Max Domi

The great line nobody is talking about

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When we think about the best lines in hockey, our mind immediately goes to the Bruins’ perfection line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. Or we think of the trio in Colorado made up of Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon. Those are the two best lines in hockey right now, but there’s three players in Montreal that are being overlooked.

Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher aren’t superstars in the same way that Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, Rantanen, MacKinnon and Landeskog are, but they’ve made up an important line since the start of last season. Not only does that line match up against the opposition’s best forwards, they usually tend to dictate the terms of the game night in and night out.

General manager Marc Bergevin deserves a lot of credit for helping create this line. Yes, Claude Julien put them together, but Bergevin went out and acquired two of the three players when they weren’t exactly in high demand. Gallagher was drafted before Bergevin arrived, but Danault was acquired, as a prospect, from Bergevin’s former team, the Chicago Blackhawks. And Tatar was thrown into the trade involving Max Pacioretty by the Vegas Golden Knights.

Individually, their offensive numbers don’t pop. Danault has nine points in 15 games, while Tatar and Gallagher both have 13 points in 15 games. But take these three players, put them together and watch them dominate.

Danault has played over 156 minutes with Tatar and almost 170 minutes with Gallagher this season, according to Natural Stat Trick. When the trio is on the ice together, they control nearly 60 percent of the shot attempts. Again, keep in mind that they nearly always draw the most difficult assignment of the night.

Last night, at even strength, the trio matched up against the vaunted Perfection Line for most of the night. Keep in mind, the Bruins were playing their second game in two nights, but that still doesn’t take away from the job the Danault line did against them.

Pastrnak managed to score a power-play goal in the first period, which Bergeron helped set up by winning the offensive-zone faceoff. But Marchand saw his 13-game point streak come to an end.

Check out this go-ahead goal by Tatar. Before the puck goes into the net, it was Gallagher that forced the puck away from Pastrnak in the neutral zone. The Canadiens went the other way in transition and they end up scoring. That came just moments after the Bruins’ winger tied the game.

31 seconds later, Paul Byron made it 3-1.

That’s what this three-man unit does for the Canadiens. When Claude Julien starts a period, he usually turns to them. When he needs an energetic shift to spark his team, he turns to them. More often than not, they deliver.

“They’re pretty easy players to play with,” Gallagher said of Danault and Tatar last month, per the Montreal Gazette. “For me, they seem to find me quite a bit and that’s probably why I end up with more shots. They’re very good playmakers and for me to kind of stick to my game is kind of what I try to do.

“I think the three of us enjoy playing together, we enjoy the challenges that the coaching staff gives us every game. That’s something that we’ve had to embrace and I think it’s been good for all three of us.”

The Habs have players with more individual talent. Max Domi, for example, led the team is scoring with 72 points last year and Jonathan Drouin can do things with the puck than most players can only dream of. But these three, when together, are the team’s engine.

Without their chemistry, there’s no way the Canadiens are as good as they are right now. Montreal will have to continue scratching and clawing for every point in the standings, but they can do so knowing they have this group of three leading them into battle every night.

So yeah, they probably won’t get the recognition they deserve nationally because they aren’t the biggest names in the game (they don’t even have a nickname yet), but they have to be considered one of the five best lines in hockey right now.

MORE: Habs’ Domi using special sticks to further diabetes awareness

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.

Habs’ Domi using special sticks to further diabetes awareness

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Hockey players are creatures of habit. Their lives are ruled by routine. Sleeping, eating, training, each day is meticulously planned out. For Max Domi, that’s his life as well, but as a Type 1 diabetic there’s even more he has to worry about on a daily basis.

The Montreal Canadiens forward has been living with diabetes since he was 12 years old. The routine of making sure Domi gets the right doses of insulin, constantly checking his blood sugar levels, ensuring he’s eating the right foods, properly hydrating, and taking the right natural supplements to help his immune system, along with trying to maintain his talent as a professional hockey player is his life. It’s the reason why his recently released book is titled, “No Days Off: My Life with Type 1 Diabetes and Journey to the NHL

“Everything I do is calculated, it’s for as reason, it’s different, and something I put a lot of time and effort into,” Domi told NBC Sports this week. “I’m still adapting and making changes with doctors and trainers.”

When Domi was younger, he wasn’t as strict with staying on top of dealing with his diabetes. He wanted to be like other kids, but not keeping to his new routine affected his play on the ice. One day, he told himself that if he wanted to move up the ladder in hockey and one day play in the NHL he would have to make changes.

Domi had already seen what could be possible if he was smart about treating the disease. When he was 13, he met Philadelphia Flyers legend Bobby Clarke, also a Type 1 diabetic, at the International Silver Stick tournament in Whitby, Ontario. Given that his father, Tie, was an NHLer, the younger Domi was used to meeting famous people. But his interaction with Clarke had a profound effect on him. From then on, he understood that it was possible to play hockey at a higher level even with such a dramatic shift in his daily life.

When Domi was diagnosed, his family didn’t know much about the disease and didn’t understand what went into the care. They soon learned how much their lives would change.

“It was a culture shock for my entire family, which I think a lot of families can relate to,” Domi said. “You kind of get hit by a truck and it’s very overwhelming. You just take it in stride and you get better and better, and it gets easier and easier every day. You just learn about all the different aspects of the disease. There’s a lot of different variables. It’s an extremely complex disease and it’s not something you can just flip the switch on or off.

“You’re on 24/7, and from the day you’re diagnosed you’re always learning. I’m still learning today and I’m playing at the highest level of my sport as possible and I’m still making mistakes and I’m still learning from them every single day. It speaks to how complex this disease is, and it’s not going anywhere. It’s with you and you can’t take a second off.”

Along with the book, Domi has also designed a special Bauer stick that he is using for Montreal’s 13 November games to further raise awareness about Type 1 diabetes. 

Some of the specific elements on the stick include the skylines of Montreal and Toronto, his hometown; his caduceus tattoo; the names and number of every Canadiens player who has their jersey retired within the Bauer logo; the names of Clarke, Mats Sundin, his idol, and his service dog, Orion, who was trained as a puppy to detect through scent when Domi’s blood sugar levels are off; and the title of his book.

Bauer Hockey

There are a limited number of sticks, with some being distributed as prizes through Domi’s social media channels and the rest auctioned off to benefit the forward’s charity, The Max Domi Fund for Type 1 Diabetes.

“I know when I was a kid I always wanted rare sticks like that and sticks that were one-of-one, so it’s pretty special,” he said.

Since meeting with Clarke a decade ago, Domi has wanted to use his platform to make a difference in the lives of fellow Type 1 diabetics. When he meets with kids who have the disease the most common question he gets is how he can play hockey at such a high level while dealing with it every day. He’e sure to emphasis with them and their parents that what they have to go through isn’t easy and everyone has a different path.

As he becomes the face for the disease to many, Domi is eager to continue the fight.

“It’s amazing the tight-knit community we have and how much we can help one another and make a difference in this community,” he said. “We’re all trying to find a cure. We’re all trying to make our lives a lot easier, and that’s what we’re doing and that’s my main goal with this whole thing — to help as many kids out as possible and show them you can have a dream in your life and you can do whatever you want.

“You can still have Type 1 diabetes and it’s not going to get in your way and you can turn it into a positive one way or another.”

Kathryn Tappen will anchor tonight’s studio coverage with Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter. John Forslund and Mike Milbury will have the call from Bell Centre in Montreal, Que.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins a big test for Canadiens team trying to make its mark

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

For the past four years the Montreal Canadiens have been stuck in hockey purgatory.

They haven’t made the playoffs since the 2016-17 season, they haven’t won a playoff round since 2014-15, and they haven’t really taken a step in any real direction as an organization. They are not really a rebuilding team, but they have clearly not been a Stanley Cup contender, either. They just kind of exist in the middle of the league trying to find their way and make their mark in a top-heavy division that has been dominated by three of the league’s best teams the past three years.

On Tuesday night they get a major test against one of those teams — the Boston Bruins — in the latest chapter of one of the league’s fiercest rivalries. It will be a pretty good measuring stick game for a team that has showed flashes of potential this season.

One of the biggest positives in Montreal has been an offense that has been one of the league’s best through the first 14 games.

They enter Tuesday’s game fifth in the league in goals per game, sixth in shots on goal per game, and already have six players with at least four goals scored on the season, including three players with at least five goals. And that is with two of their best young players for the future — Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki — not yet having a breakout offensively.

Jonathan Drouin has started to play like the impact player the Canadiens hoped he would be when they traded Mikhail Sergachev for him, Brendan Gallagher is still one of the league’s most underrated players as a possession-driving, 30-goal forward, and veterans like Tomas Tatar and Max Domi are still solid top-six wingers that can contribute to a contender.

[COVERAGE OF HABS-BRUINS BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

When you look at how the Canadiens have played there’s a lot to like in their game. They are tilting the ice in their favor (as the shot attempt and scoring chance numbers illustrate) and they can obviously score a little bit. But results have not always been there yet as they have played at a 93-point pace entering Tuesday’s game.

That would almost certainly just barely leave them on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture yet again (they missed with 96 points a year ago). It would be an almost identical repeat of the 2018-19 season, and it just reinforces the single biggest problem with the current Canadiens’ organization — they are good, but not quite good enough and missing that one significant piece to help them break through the glass ceiling they have seemingly constructed over their heads.

The encouraging thing about this season is their territorial advantage is starting to produce more goals (something that was a problem last year) and should give them a chance to pick up the few extra wins they need, especially if Carey Price can be Carey Price when he plays (a capable backup to give him a break on occasion would also help).

Getting two points on Tuesday would be a nice step toward building something positive this season, especially as the schedule starts to lighten over the next couple of weeks. Their next 11 games after Boston include matchups against: Philadelphia (twice), Los Angeles, Columbus (twice), Ottawa, New York Rangers, and New Jersey (twice). There is a chance to stack some wins and get some points.

And for as good as Boston has been this season, and as dominant as the top line of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron has been, the Canadiens are catching a little bit of a break here with the schedule. While Montreal was sitting at home on Monday, the Bruins were playing a grueling back-and-forth game with the Pittsburgh Penguins, which was followed by an overnight trip to Montreal. There is an opportunity there for the Canadiens to pounce on a tired opponent, win a measuring stick game, and maybe start building something for this season.

Kathryn Tappen will anchor tonight’s studio coverage with Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter. John Forslund and Mike Milbury will have the call from Bell Centre in Montreal, Que.

NBC Sports will premiere “The Russian Five” documentary, a feature on the first five Russians to play hockey together in the NHL, Wednesday, November 6, following Wednesday Night Hockey between the Red Wings and Rangers. The documentary tells the story of how Sergei Fedorov, Slava Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Kozlov, and Igor Larionov were able to defect from their homeland and transform the Detroit Red Wings into perennial contenders and back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: A scary night for leads in the NHL

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Three Stars

1. Austin Watson, Nashville Predators

Watson’s team didn’t get the win, but when he looks back on this Halloween, he’ll probably have fond memories.

For one thing, the Predators announced Watson’s three-year, $4.5 million extension during Thursday’s game. Watson responded with a four-point night, scoring two goals and two assists. His two helpers were the only assists on Calle Jarnkrok‘s consecutive shorthanded goals.

This outburst ended an eight-game pointless streak for Watson, which had to be a relief, even if he’s the type of gritty player whose main focus is to hit the opposition, rather than for his pucks to hit the net. Jarnkrok’s two shorthanded goals certainly put him in the conversation for a three stars nod, too.

2. Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames

While the main parts of what is normally the Flames’ top line in non-semi-crisis mode (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm) spearheaded Calgary’s early push back from a 4-1 deficit, Tkachuk scored the goals that helped the Flames complete an unlikely comeback.

Tkachuk scored the 5-5 tally that sent the game to overtime, and he did it with just 39 seconds remaining in the third period.

His second goal came with less than two seconds remaining in that overtime frame, and considering the circumstances, it’s almost audacious that Tkachuk could pull off such a fancy between-the-legs move. Tkachuk ended Thursday with two goals and one assist, while adding three hits and a blocked shot.

3. Max Domi, Montreal Canadiens

Much like the Flames, the Canadiens found themselves down more than one goal, in the third period, on the road.

In Montreal’s case, the Golden Knights began the third period with two goals to transform a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 Vegas lead. Tomas Tatar got some revenge on his former team to score one goal, Brendan Gallagher sent it to OT with a bit less than two minutes remaining in the third, and Domi only needed 26 seconds to put the finishing touches on the OT-winner.

Domi also had an assist early in the game, so he had two points overall. Pretty impressive stuff from a Canadiens team closing out a back-to-back. Hot take: Domi will cost a lot more than his expiring $3.15M AAV after this season.

The overtime game-winners

On a spookily unusually quiet Thursday night (don’t hockey on a tummy full of treats), there were only two games, and both went to overtime. So why not expand the highlights of the night to both?

That said, the Tkachuk OT winner would take that spot if there was only one:

But, hey, Domi’s OT goal counts the same in the grand scheme of things:

Factoids

  • Max Pacioretty scored the 500th point of his NHL career on an assist, and he did it against his former team in Montreal. He didn’t get the last laugh, however.
  • Johnny Gaudreau reached his 400th career point with two assists, and only needed 409 games to get to that milestone. My expert math skills make me aware that he’s pretty close to a point-per-game.
  • Actually, he wasn’t alone in Flames milestones:

  • Via NHL PR, this is only the seventh time the Flames have faced a third-period deficit of three goals or more and won that game in any fashion.
  • Also via NHL PR, Calle Jarnkrok is the second Predators player to score two SHG in one game. The other was Scott Nichol. Remarkably, both did so in the same period, too.
  • Based off of Sportsnet’s earlier tweet, it looks like the Flames improved their Halloween record to 10-2-0. Save those boos for November, Calgary fans?

Scores

CGY 6 – NSH 5 (OT)
MTL 5 – VGK 4 (OT)

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: On Josi’s contract; Kings’ contracts and Quick

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Why Roman Josi’s eight-year extension will be like a fine wine and get better with age. [A to Z Sports Nashville]

Bobby Ryan, unlike Roberto Luongo back in the day, doesn’t think his contract “sucks”: “I think my contract is OK. It works for me. Everybody’s got agents. They did their job. You can laugh about it all you want. Everything gets magnified because of it and I understand that. And have I lived up to it? At portions of the contract, yes. At portions of the contract, absolutely not. And I understand what comes with that.” [Ottawa Citizen]

• How do the large contracts for Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar fit into the Kings’ rebuild? [TSN]

• Can Jonathan Quick fix the issues he’s dealing with? [ESPN]

• With Vladimir Tarasenko out five months, the Blues are better off avoiding making a trade to fill that hole in the lineup. [Bleedin’ Blue]

• How the trade to the Canadiens reignited Max Domi’s passion for hockey. [Sportsnet]

• Dainius Zubrus on how hockey in Lithuania is improving. [IIHF]

• The Penguins’ top line of Dominik Simon, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel is working. [Pensburgh]

• A good read about Crosby surprising a young fan from Ireland who battles Duchenne muscular dystrophy. [Penguins]

• Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque talks Bruins-Rangers, his biggest NHL regret and more. [Sporting News]

Kevin Shattenkirk’s start with the Lightning shows poor asset management by the Rangers. [Blueshirt Banter]

• On offensive defensemen and killing penalties. [RotoWorld]

• How Ken Holland landed in a good situation with the Oilers. [Freep]

• Looking back at how Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury began their careers, Carter Hart’s early struggles are nothing to worry about. [The Hockey News]

• It’s getting late early for the Sharks. [NBC Sports Bay Area]

• How the NHL and its corporate partners work together to pull off big events like the annual outdoor games. [Forbes]

• The goaltending issue is getting better for the Devils, but it will remain a problem. [All About the Jersey]

• Finally, the trade was one for one:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.