Montreal Canadiens

What’s wrong with Franson in Nashville?

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On Feb. 15, Preds GM David Poile made a big splash ahead of the trade deadline, acquiring a pair of former faces — ex-Nashville forward Mike Santorelli and defenseman Cody Franson — from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

While Santorelli was a nice depth pickup, Franson was the key to the deal. The 27-year-old had six goals and 32 points in 55 games at the time of the trade and was averaging more than 21 TOI per night; upon pulling the trigger, Poile called Franson “a veteran defenseman who could play in all situations,” adding he’d “seamlessly fit into our team.”

The transition has been anything but.

From the Tennessean:

In the past five games, he has been benched twice. Against the Tampa Bay Lightning last Thursday, Franson didn’t take a shift in the third period, receiving a season-low 7:15 of ice time. Saturday, Franson’s last shift ended on Stars forward Colton Sceviour’s goal at 7:28 of the third period, a play in which he failed to clear the puck from in front of the crease.

Franson is averaging nearly six fewer minutes of ice time per game with the Predators than he did with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Here’s the Sceviour goal in question:

Franson’s boxscore for the Dallas game was ugly. His 12:26 TOI was the second-lowest among d-men — only Victor Bartley, who played up front, received less — and Franson was the only Predator to finish with a minus rating (-2).

Digging beyond the traditional boxscore, Franson’s struggles are even more evident. He finished with the worst possession metrics (Corsi and Fenwick) on the team and, for a offensive-minded defenseman, his one shot attempt is startling — though to be fair, Franson’s power-play time has fallen since joining the Preds (Franson got no man advantage time at all versus Dallas, though it could be a chicken-or-egg situation… is he struggling because he’s not getting the power-play time, or is he not getting the power-play time because he’s struggling?)

At the simplest level, one can chalk this up to being a bad fit. Franson had far more opportunities on Toronto’s blueline than he does in Nashville, where the likes of Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Seth Jones are firmly entrenched in the top-four.

It’s also fair to suggest that, despite Poile’s optimism about familiarity, switching teams and conferences mid-season is more difficult a task than originally thought; consider Devante Smith-Pelly in Montreal, who scored his first goal in 18 games on Sunday, nearly a full month after coming over from Western Conference powerhouse Anaheim.

But the Franson situation is a bit more complex. It could be alleged he (and Santorelli, to a certain degree) have actually disrupted team chemistry — the Preds were 38-12-6 at the time of the trade, and just 9-10-4 since. Also, whatever offensive flair Franson had as a Maple Leaf has almost entirely escaped him as a Predator, as his points-per-game average has fallen from 0.47 to 0.14.

The big question moving ahead, of course, is if Franson will be dropped from the lineup. Nashville dressed seven defensemen on Saturday and had an eighth, Anton Volchenkov, sitting as a healthy scratch, so there are options for head coach Peter Laviolette to tinker with.

There are also questions about Franson’s future as he heads to unrestricted free agency this summer. How big an impact will this slump have on his market value? Could this be the case of a player that, having seen what Toronto’s become, is just a guy that put up really good numbers for a really bad team?

The Preds are off to the postseason, so Franson will have a few more chances to try and turn things around. But given his deployment over the last few weeks, it’ll be interesting to see how big — or, small — an opportunity it’ll be.

Price, Therrien reach milestones as Habs beat Panthers

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Carey Price made 24 saves as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Florida Panthers 4-1 on Sunday.

With the win, Price picked up his 42nd win of the season tying the Canadiens’ franchise record for wins in a single season. Price joins Jaques Plante and Ken Dryden as the only other Habs’ goaltenders to reach the mark.

Montreal has two regular season games remaining, which could allow Price to set a new club record.

The victory was also coach Michel Therrien’s 200th behind the Habs’ bench.

The news wasn’t all good for Montreal.

The Habs lost leading scorer Max Pacioretty in the first period. Pacioretty collided with Panthers’ defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. Following the hit, the 26-year-old lost his footing and hit his head on the boards.

Pacioretty was wobbly as he was helped to the Habs’ bench. He did not return.

Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and Devante Smith-Pelly had the Canadiens goals.

With the win, Montreal moved two points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the Atlantic Division.

Aaron Ekblad had the lone Florida goal while Dan Ellis made 24 saves in the loss.

Video: Habs’ Pacioretty leaves following hit from Kulikov (Updated)

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Montreal Canadiens’ leading scorer Max Pacioretty has left the game in Florida following a collision with Panthers’ defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.

Following the hit, Pacioretty lost his balance and hit his head on the boards.

Update:

The 26-year-old, who leads the Habs with 37 goals and 67 points, appeared dazed as he was helped to the Canadiens bench.

Kulikov received a minor penalty for interference on the play.

Lars Eller has moved into Pacioretty’s spot on a line with David Desharnais and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Goalie Nods: Detroit continues rotation as playoffs near

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Petr Mrazek starts for Detroit as rotation continues

Jimmy Howard turned aside 22 of 24 shots in regulation en route to a 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota on Saturday, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock announced well in advance that Howard and Mrazek would split Detroit’s goaltending duties this weekend. That’s nothing new for the Wings as Howard’s recent struggles have thrown his status as the team’s number one netminder in question.

The debate was also fueled by Mrazek’s strong play in March (2.18 GAA and .932 save percentage in six games), but he allowed three goals on 25 shots against Boston on April 2.

It remains to be seen if Detroit will enter the playoffs with a clear starting goaltender. Then again, it remains to be seen if Detroit will enter the playoffs at all. A loss against Washington tonight could certainly complicate matters for the Red Wings.

It’s not clear who will play between the pipes for Washington, although it wouldn’t be shocking to see Braden Holtby start on no rest.

Elsewhere…

Habs at Panthers: No confirmed goaltenders yet for this one, but Carey Price is rested so odds are Montreal will start him. Dan Ellis might get the nod for Florida after Roberto Luongo surrendered four goals on 22 shots on Saturday.

Sens at Leafs: Andrew Hammond vs. Jonathan Bernier

Blues at Hawks: Jake Allen vs. Corey Crawford

Devils’ Gomez fined for elbow on Emelin

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New Jersey Devils forward Scott Gomez has been fined $1,478.49 (the maximum allowed under the CBA) for his elbow to the head of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin on Friday night.

Gomez was assessed a major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct on the play.

Emelin remained in the game and finished a minus-1 while logging 21:44 in ice time in the 3-2 shootout loss.

The Devils were not expecting any supplemental discipline for Gomez.