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Jack Todd: Habs' shakeup behind the bench pays off against Jets – Montreal Gazette

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Dominique Ducharme has fresh ideas, and he is going to give his talented youngsters a chance to show what they can do

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Ah. There’s nothing like a converted touchdown on a Saturday night in early March to dull the claws of your critics.

After a mad, mad, mad, mad stretch that saw the Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, assistant Kirk Muller and goalie coach Stéphane Waite (and a couple of minor stumbles out of the gate for new head coach Dominique Ducharme), the Habs got their groove back in that 7-1 win over a good Winnipeg Jets team.

Of course, the real reason they won was that they ditched the Jinx Blue jerseys in favour of Rockin’ Red — but there were also a few other minor details we noticed:

Start with Jesperi Kotkaniemi. If you want to know why Montreal drafted Kotkaniemi ahead of Brady Tkachuk, it was all right there.

In his first big move, Ducharme put Kotkaniemi between high-scoring Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson and it worked like a dream. Kotkaniemi, who once told Arpon Basu that he didn’t have a weak side when it came to taking faceoffs because “both sides are bad,” was good from both sides Saturday.

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Kotkaniemi won all six faceoffs in the first period and was an eye-popping 13 for 15 for the game.

The club’s much-maligned forwards came through to the point that only Corey Perry (who has been a blessing since he escaped the taxi squad) missed the score sheet. Carey Price, the much-maligned goaltender, appeared to have received three words of advice from new goalie coach Sean Burke: “Move your feet.”

Price moved his feet. He was square to the shooter. When he does that, it’s like trying to chuck a banana past King Kong. He’s too large to be scored on.

Then there was Brendan Gallagher. Every year they tell us Gallagher is getting too beaten up, that he can’t take this kind of punishment and keep producing, that the contract was too much.

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Then they play the games and there is Gallagher in his office, getting buffeted around like a raft in a gale, then you look up and Gallagher has 10 goals and it’s impossible to imagine this team without him.

All in all, Saturday’s game was a beautiful ending to a very rough stretch. It won’t mean much unless the Canadiens can sustain their momentum through another of those six-game road trips (beginning in Vancouver, where the Leafs’ juggernaut hit a speed bump), but you have to like the way Ducharme has it going.

It has to be a relief to Marc Bergevin, who took radical steps after the season’s quick start dissolved in a long stretch of fluffed saves, missed nets and a goalie controversy.

Bergevin could have handled Waite’s firing better, simply by waiting until the morning after. By canning him between periods, Bergevin made himself look like a man floundering around in the dark trying to find the light switch. It appears Bergevin did know what he was doing, but the timing was straight out of Pierre Gauthier’s Handy Guide on How Not to Do Things.

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Still, the Canadiens emerged from a tough stretch solidly in possession of a playoff spot, with a chance to move up and avoid Toronto in the first round. (Although the first round might be the time to catch the Leafs, while they’re still jittery and painfully aware of their long string of first-round playoff failures.)

I hate firings, but changes had to be made. Bergevin has assembled a stronger team than any we have seen since at least 2014 and he had every right to expect better results on the ice. When he didn’t see them, he moved swiftly and decisively, even if the timing could have been better.

He also hired the right coach. Ducharme communicates, he has fresh ideas, and he is going to give his talented youngsters a chance to show what they can do.

You can’t ask for more.

Canadiens’ Cole Caufield leads the team’s stretch during development camp at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on June 26, 2019.
Canadiens’ Cole Caufield leads the team’s stretch during development camp at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on June 26, 2019. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

Lies, rumours &&&& vicious innuendo:Cole Caufield is going to tear up the National Hockey League. You didn’t read it here first, but it’s true. That shot is so good, Caufield can make the highlight reels while ringing one off the post. You’re gonna love him, people. …

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We shrugged when we saw Tom Wilson’s hit on Brandon Carlo. Of course the refs ignored it and of course Player Safety would do nothing. But then they brought the hammer down on Wilson with a seven-game suspension. Richly deserved — but why this one when so many similar hits have brought nothing at all? The consistently inconsistent NHL. …

FIFA godfather Gianni Infantino’s claim for replay review is epic. VAR, says Infantino, “adds another layer of adrenalin” for fans waiting for the outcome of another botched decision. No, Gianni, all it does is waste time and infuriate fans.

Heroes: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry, Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Drouin, Phillip Danault, Olivier Renard, Artemi Panarin, &&&& last but not least, Walter Gretzky.

Zeros:Tom Wilson, the NHL Department of Player Safety, UFC, Dana White, VAR, Gianni Infantino, Kevin Gilmore, Justin Kingsley, Nikita Mazepin, Ron MacLean, David Samson &&&& last but not least, Jeffrey Loria.

Now and forever.

jacktodd46@yahoo.com

Twitter.com/jacktodd46

  1. Canadiens' Tyler Toffoli (73) celebrates with Josh Anderson (17) after scoring against the Winnipeg Jets during NHL action in Montreal on Saturday, March 6, 2021.

    Four-goal explosion in second period powers Canadiens 7-1 over Jets

  2. Canadiens prospect Cole Caufield scored two goals Saturday afternoon to lead the University of Wisconsin to a 2-1 win over the Michigan State Spartans in Big Ten action.

    Canadiens prospect Cole Caufield finishes NCAA regular season in style

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Rafael Nadal rallies from set down to advance in Barcelona

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Top seed Rafael Nadal rallied from a set back to beat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday in the second round at the Barcelona Open in Spain.

Nadal lost serve in the opening game of the match and wasn’t able to break Ivashka’s serve throughout the first set. He won just 70.6 percent of points on his first serve, was broken twice and had two double faults in an uncharacteristically poor showing on service in the opening set.

By the second set, he had righted his serve, winning 86.7 percent of points on his first serve in the second set and 83.3 percent in the third. He didn’t face a break point in either set.

In other action, No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 3 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 4 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 6 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and No. 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada were among those advancing.

No. 9 Fabio Fognini of Italy defaulted for verbal abuse. He was losing 6-0, 4-4 to Zapata Miralles of Spain when the line judge reported him for swearing after a foot fault. He had been warned earlier in the match

Serbia Open

Top seed and home-country favorite Novak Djokovic needed just 68 minutes to top South Korean Soon-woo Kwon 6-1, 6-3 and advance to the quarterfinals in Belgrade, Serbia.

Djokovic capitalized on five of his eight service break opportunities in the win. In the next round, he’ll meet fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, the eighth seed, who needed three sets to oust Arthur Rinderknech of France 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Also advancing was the No. 2 seed, Matteo Berrettini, who defeated fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-3. Fifth seed Filip Krajinovic beat Nikola Milojevic 6-1, 6-1 in an all-Serb match.

 

(Field Level Media)

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Ice hockey-Women’s world championships cancelled due to COVID-19

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(Reuters) -The women’s ice hockey world championships set to be played in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia have been cancelled because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Canada, Hockey Canada said on Wednesday.

The announcement came one day before the 10 teams were to arrive to begin their quarantine ahead of the May 6-16 tournament.

“This is very disappointing news to receive with just a few weeks until the tournament was to begin,” said International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel in a statement.

“We strongly believe that we had the adequate safety measures in place. In the end, we must accept the decision of the government.”

The IIHF and Hockey Canada were informed by the Nova Scotia provincial government on Wednesday that the 10-country tournament could not go ahead due to safety concerns associated with COVID-19.

Still the news came as a shock after Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer had 24 hours earlier given the event the thumbs- up.

“At five o’clock this morning we were full go and at 7:30 am we were not,” explained Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney. “That is the way the world is right now and there is only so much we can control.

“At the end of the day there is a bigger game than the one we play here and quite honestly it is about the safety of the general public.”

The cancellation was another blow for the women’s game that has endured a number of recent setbacks, including the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

It was also the second consecutive year the Nova Scotia world championships have been stopped by COVID-19.

“Definitely, a little bit of disbelief, a little shock, a lot of emotion,” said Canadian coach Gina Kingsbury, who pulled some players off the ice to deliver the bad news. “This is a group that has been through a lot this past year and two years so they are definitely familiar with disappointing news.”

Both the IIHF and Hockey Canada indicated they plan to play the world championships this year, possibly this summer, in Canada.

“Our intention, and that of the IIHF, is to reconnect with this event as a world championship in 2021 in Canada,” said Renney. “That’s our number one objective. We have every desire to hold this event in Canada.”

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Nick Foligno hopes to make Leafs debut Thursday vs. Jets

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Former Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is eyeing Thursday as his potential debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he said on an NHL.com podcast.

The Maple Leafs acquired the left wing on April 11 in a three-team trade with Columbus and the San Jose Sharks, with each team retaining a portion of Foligno’s salary so he can join the North Division leaders for their Stanley Cup pursuit. Toronto visits the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

Because he moved from the U.S. to Canada, Foligno was required to quarantine for seven days before joining his new team for practices and games, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.

“Seven days of just nothing, and then you jump right into it, it would be nice to probably have a practice, but I rather just that — let’s go,” Foligno said on “The Chirp with Darren Millard.” “I’m here to play for them and get this thing rolling, so I probably prefer just to jump right into it and get going.”

If the Leafs put Foligno in their lineup Thursday at Winnipeg, he’ll get to play against his former Columbus teammate, Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Foligno played eight-plus seasons for the Blue Jackets and his first five NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators. In 950 career games, he has tallied 203 goals and 279 assists.

The Maple Leafs sent their 2021 first-round pick and 2022 fourth-rounder to Columbus and their 2021 fourth-rounder to San Jose in order to add Foligno to their stacked group of forwards, which includes NHL goal-scoring leader Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner.

 

Foligno’s father, Mike Foligno, was an NHL veteran who played parts of four seasons for the Leafs

 

(Field Level Media)

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