Despite managing to sneak a win last game in overtime versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, the very injury-plagued Montreal Canadiens face probably their biggest test of the season, as they face off against their bitter rival, the Boston Bruins, Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
Tale of the Tape
|44.6% (26th)||Scoring-chances-for %||54.7% (4th)|
|2.57 (29th)||Goals per game||3.80 (1st)|
|3.64 (28th)||Goals against per game||2.02 (1st)|
|15.0% (31st)||PP%||27.0% (3rd)|
|74.0% (26th)||PK%||87.1% (1st)|
|0-3-1||21-22 H2H Record||4-0-0|
Upon receiving the news about Cole Caufield being sidelined for the rest of the season with a right shoulder injury that required surgery, the Canadiens were, needless to say, at a loss for words. Many players and fans alike were shocked. The 22-year-old Hobey Baker Award-winner had been turning heads for Montreal this season, establishing a career-high 26 goals through his first 46 games. Although the team as a whole wasn’t necessarily succeeding in this rebuild year, Caufield was someone who brought his A-game every night, and made fans jump out of their seats with his electrifying performances, night after night.
He joins Jake Evans, Juraj Slafkovský, Brendan Gallagher, Kaiden Guhle, and others on an extensive list of players in the infirmary.
This has had the benefit of allowing the promotion of forwards Rem Pitlick and Rafael Harvey-Pinard from the Laval Rocket. Both went on to be instrumental in the overtime victory. Harvey-Pinard potted his second career goal past Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov to tie the game at two-apiece. Then Pitlick, who has bounced back and forth between Montreal and Laval all season long, got to play the hero as his second goal in as many games proved to be the game-winner just over two minutes into the extra frame.
Although Toronto has been rather successful this season, no team has compared to the big, bad, Boston Bruins. Their record of 37-5-4 (78 points) is leading the league by a large margin, and they look to be frontrunners for the President’s Trophy. Their next closest opponent is the Carolina Hurricanes, at 66 points.
They come into Montreal’s barn having won their last five in a row, outscoring the opposition by a 21-5 margin. The Bruins are currently atop the leaderboard in nearly every category, sitting first in both goals for (3.80) and against (2.02) and are poised to hit record numbers.
Goaltender Linus Ullmark, a sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres back in 2012, is right now sitting at a record of 25-2-1 through his first 29 games this season. Ullmark’s career-high in wins set last season in Boston at 26, but he played 11 more games. The 29-year-old Swede set an NHL record for the quickest 25 wins to start a season. His three losses came on November 5 (2-1 versus Toronto), December 15 (2-1 in overtime versus Los Angeles) and January 12 (3-0 versus Seattle). It appears like the words “Vezina” and “Ullmark” are going together nicely this season, barring a major upset.
There is no stopping a Bruins’ top line that has been dominant over the past few seasons. Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and former enemy number one in the NHL, Brad Marchand, have collectively terrorized opponents all season long. Pastrnak is leading the way with 36 goals and 65 points, good enough for fourth place in league scoring. Marchand has 15 goals and 44 points, and Bergeron, the five-time Selke-winner for league’s best defensive forward, has 17 goals and 37 points.
David Krejci, who played the entire 2021-22 season in his native Czech Republic, has returned to Boston with a vengeance. The 36-year-old just played career NHL game number 1000 last week, and is currently fourth in scoring with 11 goals and 37 points, tied with Bergeron.
Montreal really didn’t fare well against Boston last season, dropping all four games and being outscored 18-8. Three of the games saw Boston score five goals and easily manhandle Montreal’s defence core, which only got younger this season.
Leading the way for the offence for Boston last season was Marchand, who notched five goals and three assists in the series, including a hat trick on January 12, 2022. The leading scorer for Montreal will likely surprise you: Michael Pezzetta, who notched two goals and one assist.
It will have to be an excellent error-free 60-minute game for Montreal to take this game Tuesday, but if you’ve been watching the team lately, you know they’re been sneaky and might be able to pull one unbelievable trick from their sleeve. The magic happens tonight at the rink.
Jays Sign Chad Green
Here I thought the Jays were done signing people this winter, but they have picked up right-handed reliever Chad Green. He’s signed a two-year $8.5 million contract, with options for two more years.
Or it may be more complicated than that:
Source confirms: Free-agent reliever Chad Green to Blue Jays on 2-year, $8.5M deal. Second year is conditional player option that Green can exercise if Jays decline 3-year club option. If both decline, Jays get 2-year club option at higher AAV. First: @MarinoMLB, @ShiDavidi.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 31, 2023
Green had Tommy John surgery back in May of last year. Apparently, he has already passed his physical.
The options give the Jays some fallback in case he doesn’t come back from TJ being the same pitcher. But if he returns the same pitcher, we have him for the next four seasons.
Green turns 32 in May. He’s been a Yankee for seven seasons. He has a 3.17 in 272 games. In 2021 he had a 3.12 ER in 67 games and a 31.4% strikeout rate.
Welcome to the Jays, Chad.
Broncos trade for former Saints HC Payton
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos have agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Saints that will make Sean Payton their head coach, a person with knowledge of the accord said Tuesday.
The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the teams hadn’t announced the agreement, said the Broncos would send their first-round pick, No. 29 overall, in this year’s draft to the Saints along with a future second-rounder. Denver also will receive a third-round pick in the trade.
Payton remained under contract with New Orleans after stepping down from the Saints last year and working in broadcasting this season.
Payton, 59, went 152-89 in 15 seasons with the Saints and 9-8 in the playoffs. He led New Orleans to a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl following the 2009 season. He stepped away last year when quarterback Drew Brees retired.
The Broncos, who went 5-12 in 2022 and extended their playoff drought to seven years, fired rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett on Dec. 26 after he went 4-11. Interim coach Jerry Rosburg went 1-1.
Payton’s top task will be to get quarterback Russell Wilson back to his winning ways after the 11-year pro had his worst statistical season following his blockbuster trade from Seattle for four premium draft picks and three players.
The Seahawks reached the playoffs under QB Geno Smith in their first year without Wilson, and now they own the Broncos’ No. 5 overall selection in the draft in April.
The Broncos got back into the first round by trading pass rusher Bradley Chubb at midseason to the Miami Dolphins, who sent the Broncos a first-rounder originally owned by the San Francisco 49ers.
That selection, the 29th overall pick, now belongs to the Saints.
Payton was the headliner during this year’s cycle of head coach openings. Just five teams were searching for coaches: the Broncos, Texans, Panthers, Colts and Cardinals.
The Broncos conducted an extensive search, beginning with a virtual visit with Jim Harbaugh, who decided to stay at the University of Michigan. Also considered were Dan Quinn, DeMeco Ryans, Raheem Morris, Ejiro Evero, Jim Caldwell and David Shaw. The Texans hired Ryans on Tuesday.
NFL rules didn’t allow the Broncos to speak with Payton until Jan. 17, more than three weeks after they’d fired Hackett.
Team owner and CEO Greg Penner led the search with assistance from limited partner Condoleezza Rice and general manager George Paton.
Paton led last year’s search and landed on Hackett, one of several decisions that backfired on him in 2022 as Hackett became just the fifth head coach in NFL history not to survive his first season.
Others were the $70 million contract he gave to free agent Randy Gregory, who played in six games and recorded a pair of sacks, and the $245 million contract extension he gave to Wilson before the opener.
Wilson threw a career-low 16 touchdown passes and was sacked a league-leading and career-high 55 times in 15 games for Denver. He has vowed to do everything he can to bounce back in 2023.
Wilson played well for two weeks under Rosburg, giving the team hope that his poor performances last season were an aberration and that maybe his skill set was just a bad fit in Hackett’s offense.
Penner, his wife, Carrie Walton-Penner, and her father, Rob Walton, purchased the Broncos last summer for $4.65 billion, a global record for a professional sports franchise. But the team turned out to be more of a fixer-upper than they expected.
“When we purchased this great franchise in August, this is not the season we were expecting,” Penner said after firing Hackett. “I want to personally apologize to our fans and all of Broncos country. We know that we need to be better and we will.”
Leafs may have lucked out with timing of Auston Matthews and Matt Murray injuries
Not that it is ever good to have key players injured, but the Maple Leafs may have caught a break with Auston Matthews and Matt Murray.
With the NHL’s all-star weekend just ahead, both will have more time to nurse what ails them while also possibly missing less action.
Matthews suffered a knee sprain in an overtime victory against the New York Rangers on Jan. 25 and the team’s star centre is expected to be sidelined at least three weeks. It will cause him to miss Saturday’s all-star spectacle in Sunrise, Fla.
Murray, who had already surrendered the starting job in Toronto’s net to Ilya Samsonov, is now plagued by an ankle affliction and it is anybody’s guess when he will return.
The 28-year-old, whose acquisition was seen as risky owing to his history of injuries, has already missed more than a month with an adductor strain. He has not played 40 games in a season since 2018-19.
“There’s something there that’s going to require time for sure,” Sheldon Keefe, the Maple Leafs’ head coach, said. “We won’t quite know, really, until we come back from the break.”
Toronto has a contest against Boston at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday before its eight-day recess begins. Its next game after that will be at Columbus on Feb. 10.
Despite a lengthy list of injuries, the Maple Leafs have done well over the first two-thirds of the season. They are 31-12-8, second in the NHL’s Atlantic Division and a shoe-in to reach the playoffs even if 11 points behind the Bruins.
Boston is an almost incomprehensible 38-7-5 but arrives in town with three consecutive losses. A win will boost the Maple Leafs’ faint hopes of catching up.
“You want to go into the break feeling good,” Keefe said Monday after a team meeting and an optional workout for players at the Ford Performance Centre. “We expect a tough game for sure.
“Our job is to keep pace and apply pressure a little more, just like the teams behind us are trying to do to us. It is a great way to go into the all-star break. There is a lot of excitement.”
After an uninspired effort in a loss to Ottawa on Friday, Toronto rebounded to dismantle the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Sunday.
John Tavares recorded two assists in the 1,000th game of his NHL career, Morgan Rielly scored for the first time this campaign and Samsonov recorded 23 saves as he ran his record on home ice to 15-1-1.
“We played today more for John,” Samsonov said after improving his record to 17-5-2 overall. He did not realize Tavares was about to reach a milestone until a pre-game ceremony.
“One thousand games,” Samonov said, pausing, “That’s amazing.”
Rielly, who is respected as an offensively skilled defenceman, had gone without a goal in 35 previous games this season. In the best year of his career, he had 20 goals.
“Mostly, I just feel relief,” Rielly said. “We wanted to respond after a bad game against Ottawa. We weren’t very proud of ourselves when we went home from here on Friday.”
Joseph Woll, who is 12-1 with a .928 save percentage for the Toronto Marlies, has been called up from the American Hockey League as Samsonov’s backup.
With any luck at all, Woll will not be pressed to play thanks to the upcoming prolonged break.
But first the Bruins come to town.
“Every game against Boston is special,” Alexander Kerfoot, the Maple Leafs’ forward, said.
William Nylander had an assist on Sunday and on Monday was named the league’s second star of the week. He leads Toronto with 28 goals and is tied with Mitch Marner for the team lead with 59 points.
“We are just trying to carve our way back to Boston,” Nylander said. “We have to keeping winning games and see what happens.
“The Bruins are on an incredible pace and will be hard to catch but we are going to try our best to do that.”
David Saint-Jacques – The Canadian Encyclopedia
Kevin Carmichael: High interest rates bringing balance after years of housing overspending – Yahoo Canada Finance
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