Canadiens’ legend Jean Beliveau has passed away

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Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau passed away on Tuesday night the club announced, he was 83.

Beliveau spent parts of 20 seasons with the Canadiens winning 10 Stanley Cups. He added seven more Championship rings as a member of the Canadiens management team.

In total Beliveau appeared in 1,125 games scoring 507 goals and 1,219 points.

“The Montreal Canadiens organization is extremely moved by Mr. Béliveau’s passing away. Like millions of hockey fans who followed the life and the career of Jean Béliveau, the Canadiens today mourn the passing of a man whose contribution to the development of our sport and our society was unmeasurable. Jean Béliveau was a great leader, a gentleman and arguably the greatest ambassador our game has ever known,” said the president of the Montreal Canadiens, Mr. Geoff Molson.

“Jean Béliveau was part of the Canadiens family for over six decades. The Canadiens organization will bring all the needed support to the members of Jean Béliveau’s family, and will work closely with them to organize the ceremonies that will take place in the coming days. On behalf of the Molson family, and all members of the Canadiens organization, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to his beloved wife Élise, his daughter Hélène and granddaughters Magalie and Mylène.”

Over the course of his career Beliveau won the Art Ross Trophy (1956), Conn Smythe (1965) and the Hart Trophy (1956 and 1964). He appeared in 14 All-Star games and was the recipient of the NHL Lifetime Achievement award in 2009.

He served as the Habs’ captain for 10 years, the longest serving captain in franchise history, which was later matched by Saku Koivu.

When he retired following the 1970-71 season, he did so as the franchise leader in points, second in goals and the NHL’s all-time leading playoff scorer.

His No. 4 was raised to the rafters of the Montreal Forum on October 9, 1971. The Hockey Hall of Fame waived its’ three-year waiting period to immediately induct Beliveau in June 1972.

Beliveau had been in poor health the last number of years. He had a battle with cancer in 2000 and suffered strokes in 2010 and 2012.

Beliveau is survived by his wife Elise; their daughter, Helene; and granddaughters Mylene and Magalie.

So, anybody know what to make of Montreal?

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Following Sunday’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Rangers, many Canadiens fans were left asking a fairly significant question:

What kind of team do we have here?

That they’re asking is significant because, per the standings, Montreal’s the best team in the NHL. The Habs sit first with 33 points, are 8-2 in their last 10 and have sparking records both at home (9-3-0) and on the road (7-3-1).

The conversation becomes complicated, though, when Montreal’s losses come up. Because the Habs don’t just lose games — they LOSE games:

Oct. 13: Tampa Bay 7, Montreal 1
Oct 27: Edmonton 3, Montreal 0
Oct 30: Vancouver 3, Montreal 2 (SO)
Nov. 2: Calgary 6, Montreal 2
Nov. 4: Chicago 5, Montreal 0
Nov. 18: Pittsburgh 4, Montreal 0
Nov. 23: New York 5, Montreal 0

Combined score: Opponents 32, Montreal 5.

It’s a colorful, dizzying array of butt-whippings. Some are understandable (the Lightning game came at the end of a four-game roadie), some aren’t (the blowout to Chicago happened two nights after the embarrassing home loss to Calgary).

Still confusing, though.

“A game like this leaves you scratching your head,” P.K. Subban said after the Rangers loss, per the Gazette. “We will be fine. We’re still a very positive group. We have to generate more. We just didn’t play our game.”

Some have blamed the schedule makers. Montreal’s played a league-high 23 times already — Florida’s played 18, comparatively — and opened its season with seven of 11 on the road (Montreal’s also played five back-to-backs already.)

“We didn’t play a good game [vs. New York], but we have to look at the big picture,” head coach Michel Therrien said on Sunday. “We played eight games in 13 nights and we won six of those games.”

Fair point. But what if the blowout losses are more than fatigue?

A theory, then: Montreal’s too reliant on goaltending. It seems if Carey Price and/or Dustin Tokarski have an off night, so too do the Habs, and it’s almost a given Montreal will concede a number of good scoring chances nightly. The Canadiens are not a brick wall defensively; they have a questionable defensive unit that’s undergone a number of changes already this season (most notably by bringing in Sergei Gonchar and Bryan Allen.)

Offensively, the club struggles to compensate in these situations. Montreal ranks 21st in the NHL in goals per game (2.5), 26th in power play percentage (12.7) and fails to generate enough on nights when goalies aren’t razor-sharp.

Now having said all that, let’s be reminded of what’s written at the top: This is the NHL’s first-place team. The counter-argument is that a loss is a loss, regardless of the score and, over the course of an 82-game season, stinkers are going to happen.

You can put Subban in that camp.

“I don’t think it matters whether you lose by five goals or one, it’s still a loss,” he explained. “When we lose, it’s when we turn the page. (The concern is) the losses where you’re scratching your head and wondering what we have to do better. We know what we have to do better.

“We’re going to take a few days off and regroup and we’re going to be a positive group. I don’t think there’s anything to be negative about now.”

Trade: Montreal adds more D, acquires Allen from Ducks for Bourque

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Bit of a late-day surprise given both teams are in action tonight, but Montreal has sent forward Rene Bourque to Anaheim in exchange for veteran defenseman Bryan Allen.

The 34-year-old Allen comes to Montreal having recently returned from an injury that cost him the first 14 games of the year. A physical blueliner, Allen has one point in six games this season, averaging 18:12 TOI per night.

He’s also in the last of a three-year, $10.5 million deal that pays $3.5M annually.

As for Bourque, he’s been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. After a poor start (no goals in 13 games) he was waived, went unclaimed and then sent to AHL Hamilton, where he’s spent the last 10 days — a dramatic fall from grace for a guy who, earlier this spring, led the Habs in playoff goals (eight) en route to the Eastern Conference Final.

Bourque, 32, has this year and the next remaining on his six-year, $20 million deal, which carries a $3.33M cap hit.

At first glance, the move gives Montreal a tremendous amount of depth on the back end — the Habs had already acquired Sergei Gonchar last week, which allowed them to send promising youngster Jarred Tinordi back to the American League. The deal also reunites Allen with Habs GM Marc Bergevin — they were teammates in Vancouver — and gets Bourque’s money off the books for next year

For Anaheim, the move could provide a spark for a guy that’s fallen on hard times. Bourque’s best years did come in the Western Conference — he had back-to-back 27-goal seasons for Calgary from 2009-11.

Lucic: ‘It’s not like I hate the people of Montreal’

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On Thursday night, Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic will enter Montreal’s Bell Centre for his 37th career regular season game against the Canadiens.

But following his last meeting with the storied rival, Lucic knows he needs to keep his cool.

In the final minutes of Boston’s 6-4 loss on Oct. 16, Lucic was assessed a boarding penalty and on his way to the box, made a lewd gesture and a cup raising motion. Upon exiting, he proceeded to argue the penalty and was assessed a misconduct and shown the gate.

He was subsequently fined $5,000 for his antics in Montreal – the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Lucic said following last month’s incident, Bruins’ President and Alternate Governor, Cam Neely, had a conversation with him.

“He understands there comes times when you can lose your cool and stuff like that,” Lucic said of the conversation, “but you have to suck it up and not react in a way like that where you’re doing something like that.

“That was kind of the main message that he had.”

For the 26-year-old, the incident at the Bell Centre was the epitome of his season to that point. Lucic said he’s struggled with his confidence in the early going following offseason surgery to his left wrist.

“It’s not like I was worried too much about that before,” said Lucic of worrying about his play between the whistles. “But coming off the injury and it being a wrist injury, (I was) questioning whether it was 100 percent and a little hesitant to go into the corners and all that type of stuff.”

Through 17 games, Lucic, a left-handed shot, says he’s still feeling the effects of the surgery especially when it comes to shooting the puck. However, a meeting with Chris Stewart and the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 30 has helped steer things in the right direction.

Lucic finished the night with two shots on goal, four hits, the fight and a minus-1 rating while logging 18:03 in ice time during Boston’s 3-2 win over the Sabres.

“That was a good test,” Lucic said of his first fight of the season. “Had a couple hits and got hit a couple times and everything was fine and I was able to just kind of relax and start playing my game again.”

Since his last trip to Montreal, Lucic has three goals and four assists in 11 games. He was pointless and a minus-1 prior to the visit to Montreal.

In 36 career games against the Habs, Lucic has seven goals and 10 assists to along with 92 penalty minutes.

Lucic knows the building will be electric tonight.

“It’s just the nature of the rivalry and there’s a lot of hatred between the two teams. Obviously being in the same division and the way that the playoff standings work now, you’re fighting for every point and every divisional game means that much more,” he said. “Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve played them four times in the playoffs and I think that adds to it as well.”

Lucic infamously got into a verbal altercation with Canadiens players in the handshake line following Boston’s seven game second-round loss to Montreal last spring.

“I do enjoy going there, it’s fun, it’s part of being a competitor,” Lucic said. “It’s great to be a part of rivalries like that. It’s not like I hate the city and it’s not like I hate the people of Montreal. Its just when you’re on the ice, it’s a different animal than when you’re off the ice.”

With a young family to consider, the Vancouver native admits he’s begun thinking of pending contract negotiations.

Lucic has one more season after this on his three-year, $18 million contract. Afterward, he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Lucic’s agent and the Bruins aren’t allowed to begin negotiations until next summer under the new rules in the CBA.

“I’d be lying if I told you that I hadn’t thought about it, but I’m just… I think the best way to think about it, is not to think about it and just focus on taking care of things on the ice,” said Lucic. “If you play well and do your thing on the ice, the contract stuff will take care of itself.

“I’m just focused on having a good season this season this year and good season next year and we’ll see what happens. My plans are to remain a Bruin and I hope it goes that way.”

Could Lucic see himself in another jersey?

“It would be tough… I think it would be tough,” he said.

What about the Red, White and Blue of the Canadiens?

“Never… I don’t think so… I don’t think so about that,” said Lucic chuckling. “Crazier things have happened. Who knows what the future holds.”

Trade: Montreal acquires Gonchar from Dallas for Moen

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The Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens have teammed for a relatively large move — the Stars have sent veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar to the Habs in exchange for checking forward Travis Moen.

For Montreal, Gonchar could be looked upon to spark the club’s woeful power play. It’s the third-worst unit in the NHL at 7.7 percent and Gonchar, while getting on in age, is still a quality puck-mover with offensive ability. The move with also reunites him with head coach Michel Therrien — the two spent four seasons together in Pittsburgh — and gives the Canadiens three Russians on defense (along with Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin.)

For Dallas, Moen brings physicality and grittiness to a team mired in a seven-game losing streak, and has extensive experience playing in the Western Conference from his time with Chicago, San Jose and Anaheim (helping the latter to a Stanley Cup in 2007).

“Travis is a proven forward that does all the gritty things needed to win,” Stars GM Jim Nill said in a release. “He brings leadership and experience to our forward group and will be an important part of our penalty kill.”

It’s also worth noting Dallas reportedly tried to deal Gonchar this summer, per Morning-News scribe Mike Heika:

I was almost 100 percent sure that [Stars GM] Jim Nill would find a way to move Sergei Gonchar before the summer was over, but it looks like that could be more difficult than I imagined.

Even with the team willing to eat half of his $5 million salary (the maximum allowed under the new CBA), the Stars could not find a trade partner for the 40-year-old defenseman.

Speaking of eating salary, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Dallas will retain eight percent of Gonchar’s salary in the Montreal deal.

Update:

In the end, this deal may have simply been about Dallas looking to get out from under the Gonchar contract. It was one of Nill’s first big moves after taking the GM gig and, eventually, proved to be arguably his worst; hopes were high the 40-year-old Russian could come in and provide a stabilizing presence on Dallas’ back end, but it never came to be.

Speaking of contracts, it’s worth noting that Moen has this season and the next remaining on his four-year, $7.4 million deal — one that carries a $1.85M annual cap hit.

Gonchar, meanwhile, will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.