Montreal Canadiens

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Free-falling Red Wings get trampled again

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On Friday, the Detroit Red Wings wanted to let their play do the talking. What happened on Saturday night probably isn’t what they intended to say.

It’s an ugly time to be a Red Wings fan, surely.

Not convinced that a six-game losing streak was bad enough back in October, the Red Wings dropped their seventh straight in the most brutal of fashions on Saturday night in Montreal while testing new waters.

The Canadiens scored a touchdown and added a field goal in a 10-1 drubbing of a Red Wings team that looked completely lost and disinterested at Bell Centre.

Their total goals allowed during their current debacle? 36

How many have they scored themselves? 14

In the words of Inspector Gadget: “Wowzers.”

Indeed. It’s been a lacklustre and lackadaisical run for the Red Wings.

Saturday’s game was the kind of game that leads to heads rolling, and surely some changes need to take place in Detroit. Likely in the form of a full-fledged rebuild, perhaps one under a new management from the top down.

According to QuantHockey, the Red Wings are the only team above an average age of 29 years old, and thus the oldest team in the NHL. 

That number isn’t changing with some of their declining veterans still commanding big minutes. They have one goal scorer in double digits and only one player with 20-plus points. If you subscribe to plus-minus, Detroit has just three players above zero. If possession metrics are your thing, the Red Wings are sub-50 percent and have the seventh lowest expected goals percentage.

If the Red Wings were looking for any letup in their upcoming schedule, they won’t find it. Despite the respite of playing their next five at Little Caesars Arena, they’ll have to face the top two teams in the Western Conference in the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues, along with the surging Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs during that span.

That means it could get worse before it gets better in Mo-Town.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Price is right in return from injury

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Do you think the Montreal Canadiens missed Carey Price?

Price, who returned to the crease on Saturday after missing 11 games with a lower-body injury, shut out the Buffalo Sabres in a 3-0 win.

Price looked like his usual, stopping all 36 shots that came his way, but the Canadiens were playing the struggling Sabres, who have lost eight of their past 10 and sit in the basement of the Eastern Conference with a 6-14-4 record.

Price’s solid effort helped the Canadiens stop a five-game losing skid. The Canadiens, despite their early-season blunders, are five points back of a wild-card spot in the East.

Truth be told, Price hadn’t been very good before he got injured. He came into the night sporting a forgettable 3-7-0 record with an equally poor .877 save percentage (that save percentage took a healthy bump to .890 on Saturday.)

With one of the worst team save percentages in the NHL, having Price return to form would likely do wonders in Montreal. He’s facing a large amount of pressure, as PHT’s James O’Brien points out, and needs to lead the charge if the Canadiens want to have any hope of turning their season around.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Dallas Stars head coach fed up with injury rigmarole

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Now here’s a trend we could all get behind.

Dallas Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock told members of the media on Tuesday that he wants to “stop the dance” when it comes to revealing information about his injured players.

Via Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic:

“I think we collectively hate playing the game. What I mean by that is we say ‘upper body,’ then you go on the phone, and then you look up things or you go to the doctors, find out what part of the upper body. We try to make your work easier, quite frankly, and so we just don’t like going through the dance.

“It’s just easy to tell you what it is and let’s move forward. It’s just the whole game. It’s an injury, and within two hours after we tell you it’s ‘upper body,’ you know exactly what it is, so why not just tell you? And the players don’t go out and say, ‘He has a broken left pinky and we’re going to go after the pinky.’ Nobody thinks like that. Our feeling is just tell them what the injury is and move it forward and just stop the dance.”

Perhaps Hitchcock, who has been coaching in the NHL since 1995, is just tired of the same old rigmarole he’s dealt with for the past 20-plus years. Reporters everywhere are too.

It’s also likely that most fans would also appreciate a higher level of transparency from the team they spend hundreds on for tickets each night.

Right, Montreal?

Given the mayhem that has ensued for the Canadiens over the status of Carey Price’s lower body, perhaps more teams will alleviate future headaches before they set in by adopting this route.

What is certain is that hockey scribes everywhere just became the biggest Hitchcock fans.

For now, if you’re looking for some of the Stars’ state secrets, they can be had on their official Twitter account:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Julien: Price’s return to practice “encouraging”

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A Montreal Canadiens team struggling for answers in the early going this season got a bit of a boost on Monday.

Goaltender Carey Price returned to practice on Monday morning in Montreal, a welcome sign for a team struggling to stop pucks and desperate to start winning as they wallow in the depths of the Eastern Conference.

Price worked on lateral movements with Habs goaltending coach Stéphane Waite prior to practice starting, per TSN’s John Lu, and continued to work in the Canadiens’ backup net for the rest of practice.

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien confirmed after practice that Price would be on the team’s upcoming quick two-game back-to-back road trip beginning in Dallas on Tuesday. Julien also said Price is still listed as day-to-day and that there was still no timetable for his return. Charlie Lindgren will man the crease against the Stars.

Truth be told, the Canadiens weren’t very good with Price in the lineup before he went down with a lower-body injury, forcing him to miss the past eight games.

In 11 starts, Price has been above a .900 save percentage in just three of them and owns a 3-7-1 record. His save percentage sits at .877 with an equally unhealthy 3.77 goals-against average.

Montreal has the second-worst team save percentage in the league at .886 and have several other issues to contend with, including being 29th in goals for, 30th in goals against, 27th in power-play efficiency, 28th killing penalties and dead last in shooting percentage.

Indeed, the Canadiens will take any positives that come their way at the moment.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Is it time for the Canadiens to blow up their roster?

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The 2017-18 season isn’t even two months old, and the Montreal Canadiens already find themselves at a crossroads. Is it time for them to start rebuilding?

The Canadiens, who are 8-11-2 after three straight losses to Columbus, Arizona and Toronto, have over $7 million in cap space, but they have nowhere to use it. They already traded a blue-chip prospect in Mikhail Sergachev over the summer, and it’s not like their prospect pipeline is overflowing with quality either.

Clearly, losing Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov (for nothing) hurt this edition of the Canadiens.

The team just completed a six-game homestand  that they should have used to make up for their incredibly poor start to the year. Instead, they finished the stretch at the Bell Center with a mediocre 2-3-1 record (they barely beat Vegas and Buffalo, who were both playing their second game in two nights when they took on Montreal).

During the six-game home stretch, they managed to find the back of the net just 10 times (four of those goals came in the 5-4 loss to the Coyotes).

Up until this point, general manager Marc Bergevin has been unwilling to trade away his veterans for prospects and/or draft picks. That might be about to change, per Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos.

On Saturday’s “Headlines” segment, Kypreos mentioned that ownership and the front office will have a discussion about the direction of the team.

The one player that was singled out on the broadcast was Max Pacioretty, who has one year remaining (after this season) on his current contract.

Would the Canadiens be willing to move him? Maybe, but would they do so with the idea of a rebuild in mind? That remains to be seen.

You have to believe that Bergevin’s on thin ice. Despite being under contract until 2022, he has to be feeling the pressure right now. Montreal is a demanding hockey market, and although they have plenty of cap space, this team clearly isn’t better than it was last year.

The core is far from terrible. Pacioretty, Shea Weber, Carey Price and Jonathan Drouin are all quality hockey players, but they don’t have much depth up front and their defense might be one of the worst in the league after Weber. Jeff Petry has struggled, the contract they handed out to Karl Alzner appears to be a mistake, Jordie Benn, Joe Morrow and Brandon Davidson are all depth players, and Victor Mete is a promising 19-year-old that’s had his ice time cut lately.

When it comes to the center ice position, the Canadiens are still searching for answers. Drouin has been forced to learn on the job, which is far from ideal for a number one center. Behind him, there’s Phillip Danault and Tomas Plekanec, who are both better suited to be third liners.

In order to become one of the elite teams in the NHL, the Canadiens have to take a step back over the next couple of years. They might not have to rebuild from scratch because they do have key pieces, but the roster definitely needs a lot of work.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.