 Vezina winner would certainly give the Blue Jackets more of a fighting chance than a journeyman backup.

So, yeah, it’s tough to blame the Blue Jackets for getting giddy enough to tweet about fairly mundane moments like these:

In other Blue Jackets news, Columbus sent Mark Dano to the AHL in exchange for Dan Tyrell.

Bonus good news:

Stepan set to make season debut, will wear ‘A’ for Rangers

Derek Stepan

The New York Rangers will welcome a familiar face back into the lineup on Saturday, although he’ll look a little different against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Derek Stepan is set to make his 2014-15 season debut, and he’ll do it with an alternate captain “A” on his sweater, according to the team’s official website.

The 24-year-old seems excited about being formally added to the team’s leadership group.

“Obviously it’s a tremendous honor,” Stepan said. “You look around this room and there’s a lot of guys that have been in this situation and worn an ‘A’, so to be part of a leadership core which I feel is very strong is really exciting. It’s really cool.”

Stepan missed the first 12 games of the Rangers’ season with a fractured fibula. The Rangers generated a 6-4-2 record in his absence.

Getting Stepan back should help the Rangers improve their depth and slide players into more comfortable positions. It’s unclear if he’ll assume his No. 1 center role right away – the team might ease him back into the mix – but one would expect Stepan to allow Derick Brassard to fall into a more comfortable situation on the second line (and so on).

Stepan’s scheduled to become an RFA if the Rangers don’t sign him during the regular season. He scored 17 goals and 57 points in 82 regular season games before producing 15 points in 24 postseason contests in 2013-14.

Parenteau on Habs win: ‘Let’s face it, we needed it’

Carey Price,

Needing a shootout to top the lowly Buffalo Sabres might not silence your critics, but the bottom line was that the Montreal Canadiens were just happy to get a victory last night, as they told the Canadian Press.

“Let’s face it, we needed it,” P.A. Parenteau said. “After those two performances we had on our home ice, any kind of win was going to be good tonight.”

Indeed, things were looking pretty ugly for the Habs. They came into Wednesday on a three-game losing streak, including being outscored 11-2 on home ice against the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks. Max Pacioretty said “we want to see some good vibes in the room,” so distancing themselves from those two ugly defeats should help.

All that aside, it’s glaringly obvious that the Canadiens have a lot of work to do.

The good news is that they’ve managed a 9-4-1 record; Montreal’s 19 standings points is second only to the Anaheim Ducks and tops the Eastern Conference. The Habs’ -8 goal differential succinctly argues that Montreal is lucky to be in this situation, though.

To start off the season, the Canadiens managed to steal some comeback wins. Five of their victories came via shootouts and only two wins were by multiple goals. Their possession stats rank in the lower third of the league.

Plenty of signs point to Montreal’s strong start being a mirage, yet there’s enough talent on this team to picture them turning things around. At least some Canadiens realize that there’s a lot of room for improvement, too.

Bruins play it safe with Krejci

Minnesota Wild v Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins would love to get David Krejci back, but they’re not going to rush him. If that means that he can’t play against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, then so be it.

“If he’s ready then I’d want him in the lineup. Why sit him out a game if he’s ready?” Head coach Claude Julien told on Wednesday. “If he’s not then I guess the weekend would certainly help him because it’s more days. That’s what we’ll have to see here. I’m going to talk to our trainers tomorrow morning, and if there’s any doubt then he won’t be playing. But if he’s okay to play then I don’t want him watching tomorrow.”

To their credit, the Bruins are finding ways to win even with significant injuries to players like Krejci and Zdeno Chara.

Still, it’s not as if they’re blowing out opponents during a three-game winning streak with overtime wins against Buffalo and Florida (along with a two-goal win versus Ottawa).

As’s Joe Haggerty notes, it’s obvious that Boston’s offense isn’t exactly buzzing without the 28-year-old.

It’s clear that the absence of Krejci is impacting to different forward lines: the Lucic-Kelly-Griffith line went without a single shot on net in Tuesday’s win over the Panthers, and the reconfigured third line wasn’t much of a factor either. His longtime left wing in Milan Lucic undoubtedly misses Krejci, but also understands that it’s not worth pushing it in early November.

Julien alluded to a schedule that indeed seems friendly to Krejci healing up. Following tonight’s match against Edmonton, the Bruins don’t play again until Monday (Nov. 10). That provides some useful flexibility, as they can either play him tonight (knowing that he doesn’t face a quick turnaround) or give him that extra rest until Monday.

Even with these injury issues bothering him to start the 2014-15 season, the Czech-born center has been productive when he manages to play; Krejci has nine points in as many games so far this season.