Bergevin sees ‘no reason’ to make changes to Canadiens coaching staff

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Sounds like we can cross off Montreal as a potential landing spot for Mike Babcock, or any other free-agent head coach.

“I have no reason to make any changes when it comes to our coaching staff,” Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said this morning. “They are doing great work.”

Under Michel Therrien, the Habs finished first in the Atlantic (50-22-10) and made it to the second round of the playoffs. Which is a lot better than most teams.

But despite that, Therrien received a good amount of criticism for how his team played. The Canadiens were relatively poor at controlling the puck, they had the 20th-ranked offense, and were overly reliant on goalie Carey Price.  

Montreal’s power play also struggled, ranking 23rd during the regular season and scoring just twice in the playoffs. That put assistant coach Dan Lacroix, the power play being his responsibility, under the microscope. But based on Bergevin’s remarks today, Lacroix will remain on the staff.

Bergevin also made a comment about 21-year-old Alex Galchenyuk that raised some eyebrows.

“Chucky is not there yet,” Bergevin said, per TSN’s John Lu. “He might never be a centerman. He might be, he could be.”

Galchenyuk was the third overall pick in 2012. He was drafted to be a center. On top of that, many feel the Canadiens’ biggest flaw is down the middle, where Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais are currently their top two centers.

Perhaps Bergevin was just trying to motivate Galchenyuk. Or, perhaps his remark, as some have suggested, is related to the fact Galchenyuk is a pending restricted free agent and will be negotiating a new contract this summer. Because Bergevin also acknowledged it’s next to impossible to land a number-one center through a trade, suggesting the price to do so would be, well, Price.

Related: Canadiens need to be more than Carey Price

Lars Eller was asked if he was happy with his role in Montreal, and gave a curious reply

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Lars Eller, who faced his fair share of scrutiny this season, took an interesting approach when answering a question about how happy he was with his role on the Canadiens this year.

Here’s the video from today’s end-of-year media availability.

And here’s the transcript:

Q: Were you happy with your role this year?

A: [Eight-second pause]

[Laugh]

As a player, you always want more. You’re never satisfied. You always want to play more, you always want to take another step, and I’m still hungry to improve.

Eller (27 points) was something of a disappointment in the first of a four-year, $14 million deal signed last July. There were big things expected following the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign in which he scored 30 points in 48 games and last year’s playoffs, in which he led all Montreal forwards with 13 points in 17 games.

Instead of progressing, though, his production plateaued. Eller also sat as a healthy scratch at the beginning of the year and missed time with an upper-body injury in December, and never really seemed to find his groove. His deployment also became a topic of conversation in Montreal, as he averaged less than 16 minutes per game in both the regular season and playoffs.

Looking ahead, this could be a situation worth monitoring. Eller’s been a lineup fixture in Montreal over the last five years but it’s unclear how he’ll fit under head coach Michel Therrien moving forward. Also unclear? The status of their relationship.

Petry says signing with Montreal is his first choice

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“Personally, I’d love to see him back. I think he compliments our defense corps great and I think that, at his age, good defensemen like that are hard to come by.”

That quote comes courtesy Montreal’s P.K. Subban, speaking at Thursday’s end-of-year media availability about fellow blueliner Jeff Petry.

Petry, a pending UFA who came to Montreal at the trade deadline and showed very well, is thought to be at the top of Habs GM Marc Bergevin’s priority list this summer.

Turns out the Habs are high on Petry’s list, too.

Petry, 27, scored seven points in 19 regular-season games with the Habs while averaging 22:11 TOI per night, then continued that strong effort in the postseason with three points in 12 games, averaging 22:17.

It’s clear Montreal would like him back. D-men Sergei Gonchar and Mike Weaver are also UFAs — not expected to be re-signed — and while Bergevin needs to ink new deals for RFAs Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu, Petry could fit within Montreal’s current cap structure.

But it won’t be easy.

First, there’s a money issue — Petry made $3.075M last season and would likely see a significant raise on the open market. This year’s UFA d-man class isn’t especially deep, and it’d be hard for Petry to ignore the payday Matt Niskanen scored by going to market last summer (seven years, $40.25 million from Washington.)

Petry should also have a number of interested suitors. Chief among them would be the Detroit Red Wings, who have been on a seemingly endless search for a right-shot defenseman (Petry shoots right). What’s more, Petry is a Michigan native, a Michigan State Spartan alumni — where he was teammates with Justin Abdelkader — and the son of ex-MLB pitcher Dan Petry, who helped the Detroit Tigers win the 1984 World Series.

Canadiens need to be more than Carey Price

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Carey Price may be the deserving favorite to win the Hart Trophy, but his numbers in six games against the Lightning were anything but MVP-caliber.

Price went 2-4 versus Tampa Bay, allowing 16 goals on 154 shots, for a save percentage of .896.

His performance was actually quite reminiscent of the one by the last goalie to win the Hart, Montreal’s Jose Theodore in 2001-02. Also in the second round, Theodore struggled against Carolina, allowing 14 goals in his final three games combined, and the Habs went out in six.

That’s the risk a team takes when it relies heavily on its goalie. The Canadiens were not a particularly good possession team this season. They gave up more shots than they registered. They won their division largely because they had the NHL’s highest save percentage (.926).

“I didn’t play well enough for us to win the series,” Price said. “I think that’s basically more or less what it comes down to.”

That may sound like he’s being overly hard on himself, but what he said wasn’t untrue. His counterpart, Ben Bishop, finished the series with a .940 save percentage. The Lightning clearly won the goaltending battle. Hands up those who predicted that Bishop would outplay Price. Heck, a couple of weeks ago we were wondering if Bishop would be his team’s Achilles’ heel in Game 7 versus Detroit. You’ll recall that everyone was on the Petr Mrazek train then. What have we said all season about the unpredictability of the goaltending position?

“As a team we’ve got to understand that Carey’s the best goalie in the world but he’s also human, things are going to happen out of his control sometimes and we’ve got to respond for him,” defenseman P.K. Subban said.

With Montreal’s season over, that response now falls to GM Marc Bergevin. But his task won’t be an easy one. Unless you can think of a simple way to add an elite center. Because asking Alex Galchenyuk to be that guy next season is a pretty big ask for a 21-year-old. All we know is a team with Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais as its top two centers is going to be hard-pressed to win the Stanley Cup, even with brilliant goaltending.

Related: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup

Video: Lightning strike first in deviation from Montreal’s wins

Montreal was able to build off of strong starts to win Game 4 and 5 of its second round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Canadiens don’t have that luxury tonight.

After a bad turnover by Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec, Nikita Kucherov was able to tip in Ondrej Palat’s shot to beat goaltender Carey Price at 15:35 of the first period:

That was Kucherov’s fifth goal of the series. He now has nine points in 13 playoff games in 2015.

The Lightning were able to carry that 1-0 lead into the first intermission. They also outshot Montreal 13-6 in that frame and had a 12-8 edge in hits.

Tampa Bay has held the lead just three other times after 20 minutes in the 2015 playoffs, but the squad was able to win all of those contests.