BROSSARD, Que. — This can’t be the money-out scenario Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was hoping for and, as of this moment, it isn’t necessarily the one he’s getting.
But with Brendan Gallagher sidelined indefinitely with a fractured right thumb, and with five weeks and change remaining in the NHL’s regular season, it’s possible he won’t return prior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And if it becomes definite he won’t return — Gallagher still needs to consult with doctors before a recovery timeline can be determined — he could be placed on the long-term injured reserve list, which would mean the Canadiens would be able to exceed the salary cap and add a player (or players) making as much as his $3.75-million hit.
There’s no doubt Bergevin would rather have Gallagher. As would the rest of the Canadiens.
“He’s the engine. He really is,” said Montreal goaltender Jake Allen on Tuesday. “Even when I wasn’t here and part of this organization, you knew from afar this guy was the engine of the team. He’s the bulldog out there. You know what you’re getting from Gally every game. He’s going to be in the hard areas, he’s going to do the things that you need to do and pay the price to win.”
But if you can’t have Gallagher, having the money to do some shopping prior to the April 12 trade deadline could help.
For now, the 29-year-old winger hasn’t been designated to LTIR. It’s possible he won’t be if there’s even a fraction of a chance he’ll be back before May 11, when the Canadiens are scheduled to play their final game of the season.
But if it does come to be that Gallagher’s recovery will take at least that long, it gives Bergevin some of the flexibility he didn’t think he was going to have prior to the deadline — and not just financial flexibility, but also roster flexibility. Because even if it’s still possible he’d move someone off the team to add someone from another, he might be able to get away with not doing that.
Bergevin has said for weeks that he really likes his team, and both he and Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme have talked about the need to use everyone down the stretch. With 21 games to play over 34 nights before the grind of the playoffs gets underway, being able to add to the roster without subtracting from it is a serious advantage. It’s an advantage that only get bigger once the playoffs begin and as they continue.
At worst, the cap flexibility would be a consolation for not having Gallagher for a short while.
Carey Price day to day with a lower-body injury
When Price extended himself and appeared to strain his right leg in the second period of Monday’s game, it was obvious he wasn’t at 100 per cent.
There was no doubt about it as the game wore on and Price continued to limp around his crease.
With Ducharme confirming Tuesday the goaltender was suffering from a minor injury that’s “been carrying on for a little bit of time,” you had to wonder what the Canadiens were thinking allowing him to continue to play through it.
When Ducharme was asked that by one reporter, he responded, “Because the info we have is that it’s not something that’s dangerous for his season or his career.”
Still, Price has a long injury history, accompanied by a long history of deciding to play through injuries when he shouldn’t. To allow him to continue to do that and think it won’t possibly affect his career doesn’t seem like a cautious approach, or a smart one, with the 33-year-old in Year 3 of an eight-year, $84-million deal.
We understand Price is the franchise player and that the Canadiens feel they need him to play in order to have their best chance of winning. We also acknowledge that his pride and his competitiveness are reasons he’s as valued as he is.
But the Canadiens traded for Allen to give Price all the rest he needs so he could be at his very best when it matters most, and it seems most logical to stay firm in that plan with Price nursing an injury.
The precaution they’re taking in leaving Price at home for Wednesday’s game in Toronto to, as Ducharme said, “make sure he can take care of it and come back at 100 per cent,” should’ve been taken when he initially got injured. It should probably be taken at least throughout the rest of this week, regardless of how rest and treatment leave Price feeling.
After Wednesday’s game against the Maple Leafs, the Winnipeg Jets play the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Thursday and Saturday. Ducharme said it is possible Allen plays both Wednesday and Thursday, and that would be a better plan than turning to Price at less than 100 per cent.
And if the coach needs to depend on Charlie Lindgren or Cayden Primeau for Thursday or Saturday, so as not to overtax Allen, that also beats putting Price in and allowing him to continue playing with a lingering injury.
Chasing down Maple Leafs a tall task
Wednesday’s game will be the first of five remaining between Montreal and Toronto, with the Canadiens having gone 1-2-1 in the first four.
They enter the game with four games in hand, but 12 points back in the standings. Allen, who will likely face Toronto backup Jack Campbell — winner of all nine of his starts this season — knows what kind of challenge he and his teammates are facing.
“It’s a huge test against the No. 1 team in the division,” he said. “Obviously our biggest rival, and they just have a really good hockey team. So, I think it’s a chance to set our bar where we want to be, and that’s where they are right now. It’s a good measuring stick, it’s a good opportunity for us to go out there and compete hard, play hard and continue to build here and have some fun doing it.”
Through 12 starts, Allen is 5-3-4 and has a .922 save percentage. He’ll have to be at his best to get the better of Campbell, who’s got a .944 save percentage.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi to right wing, Joel Armia on the mend
With Gallagher down, Kotkaniemi will take his spot next to Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar to start Wednesday’s game.
It’s a position the centre feels comfortable in, given that he played right wing for a considerable portion of his last season in Finland before debuting with the Canadiens in 2018.
It’s easy to look at the downside of this decision — of moving a natural and developing centreman out of position temporarily — but the upside of it is Kotkaniemi’s getting the opportunity to play with two players who have combined for 16 points in their last seven games.
“It’s always an honour to play with them,” the 20-year-old said. “They’re great players. It couldn’t be better than to have a chance to show what I’ve got with those types of players. They’re both really good with the puck, so I probably need to fill Gally’s dirty-area, five-foot role a little bit, and I’ll just try to help Phil and Tuna as much as I can.”
Kotkaniemi knows he can’t be Gallagher, and Ducharme isn’t expecting him to be.
“I just want him to be KK,” the coach said. “He’s at his best when he’s dynamic, when he skates, when he carries the puck and when he’s physical and uses his shot and his talent.”
Chances are Kotkaniemi will only be doing it from the wing short term.
Armia, who was placed in COVID-19 protocol two weeks ago after testing positive for a variant of the virus, emerged from quarantine Tuesday and could be back before long.
“There’s a way to get him back in shape before he gets on the ice,” said Ducharme. “When you can’t even do a pushup for two weeks, you’ve got work to do to get back into an NHL game. There’s a plan for him to get back into shape, but he’s back in the team’s entourage.”
Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now
The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.
The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 12, 2021
The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.
After acquiring Hall @ 50% & Lazar for Bjork, the #NHLBruins added $772K Cap Hit for remainder of year.
They have $24K of Projected Cap Space; $100K Annual Cap Hit that can be added, w/ 24 Active on Roster. Sending players to taxi would create more room.https://t.co/2o0hsHzUIy https://t.co/rXiRKKk3lt pic.twitter.com/I7ZRUSmSQp
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) April 12, 2021
The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.
The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.
Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.
The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.
Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.
Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca
It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.
“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.
It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.
But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.
It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.
“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”
Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.
Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.
“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”
But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.
When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.
Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.
“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.
Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?
It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.
“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.
“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”
It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.
But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.
You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.
What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.
“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?
“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”
Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.
Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics
(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.
After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.
For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.
The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.
Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.
“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”
The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.
Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)
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