Canadiens ink Therrien to four-year extension

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Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is keeping things busy the day after the Stanley Cup Final.

The Canadiens announced they’ve signed coach Michel Therrien to a four-year extension to remain behind the bench in Montreal through the 2018-19 season. Therrien re-joined the Habs as coach in 2012 and led them to the Eastern Conference Final this season.

“We’re very happy to have agreed to a contract extension with Michel Therrien for multiple seasons,” Bergevin said in the team’s release. “Michel is an accomplished and experienced coach who has instilled a culture of hard work in our organization while helping develop our young players. Michel and his coaching staff work in a unique and demanding hockey market and the team’s success over the last two seasons are a reflection of their excellent work. This decision reflects our desire for stability and consistency within our hockey operations department.”

Therrien’s decisions are always under a microscope in Montreal and this season, in spite of the success the team had, he faced harsh questions about his lineup decisions. In particular his use of Douglas Murray in the postseason as opposed to Francis Bouillon or Jarred Tinordi in the early rounds seemed to rankle Habs supporters.

At the very least, the Habs must be sold that Therrien’s ways are good for Carey Price and P.K. Subban as they’re both going to be there a long time.

Now that Therrien has four more years, Bergevin hopes the success the team had this season can be built upon and get the Canadiens back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993.

Report: Canadiens, Markov close to new deal

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Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov is a fan favorite and it looks like he’ll be staying in Quebec.

According to Richard Labbe of La Presse (link in French), Markov’s agent, former NHL forward Sergei Berezin, says his client is close to re-signing with the Habs. Translation courtesy Chantal Ledoux:

“We know what Habs management wants, and they know what Andrei wants,” Berezin said. “There are no surprises and I am optimistic in this case, the main reason being that I feel the team wishes to keep Andrei, and Andrei wants to remain with this team. That’s what’s important to understand. The rest are just details we need to work out.”

 Markov has played 13 seasons in Montreal and made his debut with the team in the 2000-01 season. In that time he’s scored 98 goals and piled up 442 points and helped take the Canadiens to the playoffs seven times. He’s as much of a fixture in Montreal as any player that’s played there since Saku Koivu.

After putting three seasons of injuries behind him he’s been a key contributor the past two seasons with 73 points and has missed just one game. If Markov parted ways with the team at this point in his career it’d be stunning. Expect him to continue patrolling the Montreal blue line alongside Alexei Emelin for at least another season.

And then there were three: Canadiens eliminated

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For more entries in this series, click here.

The Montreal Canadiens can’t feel great about the way they ended their 2013-14 season. The New York Rangers only beat them 1-0 in Game 6, but it was a thorough domination; the Habs only managed five shots on goal with their season on the line in the third period.

Maybe the Canadiens ran out of gas or maybe the Rangers were just that much better. Still, the good news is that Montreal can take this disappointment and potentially build something promising going forward. Let’s look back at their season overall.

  • Aside from some hiccups and maybe some evidence that his style might not hold up under long-term scrutiny, Dustin Tokarski played well enough that the storyline of Carey Price’s injury gets knocked down a paragraph or two. The Habs can still be allowed to ask “What if?” mainly because Price is just that good. If there was any doubt about Price as a No. 1 goalie, he eliminated most of it by playing great hockey and winning gold as Canada’s top netminder.
  • P.K. Subban might be a lightning rod for criticism, but he showed that he can be a big-minute, big-game defenseman in a big way. Just look at the time on ice from Games 4 (33:16), Game 5 (30:25) and Game 6 (27:04). The Canadiens face a challenge in re-signing the restricted free agent this summer, yet he’ll likely be worth the money (assuming something doesn’t go wrong in negotiations, naturally).
  • In case you didn’t keep up with incessant commentary on social media, Thomas Vanek’s rental with Montreal finished on a sour note. It would be surprising to see him come back, but GM Marc Bergevin deserves credit for giving his team a shot with a top-six forward for a reasonable price.
  • Michel Therrien made a lot of headlines by bickering with Alain Vigneault, yet he also managed to guide Montreal within two wins of a Stanley Cup Final appearance. He’s likely to get a chance (if not a few more chances) to bring the Habs even further after some nice work this season.
  • The Canadiens beat the hated Boston Bruins, which is probably some great solace for Habs fans who are especially invested in that rivalry.
  • This is a young team with a ton of cap space. If Bergevin presses the right buttons, Montreal could be a perennial East contender.

Get your game notes: Canadiens at Rangers

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the New York Rangers hosting the Montreal Canadiens at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— Despite erasing a 4-1 deficit by scoring 3 goals in a span of 4:24 in the 2nd period of Game 5, the Rangers could not close out the series as Montreal scored 3 unanswered goals after that to stave off elimination.

  • The 7 goals scored were the most in a playoff game by the Canadiens since 1992 & the most in a Conf. Finals (or NHL Semifinals) for them since 1975.
  • The 7 goals allowed were the most in a playoff game by the Rangers since 1996.
  • The 11 combined goals marked the highest scoring game of this postseason.
  • Montreal led for 55:34 of Game 5 compared to leading for only 2:50 total in the first 4 games of the series.

— Montreal is averaging 3.19 goals/game in these playoffs (L.A. is tops at 3.42). The Canadiens opened the postseason as the only team to score 3+ goals in their first 7 games (3.86 average, 6-1 record) but, prior to Tuesday night’s scoring outburst, Montreal had not found the back of the net with the same consistency:

  • Montreal scored 8 total goals in Games 1-4 of this series & 7 in Game 5.
  • New York is currently averaging 2.37 goals against/game this postseason – best of the remaining teams & the second lowest total behind Boston’s 2.17 for these playoffs.

— Montreal is 3-0 in games when facing elimination this postseason. In NHL history, only 1 team, the 1999-2000 Devils, has won a Conf. Finals (or NHL Semifinals) series when down 3-games-to-1 (66 tries). Montreal is 0-6 all-time in that situation & 2-14 all-time in postseason series when trailing 3-1. The Canadiens have never forced a Game 7 in a Conf. Finals series in which it trailed 3-games-to-1. Elias Sports Bureau

— Henrik Lundqvist, who will extend his franchise record of consecutive postseason starts to 86 tonight, was pulled in the 2nd period of Game 5 after allowing 4 goals on 19 shots. He had previously been pulled in 3 playoff games (NYR lost all 3), & holds a 1-2 record, 3.00 GAA & .887 SV% in the game following being pulled:

source:

— Lundqvist in the last 5 postseason games in which the Rangers have a chance to clinch the series but do not face elimination (no Game 7s) has not fared well: 0-4 record, 5.52 GAA, .808 SV% (NYR have lost all 5 games, Cam Talbot took loss in Tuesday’s game).

— Rene Bourque tallied his first career postseason hat trick in Game 5 & first by a MTL player in a Conf. Finals (or NHL Semifinals) since 1975 (Guy Lafleur). Elias Sports Bureau

  • Bourque has 8 goals in 16 gms this postseason (t-2nd in playoffs); he had 9 goals in 63 gms during the reg. season.

— In Game 5, the Rangers’ top line of Chris Kreider (1 goal, 3 assists), Derek Stepan (2 goals) & Rick Nash (1 goal, 1 assist) combined for 8 points. Kreider, Stepan & Nash have combined for 20 points (9 goals) in this series.

— Montreal scored on the power play for the second consecutive game in Game 5 going 1-4 with the man advantage while the Rangers went 1-7 in the game. The Canadiens have gone 2-21 (10%) in the series on the PP while New York has scored on 5 of its 22 (23%) PP opportunities in this series.

PHT Morning Skate: Rangers get second chance to eliminate Montreal

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Like the Montreal Canadiens before them, the Chicago Blackhawks were able to stave off elimination last night when faced with a 3-1 series deficit. They certainly didn’t make it look easy as the Los Angeles Kings pushed them to the bitter end in the double-overtime contest, but the Blackhawks have lived to fight another day.

The series switch off again today, which means that we’re back to the Eastern Conference Final.

Game 6: Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers [New York leads 3-2] (8:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist squandered his first opportunity to reach the Stanley Cup Final, but his strong effort earlier in the series has afforded him two more chances.

Lundqvist was yanked just 28:58 minutes into Tuesday’s contest after allowing four goals on 19 shots. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it would have been interesting to see if Lundqvist could have shrugged off his rough start as the Rangers rallied back from a 4-1 deficit after he left the game, but backup Cam Talbot couldn’t hold onto the lead.

“I pulled [Lundqvist] because I thought at that time we needed a little momentum shift, and I thought it might catch everybody’s attention,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “It did for a while. Obviously, it didn’t work out.”

At the same time, yanking him prevented the situation from getting out of hand and potentially hurting his confidence. Now Lundqvist can come back tonight fresh and refocused. He’s not the only Rangers player that needs to do that.

“We didn’t give [Lundqvist] too much help,” Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi acknowledged.

For Montreal, all eyes will be on Max Pacioretty, who scored 39 goals in the regular season, but has been on-and-off in the playoffs. He struggled in Game 4 and called on himself to bounce back for Game 5. He did just that by scoring a goal and an assist, but the Canadiens need sustained production out of him.

Montreal doesn’t have any margin for error left and can’t count on another seven-goal outing led by a hat trick from an unlikely hero like Rene Bourque. Ultimately, the Canadiens top players will probably make or break them and that puts the pressure on Pacioretty.

Montreal’s defense needs to step up too, which had a nasty breakdown midway through Game 5 when the Rangers scored three unanswered goals in less than five minutes. That kind of stretch would have sunk the team on another night.

Even if Carey Price had been healthy, he wouldn’t have been able to bail out his teammates entirely during that stretch, but it’s not like rookie goalie Dustin Tokarski was blameless. He certainly has made some great saves along the way and deserves a lot of credit for coming into a high pressure situation and holding his own despite his lack of NHL experience. Still, Tokarski will have his hands full tonight if Lundqvist and the Rangers defense bounce back.