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Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators – Game #16 Preview, Projected Lines & TV Info – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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Joe Thornton returns to the lineup tonight as the Toronto Maple Leafs look to bounce back from their first regulation loss in nine games in the first of a three-game series versus the Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. EST, TSN4/5).

Thornton will step back onto a line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, as head coach Sheldon Keefe alluded to seeing enough positive things — citing Thornton’s playmaking, presence down low, and ability to track defensively — to continue on with a line experiment that was disrupted by Thornton’s rib injury sustained against the Oilers in the fifth game of the season back on January 20.

The trickle-down effect of Thornton’s return is that the John Tavares – William Nylander line, still looking to hit its stride offensively at 5v5, will receive the boost of Zach Hyman joining the unit. The second winger slot on that line has been a bit of a rotation of primarily two players that are struggling offensively — Jimmy Vesey, Ilya Mikheyev — and we’ve seen in the past how effective Hyman-Tavares can be from its time as a dominant 5v5 line with Hyman next to Tavares-Marner. Especially given the opponent, this should be a good chance to get this group up and running again offensively as neither Tavares or Nylander has scored since the Vancouver series.

While this three-game series presents a good opportunity to get new lines rolling offensively — similar to the Vancouver series — the Senators should not go under-estimated by a Leafs team that has rarely had an easy night against them even as Ottawa has been in the basement of the league over the past few seasons. The season series sits 1-1, with the Senators putting five past the Leafs in the second game of the season before Toronto bounced back the next night with a 3-2 win. The Leafs are 5-4-0 against the Senators dating back to October 2018.

The Senators are coming off of a good performance in their recent win over Winnipeg, where they snatched the two points with under 10 seconds left in a 1-1 game. They’ve played Montreal tightly this season, with a 3-2 win and a 2-1 loss so far in the season series. They’ve been blown out a bunch this season, too, but when they’re on their game, they play the opposition physically and make sure everything is earned.


Game Day Quotes

DJ Smith on the Leafs:

They are a team that is ready to win now. They are the best team in the NHL record-wise. They have all kinds of offense. Their power play is a big-time unit. They are where we want to be going forward.

We have to play our game, though. 60 minutes defensively [in Winnipeg] — we have to play like that every night. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance to win.

Smith on how the Sens play when they have their A game:

We don’t give you much. We don’t give you odd-man rushes. We don’t take a lot of penalties. We can grind you offensively. That is where we have to be good. We have to be even or better on special teams, and we can’t give you freebies. When we are playing good, we make you earn everything you are going to get.

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge against the Senators:

We have played them twice early in the season. They were two of the most difficult games in terms of their structure and trying to get to the net. They were two of the hardest games we’ve played this season. This week, it is going to be no different.

In the Battle of Ontario, they play at their best. When you look at the style, I have been watching a lot of Ottawa’s games, and it is the way they play. They are going to make it hard on the opponent. They haven’t gotten the results. They haven’t gotten great luck with goaltending and scoring and things like that, but there are no easy shifts. These guys play hard. They play together as a team. They block shots and they’re physical on everything. They protect their net well and don’t beat themselves.

You saw it the other night with the win they got in Winnipeg. They’ve beaten Montreal and they’ve beaten us. They are capable of making life real hard and hanging around in games. We are coming into this series here knowing we are going to be in a battle that is not going to be a whole lot different than we faced against Montreal.

Keefe on the team’s physicality and the emphasis on it after the Montreal game:

We talked about it. We have some guys that it is not part of who they are, and yet they are really good at coming in and getting their stick on a puck and getting a separation that way. It is not a matter of us running through guys and chasing contact and finishing checks after the puck is gone. Sometimes, keeping yourself alive and in the play to help give you the numerical advantage on the next play is important, too. We have a number of players who that is part of how they are built and that is part of their game.

At the same time, we really talk about, when the puck is there and it is a chance to establish an advantage in that play, we’ve got to use our body physically to establish that. That has been the message since day one of camp. We have seen some growth in that area.

We have some other guys throughout our lineup where it has to be part of who they are. We need to have some growth in that regard. At different times, we have, but we are still looking for some consistency there.

Keefe on the return of Joe Thornton:

Part of the reason why we added guys like Joe and Wayne Simmonds to our forward group is the voice and the energy they have, the work they put in on the ice, and their skill sets that add to our team. Joe is playing on our top line with Auston and Mitch. Wayne was playing really well when he got injured on a line with John and Will.

It just goes to show what they meant to our group. Having one of them back today in Joe certainly does give us a boost. At the same time, everyone has to take it upon themselves — not look for others to bring it, but take care of their own game.

Smith on the Paul – White – Dadonov line:

They can defend. They get chances. They work. They are an identity line for us there. They are what we want to be up and down — offense and defense. Pauly can take left draws and Whitey can take right draws. They have been a really good line for us.


Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

Forwards
#97 Joe Thornton – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#88 William Nylander   – #91 John Tavares – #11 Zach Hyman
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #47 Pierre Engvall
#26 Jimmy Vesey – #72 Travis Boyd – #19 Jason Spezza

Defensemen
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #22 Zach Bogosian

Goaltenders
#31 Frederik Andersen (starter)
#30 Michael Hutchinson

Injured: Wayne Simmonds, Jack Campbell
Extras: Nic Petan, Alex Barabanov, Scott Sabourin, Mikko Lehtonen, Martin Marincin


Ottawa Senators Projected Lines

Forwards
#7 Brady Tkachuk – #71 Chris Tierney – #28 Connor Brown
#13 Nick Paul – #36 Colin White – #63 Evgenii Dadonov
#18 Tim Stutzle – #15 Derek Stepan – #19 Drake Batherson
#51 Artem Anisimov – #9 Josh Norris – #16 Austin Watson

Defensemen
#72 Thomas Chabot – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#38 Mike Reilly – #2 Artem Zub
#24 Christian Wolanin – #44 Erik Gudbranson

Goaltenders
#1 Marcus Hogberg (starter)
#34 Joey Daccord

Injured: Matt Murray, Erik Brannstrom

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About Last Night: Even in defeat, the Canadiens aren't 'worried' about Carey Price – Montreal Gazette

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Habs star goalie believes he may be “overthinking” things

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Dominique Ducharme was given the keys to the Canadiens this week on an interim basis. He is now the bench boss of a team that is badly in need of some good fortune and having nothing but during the first month of the year.

While there are some more minute details (faceoffs, zone entries) that need attention as well, there is already one massive dilemma he will need to navigate. His star goaltender isn’t playing like the elite star he was once heralded as.

Price hasn’t been good enough. He’s had starts where he’s been downright unreliable this season. Yours truly thought he might have turned a corner after defeating the Maple Leafs prior to his team’s week-long break, completely downplaying the idea of a goaltending controversy.

Since then, Price is 0-2-1 with a save percentage of .853 and 14 goals allowed. He’s allowed five goals in two of his last three starts.

Just like Claude Julien before him, he hasn’t turned that corner.

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“I just think, maybe, I’m overthinking things. That’s all I got for you,” Price said after a 6-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets last night.

It happens. Even to a goalie who makes over ten million dollars per season. But in a shortened season where the Canadiens need to make the playoffs, Price’s margin for error is thinner than usual. The Canadiens might still be among the four best teams in the North Division, but if Price can’t keep his team in games, would it be a surprise to see the Canadiens use Jake Allen more often than not going forward?

The Canadiens are at that point yet.

Ducharme thought Price played “like the team” did Thursday night. In an earlier answer, Ducharme said his squad “cracked mentally and physically” in the second half of the game. But Ducharme did his best to put as much as he could on the team and not on one singular player. And he seemed hopeful that Price could still turn his sub-par season around.

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“Like we do with all our players, we’re going to look at every possibility and we want our guys to be playing their best and find solutions for every one of them. From the forwards to the (defence) to the goalies. So we’ll find a solution.

“Carey’s a competitor. I’m not worried.”

You certainly won’t hear Canadiens players put the blame on Price. And it’s fair to say that the players could share some of that blame too.

I think back to a Brendan Gallagher quote from Tuesday night’s loss to the Ottawa Senators where Price made some outstanding saves but also allowed some bad goals against the Senators.

“He made so many big saves. Pucks are going to go in sometimes. He made save, after save, after save. We don’t have a chance if not for Price. There’s no concern there.”

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Now, hold that quote up side-by-side with Jonathan Drouin’s own from Thursday night. He was asked if his team’s dip in performance in front of Price had more to do with the team, or if it was because Price wasn’t playing like the Price many people have come to expect.

“I think it’s both,” Drouin said. “It’s true that Carey hasn’t been at this best. But I think we haven’t been either. If you see the goals (he allows), they’re off of tic-tac-toe or backdoor plays. I don’t know many goalies who are going to stop those. He saved us against Ottawa two, three times with his stick, with some spectacular saves.

“But that’s on us too to not give up so many grade-A chances. We could have him just make easier saves and take easier shots where he sees the puck, there are no rebounds, the defencemen are doing their job, forwards come back to the crease to help Carey.”

The coaches and players are throwing support behind their number one goalie, even if the statistics don’t support his case of being a number one goalie, let alone elite.

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If that’s the road they wish to go down, then the Canadiens will need to do everything they can to restore Price’s confidence.

It might actually be Ducharme’s most important task aside from making the playoffs.

The best of last night’s Liveblog

It’s where you can find all the varying opinions on Carey Price.

About one quarter of the posts here tonight are laying this on Carey Price. That’s 50-50 to me… Yes, his skills are diminishing. Turning 34 in August is the logical explanation. But the team in front of him is also of diminished skill. The beef against CP is the quality of recent play. OK. But give the guy credit for his resumé in MTL. The real beef is the contract. And you CAN’T blame CP for that! — Rudi Hittisau

Price is finished. I did not think he could let in a worse goal than Tkachuk’s 2nd goal last game but the Jets 4th goal by Thompson was complete and UTTER Garbage. Nate just shoveled it at the net and it ate Price up like it was a 100 mph Bobby Hull slapshot. I mean what the hell was he doin on that. That was the game right there. That goal completely deflated the tires. When, and I will repeat myself, WHEN is the management group going to wake up and see this guy Price is a head case. That was utterly terrible. When Petry makes an egregious error and gives the puck away that was bad, but c’mon Price swallow the shot and don’t give up a nice juicy rebound. Boom goal #5. That is not NHL caliber goal tending by anyone’s measuring stick. I can’t watch this guy anymore. Play Allen every game for the rest of the season and put Price on waivers and see if anyone is stupid enough to take him. They said the team quit on Julien. When is someone going to write that Price has quit on his team. — Mac Alexander

Price is finished. Seriously. I’ve stood behind him for years but no more. Cut a deal with Seattle. Leave him unprotected. He and Angela live near family and we eat half the salary which still should buy a decent UFA. He looks like he doesn’t care anymore. Body language speaks volumes. If I see it you know every player sees it. it’s time. Sit him. Allen #1. Primeau back up. Price plays only once we’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. I can’t believe I’m saying that 1/4 into the season but that’s how I feel. Oh yeah. I’ll be watching Saturday because I love hockey. — Habs SkiFan

I remember a time when the Canadiens scoring 3 goals with Price in nets was almost a guaranteed win, I just can’t recall when that time was — Ryan Katz

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In the Habs' Room: Canadiens played a perfect game — till they 'cracked' – Montreal Gazette

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It was unreasonable to think Dominique Ducharme could produce a turnaround after one morning skate.

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Dominique Ducharme and his staff have a lot of work to do.

It was unreasonable to think the new head coach could produce a turnaround after one morning skate, but the Canadiens didn’t look much different than they have over the past two weeks leading up to the dismissal of Claude Julien.

The Winnipeg Jets rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Canadiens 6-3 Thursday at Bell MTS Place.

Ducharme said the Canadiens played a perfect game for 30 minutes before they “cracked” — mentally and physically.

Carey Price hasn’t been very good this season, but Ducharme gave him a vote of confidence by starting him. When asked to evaluate Price’s performance — six goals on 31 shots — Ducharme said the $10.5-million man was “like the team, he’s part of the team.” That means he was good at the start and not so good as the game went on and the Jets increased the pressure.

The Canadiens need Price to be a great goaltender but he’s not even good right now. After Thursday’s blitz, he has a 5-4-3 record with a 3.13 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage. In the past, a struggling Price has been able to step away and work with goaltending coach Stéphane Waite but, with the compressed schedule, that’ s a luxury the Canadien can’t afford.

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Ducharme said the Canadiens have to get better at both ends of the ice.

“I think we can be much better with the puck breaking out,” Ducharme said. “We have to be making stronger plays. That doesn’t mean throwing the puck away. We have to be stronger in our decisions, making high-percentage plays in our zone.

“Defending the zone, I thought we did a pretty good job early in the game (but) the more it went, the more we were backing in,” added Ducharme. “There were less turnovers in the neutral zone, less counters, not playing as fast. It all comes together.

“We’re a little fragile right now.,” said Ducharme. “It’s normal. We have to find a way to control the things that we have the ability to control. We didn’t do good work in that aspect of the game. We made mistakes that led to scoring chances and goals.”

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Jonathan Drouin noted that Winnipeg has some talented players on their top two lines but one of the themes going into this season was the Canadiens’ depth and their ability to roll four lines.

The depth was in play Thursday as Joel Armia started the game on the fourth line and scored two  first-period goals.

But the depth took a hit when Josh Anderson left the in the first period with an undisclosed injury.

Ducharme said the injury was a double whammy because Anderson is a talented player and his absence forced the coach to double-shift Armia and Corey Perry on the No. 2 line with Drouin and Nick Suzuki.

Ducharme said he didn’t think the injury was serious but more tests will be needed before he is cleared to play in Saturday’s rematch between the Jets and the Canadiens.

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The game provided a boost of confidence for Phil Danault, who was reunited with longtime linemates Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher. Danault was on the ice for nearly 22 minutes and finished the game as a plus-1 although he struggled in the faceoff circle, winning only nine of 22 draws.

Faceoffs continue to be a problem for the entire team. The Canadiens won only 40 per cent of their draw and the only centre over 50 per cent was Suzuki, who won seven of 13 draws. Jesperi Kotkaniemi won only one of six.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

  1. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is beaten by Jets forward Kyle Connor in Winnipeg Thursday night.

    New coach, same old Canadiens as they fall 6-3 to the Jets

  2. Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin watches his team's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs during second period in Montreal on Feb. 10, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: Players forced Canadiens GM’s hand in firing of Julien

  3. MONTREAL, QUE.: SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 -- New Montreal Canadiens assistant coach Dominique Ducharme speaks to players during training camp practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Friday September 14, 2018.  (John Mahoney} / MONTREAL GAZETTE) ORG XMIT: 61367 - 9188

    New Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme looks calm, cool and confident

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Canadiens vs. Jets recap: Winnipeg spoils Dominique Ducharme’s debut – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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Coming off an overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators that led to the firing of head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller, the Montreal Canadiens hit the road to take on the Winnipeg Jets. But a change behind the bench couldn’t spark the Habs, as the Jets spoiled Dominique Ducharme’s debut with a come-from-behind 6-3 victory.

The Ducharme era began on a promising note, as Montreal reverted to playing a style of hockey that had made them so successful at the beginning of this season. The Canadiens pressured early, using their speed and forechecking to force the Jets to fall back into their own zone.

Having moved away from needlessly dumping and chasing the puck, the Habs instead concentrated on providing more puck support. The defensive core also got in on the action, playing more aggressively and allowing the Canadiens’ offensive lines to challenge Connor Hellebuyck often in the opening minutes of the game.

This strategy would pay off just over halfway through the period, when Alexander Romanov made a heads-up play to spring Joel Armia, who ripped his fourth goal of the season past Hellebuyck to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead.

Armia would strike again with less than three minutes left in the period, when he redirected a nifty pass from Jonathan Drouin to double Montreal’s lead.

Though the home team did show some flashes of life throughout the opening frame, Carey Price cooly shut down any scoring chances to keep the Jets off the scoreboard to end the period with a 2-0 lead.

The Canadiens’ momentum began slowly unravelling in the second. The Habs were dealt a tough blow, losing Josh Anderson to injury, and the forward did not return to the game. Though Montreal once again pushed early and often, Winnipeg used the first intermission to regroup and counter-attack against a porous Canadiens defence.

Kyle Connor took advantage of a defensive breakdown to cut Montreal’s lead in half just under five minutes into the frame on the Jets’ first man advantage of the night, when a delay of game penalty was called against Shea Weber.

The Habs responded with a power play marker of their own shortly after, when Neal Pionk was sent off for high-sticking Nick Suzuki. Jesperi Kotkaniemi blew past Nathan Beaulieu to set up a two-on-zero situation with Tomas Tatar, and the Slovak had no trouble burying his fifth of the season to restore Montreal’s two-goal lead.

But that did little to deter the Jets, who used their new-found confidence to go on the offensive. Winnipeg’s persistence paid off just over halfway through the second, when Connor’s wristshot beat Price to cut the Canadiens’ lead back down to one.

Less than three minutes later, Blake Wheeler’s shot was redirected through traffic to tie the game at three apiece. The two goals scored in under five minutes by Winnipeg took the wind completely out of Montreal’s sails, as the team struggled to regain the dominant form it had shown during the opening frame.

Frustration started seeping in as the Canadiens couldn’t respond with a goal of their own, and instead ended the period taking an unnecessary penalty. Jeff Petry was called for roughing Andrew Copp, and the Jets opened the third period on the man advantage.

Though the Habs were able to successfully kill off that penalty and a subsequent high-sticking call against Ben Chiarot, the team put up little resistance to the home team’s offensive pressure. This tepidity would come back to haunt Montreal, when Nate Thompson slipped a shot through Price’s pads to give Winnipeg its first lead of the game — on a goal that Price would definitely like back.

Both teams continued to exchange penalties in the third period. Wheeler was called for hooking Tatar just over seven minutes in, while just under three minutes later Joel Edmundson was given two minutes for slashing Mark Scheifele’s stick away.

Though neither team was able to score on the man advantage, Pierre-Luc Dubois extended his team’s lead seconds after the Edmundson penalty expired. Dubois made quick work of a Canadiens turnover in their own zone and took advantage of scrambling defensive work to extend Winnipeg’s lead to 5-3.

Trying to put some life back into his team, Corey Perry fought Nikolaj Ehlers, but his efforts went to waste as Montreal continued to play more passive hockey and eventually ended up surrendering an empty-net goal to Scheifele.

A strong performance in the opening period became completely undone as the Canadiens gave up five unanswered goals to drop this game to the Jets. Montreal will need to re-group and figure out a way to stanch the bleeding, when they face off against Winnipeg again this Saturday.

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