WATCH LIVE: Bruins host Canadiens on NBCSN

Leave a comment

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday night’s matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This will be the 746th regular season game between the Canadiens and Bruins. Montreal has won 361 times to Boston’s 281, while there have been 103 ties. These two teams have played more than any other teams in the NHL.

Both teams enter Monday’s matchup playing well. The Bruins have won six of their last seven games, including a 3-2 win at Toronto on Saturday night. Trailing 2-1, Boston scored two straight goals near the end of the secnd period and held off the Maple Leafs in the third to secure the win. The Canadiens kicked off a run of three games in four days on Saturday night with a 3-0 win vs the Avalanche. Carey Price stopped 28 shots to earn his third shutout of the season. It was just the secnd time Colorado has been shut out all season (first time since Oct.).

One of the biggest reasons for the Bruins’ recent success has been the play of goalie Tuukka Rask, who has emerged as the clear top choice between the pipes. Rask is 5-0-0, with a 1.38 goals against average, .955 save percentage and a shutout in his last five starts. His next win will tie him with Tiny Thompson for most wins by a goalie in franchise history.

The Canadiens power play continued to struggle in the 3-0 win vs. the Avalanche. Montreal went 0-for-3 with the man advantage to bring their total to 1-for-20 in the last seven games. They rank last in the NHL in power play percentage, converting on just 12.5 percent of their chances. Head coach Claude Julien also switched up the power-play units hoping to find a solution for the team’s struggles.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins
Where: TD Garden
When: Monday, Jan. 14, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Canadiens-Bruins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

CANADIENS
Jonathan DrouinPhilip DanaultBrendan Gallagher
Artturi LehkonenMax DomiJoel Armia
Tomas TatarJesperi KotkaniemiPaul Byron
Kenny AgostinoMichael ChaputNicolas Deslauriers

Victor MeteShea Weber
Mike ReillyJeff Petry
Brett KulakJordie Benn

Starting goalie: Carey Price

BRUINS
Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciDavid Backes
Sean KuralyNoel AcciariChris Wagner
Danton HeinenJakob Forsbacka KarlssonRyan Donato

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt GrzelcykKevan Miller

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

John Forslund (play-by-play), AJ Mleczko (analyst) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from TD Garden in Boston, Mass.

NHL on NBCSN: Bergevin’s patient approach is right one for Canadiens

1 Comment

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday night’s matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Canadiens were bad last year. Really bad. Most owners would’ve parted ways with everyone in the front office, but team president Geoff Molson decided to stick with his general manager, Marc Bergevin. As you’d imagine, expectations weren’t very high coming into this year. Not only have the Habs exceeded those expectations, they’ve managed to keep themselves in the playoff mix, and a lot of that is because of the work Bergevin put in over the summer.

Trading Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi, shipping Max Pacioretty to Vegas for a package that included Tomas Tatar (help today), Nick Suzuki (help tomorrow) and a draft pick, and drafting Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall in June have all been wins for Bergevin.

Domi and Kotkaniemi make up two of Montreal’s top three centermen and Tatar is tied for second on the team in goals.

After spending a couple of weeks in British Columbia at the IIHF World Junior Championship, Bergevin met the media back at the Bell Center last week. Not only did he touch on the performance of some of his top prospects at the tournament, he also shed some more light on the current state of his team.

Even though the Habs are pushing for a playoff spot, it’s clear that he won’t be making any trades that involve his young prospects. No giving up draft picks for rentals, either.

“I’m always going to be listening to options, but the goal is to build for the future. Just to give up assets for the short-term, I’m not going to do it. It would have to be very appealing,” said Bergevin. “If there are young players available, assets have to go. I get that. But, I don’t think I’ll be in the rental business.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

“Based on what I saw in Vancouver, the future of the Canadiens is very bright. I’m not going to start mortgaging the future. I know what’s coming with the World Juniors, who they’re going to be asking for, and I’m not moving these kids. It’s going to be a short conversation, I think… If we drafted these kids, it’s because we believe they have some potential. That came to the forefront in Vancouver with our prospects that really stepped up their games.”

What he’s saying is, Suzuki, Ryan Poehling, Josh Brook, Jesse Ylonen, Alexander Romanov, Cayden Primeau, Cale Fleury and a few others aren’t going anywhere if the return is only a short-term gain. But as Bergevin pointed out, if there’s a hockey trade to be made, he won’t shy away from pulling the trigger if it means his team is better for it in the long run.

Bergevin’s slow and steady approach is the right one. Even though his team has a chance to get into the postseason, there are too many big holes on the roster to make them a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. They still need help down the middle and they’re lacking a left-shooting defenseman that can play big minutes on the top pairing with Shea Weber.

Those aren’t pieces that become available too often, so it’s unlikely that Bergevin will be able to fill those holes with an in-season trade or two. So, although getting into the playoffs with a healthy Weber and Carey Price would be a bonus, it shouldn’t affect the way the GM views his team right now.

Patience is key. Canadiens fans should appreciate that their front office realizes that.

John Forslund (play-by-play), AJ Mleczko (analyst) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from TD Garden in Boston, Mass.

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.

Will Domi have to answer for preseason sucker punch on Ekblad?

4 Comments

The preseason feels like it was ages ago, but don’t be surprised if the Florida Panthers haven’t completely forgotten about it. On Friday night, the Panthers and Montreal Canadiens will go head-to-head for the first time since Max Domi split Aaron Ekblad open with a sucker punch in September. Consider this matter far from closed.

Even though Ekblad and head coach Bob Boughner insist that the incident is ancient history, it would be more shocking if Domi didn’t have to answer than if he did. That’s just hockey culture. People don’t forget until they drop the gloves. Then everyone can move on.

Domi ended up being suspended for five preseason games, which is kind of a joke considering he wouldn’t have played in every one of those exhibition tilts anyway. And if your argument was that those games were important because he needed to build chemistry with his new teammates, just look at what he’s been able to do right out of the gate (He leads the Habs in points with 35 in 37 games).

Not only was Ekblad cut on the play, he also was forced to go through concussion protocol, which he passed. The Panthers defender has had a chance to cool off, but it’s important to remember what he said the following day:

“I think he’s stupid for doing it,” Ekblad said, per The Athletic. “Scores will be settled at a later date.”

Well, that later date is today!

So, who goes after Domi? Will Ekblad do the dirty work himself, or will someone like Micheal Haley step up for his teammate. Keep in mind that Derek MacKenzie is on injured reserve right now, so Haley would be the favorite at this point.

Putting this Domi-Ekblad storyline aside for a second…

This is as big as a game in December can get for these two teams. The Canadiens are currently sitting in the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 43 points, while the Panthers are seven points back with two games in hand. Thankfully for Florida, they won’t have to deal with Carey Price, as he’s currently out with a lower-body injury.

That means they’ll get to face Antti Niemi instead. The former Panther has a 4-3-1 record with a 4.14 goals-against-average and a .876 save percentage this season. He gave up seven goals on 23 shots against Minnesota in his last outing.

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.

Domi’s been electric since trade, but don’t give up on Galchenyuk

2 Comments

The Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes are set to play at Gila River Arena on Thursday, making it only natural to rehash the still-fascinating Max DomiAlex Galchenyuk trade.

There’s no denying that the immediate returns have been drastically one-sided. While Galchenyuk’s been a mixture of injured and inconsistent (three goals and 11 points, limited to 23 games played), Domi’s defied all but the wildest expectations in scoring almost a point per game (33 in 35).

Considering the very different results for each player, his team, and the very different hockey markets they play in, you’d expect some over-the-top reactions.

Yet, even some of the warmer takes still acknowledge that the differences are probably exaggerated. While the headline for Eric Engels’ Sportsnet story is a bit much, maybe, in deeming Montreal “already clear-cut winners” of the trade (I’d personally go with “currently” instead of “already”), there’s a nod to the possibility that both players may meet closer to the middle in the future:

Yes, we’ve considered that Galchenyuk, who has 11 points in 23 games, suffered an injury in training camp that required a minor procedure and forced him to the sidelines until the eighth game of the season; that he produced eight points in his first nine games at centre; that it’s still early in his tenure with the Coyotes; and that Domi, who’s producing at an unprecedented rate in his first full year at centre in the NHL, could be in for a course correction.

That “course correction” is crucial to understanding the potential longer-term effects of this trade, or how things could look considerably different down the line.

Whenever you’re looking for red flags about a player being too good to be true, or way too cold to predict future contributions, you’ll often find answers in uncanny shooting percentages, and that’s true here.

It’s almost too perfect that Alex Galchenyuk’s 6.8 shooting percentage this season is so comparable to Domi’s from 2017-18, when he only connected on six percent of his SOG (and that was with four empty-netters). Remarkably, Galchenyuk’s 17.5 shooting percentage this season matches his combined shooting percentage from last season and 18-goal rookie effort from 2015-16, when he shot at 11.5 percent.

So, a healthier, luckier Galchenyuk will probably score more often than he is now. And Domi might cool off a bit, causing the two to meet somewhere close to the middle … which isn’t that far off from where they were upon the trade. As TSN’s synopsis notes, they both had .61 point-per-game averages before the swap, with Galchenyuk being more of a sniper while Domi was a more prolific playmaker.

The key, then, is not to smear either forward. Instead, it’s far more interesting to consider some of the takeaways, and to ponder some of the talking points that might get emphasized too often.

Time will tell

Pat Brisson serves as an agent for both players, giving him a unique – if sympathetic – perspective on both Galchenyuk and Domi. So it’s interesting to see Brisson deliver a “pump the brakes” message on the trade, as he told Craig Morgan of The Athletic (sub required).

“I usually look back later, not after 30-some games,” Brisson said. “I wait and see. So far Max is happy, but the whole team in Montreal is going way better than anyone expected. They have a lot more wins and a lot of players on that team seem to have found themselves and it has a domino effect …”

There’s some recent history that points to maybe not jumping to too many conclusions.

Shortly after the landmark Kyle TurrisMatt Duchene – Sam Girardi – Ottawa’s future hopes and dreams trade, many were burying Duchene and lavishing Turris with praise as the two went through cold and hot streaks respectively. With more time and games under their belts, it’s clear that Duchene is fantastic, Turris is effective, and those early impressions were knee-jerk reactions.

(Also: we probably won’t truly know the impact of that trade until we find out what kind of pick the Senators cough up to the Avalanche.)

Considering their polar opposite shooting luck, the way their teams are playing, and health concerns, things look dramatically different now, but Galchenyuk has a decent chance of catching up to Domi, at least once he gets healthy.

Center of attention

It seems like every big hockey market has a narrative or two that just won’t go away.

With the Pittsburgh Penguins, rumors of Phil Kessel trades loom like Michael Myers creepily staring off from a distance, waiting to make us roll our eyes. When it comes to Galchenyuk, talk of center vs. wing seems inescapable, even now that he’s in Arizona.

Much has been made about Galchenyuk at least briefly moving back to the wing, while Domi’s had success at center, with Jonathan Drouin over on his wing. That’s worth noting, but the obsessiveness sometimes loses the big picture: good players can make a difference from various positions on the ice.

If Galchenyuk can flourish with fewer responsibilities playing on wing, much like Claude Giroux has with the Flyers, then who really cares? Many believe that the flow of modern hockey already obscures centers/wings to more generic “F1”-type designations, so such talk can often get overstated.

Not every mention of Galchenyuk’s perceived inability to play center is meant as a slight, yet sometimes it seems like a coy way of making a blanket insult, without explicitly making them.

Details that might matter

For teams all around the NHL, there are some potential lessons to take from these situations.

The first is one that’s hammered often: it can be very dangerous to trade a player suffering from a low shooting percentage, as you might be guilty of selling low. (Looking at you, Oilers, with Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall.)

But the Coyotes and Canadiens might have been right in merely identifying that two players simply weren’t fitting in properly, and making a logical-enough lateral move, with things working out undeniably better for Montreal so far through close to half of 2018-19.

Arpon Basu made an interesting point for The Athletic (again, sub required): during his years in Arizona, Max Domi rarely had the same linemate, let alone the same two.

It’s plausible that hockey-mad Montreal fits Domi’s personality better (just ask his dad), while Galchenyuk may get back on track in part because Arizona’s more laid back. But, perhaps the Coyotes might want to put Galchenyuk in less situations of upheaval?

You also wonder if there’s something systemic that’s making skill players struggle to score a bit more in Arizona, while Claude Julien’s done masterful work in optimizing Montreal to be a faster, more attacking team that many expected. After all, the Coyotes’ 2.45 goals-per-game ranks second-worst in the NHL this season, so you can’t pin that all on Galchenyuk.

***

Interestingly, Coyotes GM John Chayka is making virtually the same “potential”-related comments about Galchenyuk finding his game now that Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin made about Domi when he was acquired. Bergevin was vindicated, and it’s possible that Chayka will be too, although the Coyotes’ overall outlook seems bleak with crucial goalie Antti Raanta out indefinitely.

As of today, Domi’s been a smash success in Montreal, while Galchenyuk’s a mixed bag for the Coyotes.

It’s plausible that we’ll feel the same way about the trade in several months, and maybe years, but it’s too early to be sure right now.

MORE: Your 2018-19 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.

How has Galchenyuk fit in with Coyotes?

Getty
5 Comments

Earlier this season we took a look at the way Max Domi was producing for the Montreal Canadiens, so it’s only natural that we take a deeper look at the player he was traded for — Alex Galchenyuk.

If we’re evaluating the trade right now, it’s clear that the Canadiens were the big winner. After all, Domi is up to 33 points in 34 games, while Galchenyuk has 11 points in 23 games. Thankfully for the ‘Yotes, there’s still time for 24-year-old to get back on track this season and beyond.

Adapting to new surroundings isn’t always easy. It’s even more difficult when it’s the first time a player has been traded. That’s the exact situation Galchenyuk was in this summer. He had spent the previous six seasons in Montreal before being moved to Arizona in mid-June. Also, he’s going from hockey-mad Montreal, where you can never get a moment away from the spotlight, to Arizona, where you can fly under the radar with a little more ease. That’s gotta be a shock in itself.

Missing the first four games of the regular season didn’t help make the transition any easier. Instead of being able to develop chemistry with new teammates, Galchenyuk was forced to sit and wait, which put him behind the eight-ball right away.

Whether it was Michel Therrien or Claude Julien, the Canadiens never really trusted Galchenyuk to play center. His ability to produce offense was never a concern, but his ability to read and react on the defensive side of the puck always was. When the Coyotes were able to land him in the summer, GM John Chayka made it clear that they believed he could play down the middle.

Galchenyuk got a few weeks to prove himself at center, but in the end the ‘Yotes decided that he was better suited for the wing, again. Have they completely closed the door on him at that position? Probably not. But if two organizations and three coaches don’t believe he’s capable of doing the heavy-lifting down the middle, he’s probably never going to be able to do it at a high level. But that’s okay. He can still be an effective winger in the NHL.

So let’s take a look at some of the numbers he’s put up thus far.

When Galchenyuk recovered from his lower-body injury, he managed to put up eight points in his first nine games. That’s solid enough. Unfortunately, his production has tailed off now, as he’s put up three assists in 14 games. During that stretch, he also missed three more contests because of a lower-body ailment.

His on-ice advanced numbers are just as underwhelming as his offensive totals. He has a CF% of 46.14, a FF % of 44.42 and his team controls 43.55 percent of the shots on goal when he’s on the ice. His team scores 37.5 percent of the goals scored when he’s on the ice and his high-danger CF% is at 35.9. All of the numbers mentioned here at career-lows. (Stats via Natural Stat Trick). Those advanced metrics are all below the Coyotes’ averages.

The numbers aren’t great, but it’s still really tough to be doom-and-gloom about Galchenyuk’s potential in the desert. He’s missed two separate stints because of injury, which you simply can’t ignore. He might not be providing Arizona with the immediate results Domi has given Montreal, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get himself on track before the end of the season.

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.