New Coach, Same Result, and the Return of Carey Price

Many fans and media were filled with optimism yesterday as Claude Julien made his Canadiens re-debut. Most of that enthusiasm was for not as the Habs were completely flat and were handled 3-1 by the Winnipeg Jets. Many things went wrong, as Weber played sub-par but was still overshadowed by the entire left-side defenders being a complete disaster, none as bad as Alexei Emelin on the Jets second goal of the contest. On the offensive side of the puck, the Galchenyuk reunion didn’t last long. Despite creating offensively, their lacklustre play away from the puck prompted Julien to take Galchenyuk off of that line leaving many wondering if Galchenyuk won’t be shifted to the wing permanently. To me, there were two pieces of good news in the game versus the Jets. The first is that Canadiens seemed far more interested than before their bye week. The first period was evenly played and we saw some good plays, but it was clear that the break caught up to them as the game moved along. The second, and far more important good news, was the play of Carey Price who repeatedly saved the bacon of Emelin, Beaulieu and Nesterov throughout the game. As long as Price plays at this level, the rest should eventually fall back into place and the Habs should be in a good position to fight for the division until the end of the season.

 

Observations

1. I hope that Julien comes to the same conclusion I have about the forward lines. I think taking Galchenyuk away from Radulov is the wrong move. Leave them together and stick Byron or Lehkonen back on that line. Or move Galchenyuk on the wing with defensively-minded Plekanec as the center. Then you can play Pacioretty with Danault. The third on that line can be anyone of Byron, Lehkonen or Gallagher.

2. If Plekanec is not being used as a defensive buffer on an otherwise ultra-offensive line, then Julien has to realize that he’s been an offensive black-hole that absolutely cannot be seeing that much ice time when the team is playing from behind. In that same thought process, the Byron hot-streak is over, time for him to return to the fourth line and leave Flynn in the press box. Get one of McCarron, Hudon or Andrighetto that productive time on the ice.

3. Emelin needs to be taken away from Weber. Unfortunately, no one else can play that role. This is why I’ve recently been adamant about the fact that a LHD is a bigger need for this team than a forward.

4. Everything I’ve said so far can be attributed to one same factor in my mind; Claude Julien needs time to evaluate what he has in his dressing room. This is why we saw the veterans all get the benefit of the doubt as Julien managed his first game.

5. Expect Pateryn to get a real chance soon. If Pateryn can’t take advantage of his chance now, well I’ll have to swallow my pride and admit that I was wrong about him. Until that happens, I still think he’s better than Nesterov.

Canadiens Replace Therrien with Julien… Again

*This note was written before the game though some changes have been made to what was written.

Full credit belongs to Michel Therrien as he lasted two full seasons longer behind the Habs bench than I predicted. In all honesty, he last one more season as it was clear that he had lost his ability to hold his players accountable this season, but Bergevin delayed the inevitable for as long as possible. In steps Claude Julien. I, personally, would have rather seen Gerard Gallant get hired, but with the media and all, this move is still a step in the right direction. While I truly expected Julien to reset everything and give his veterans the first kick at the can, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the practice lines and the addition of Pateryn over Nesterov. **Nesterov played the game and Julien probably wishes he’d stuck with Pateryn here as Nesterov was a mess**.  In Julien, the Habs get a coach who is familiar with the environment and familiar with the better players on the team through Team Canada experiences. I have to admit that I’m disagreeing with the traditional media who see this as good news for players like Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu. Historically, Julien has had very little patience with high-skilled players not willing to fall in line with the team concept. The treatment of Tyler Seguin in Boston rapidly comes in mind to defend my argument. One of the main points of concern with this hire is that it is ultimately a lack of scoring that has cost Therrien his job, and he’s been replaced with a better, yet even more defensive head coach.

Ultimately, this is the latest in a series of moves by Bergevin that indicated a win-now mentality, one that should be celebrated in Montreal… if it works, but really puts Bergevin in a pressure situation to deliver more good in the few weeks ahead as this team is still a scoring forward and top pairing LHD away from being threats in the East.

Habs next game is on Tuesday against the New York Rangers in MSG. Puck drop is at 7pm. How many changes will occur between now and then, stay tuned.

Thanks for reading,

Kevin Léveillé

Follow me on Twitter: @Kev1586