MONTREAL- After leading his team to a seven-game series win over Patrice Bergeron’s Boston Bruins in the 2014 NHL Eastern Conference semifinals, Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban will look to once again get the better of his rival in the final round of the NHL15 cover vote.
Subban, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner, dismissed Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel in Round 1 of the cover vote and squeezed by Los Angeles King and fellow Team Canada member Drew Doughty in Round 2. For his part, Bergeron beat out the Ottawa Senators’ Erik Karlsson before booking his ticket to the cover vote final thanks to a win over the St. Louis Blues’ T.J. Oshie.
Fans can vote for P.K. Subban now by posting with the hashtag #NHL15Subban on Twitter and Instagram, or via Web at covervote.nhl.com/.
- Eleven skaters hit the ice with assistant coach Gerard Gallant and goaltending coach Stephane Waite looking on, including forwards Michael Bournival, Rene Bourque, Brandon Prust, Travis Moen, Tomas Plekanec, George Parros and Ryan White. Defensemen Francis Bouillon, Nathan Beaulieu, Douglas Murray and Jarred Tinordi were also present, as were goaltenders Dustin Tokarski and Peter Budaj.
- After being injured in Game 1 last Saturday afternoon in Montreal, goaltender Carey Price was on the ice prior to the start of practice without his equipment on.
- When the Habs hit the ice at Madison Square Garden, the Bell Centre will be rocking equally hard, with over 20,000 tickets sold for the team’s official viewing party, Le Party DU Club IV.
- Sunday is the last day to vote for P.K. Subban in his semifinal matchup with Drew Doughty to be on the cover of EA’s NHL15. Fans can vote on Twitter using the hashtag #NHL15Subban, or by visiting NHL.com/covervote
- It’s no coincidence that the Canadiens’ most heated and longstanding rivalry is with the Boston Bruins, a team the Habs have faced in the postseason 34 times in NHL history, a record among all North American pro sports teams. Rivalries are born in the playoffs, where time and space are hard to come by and players can spend up to seven games over the course of two weeks battling for every inch on the ice and being baited into offering up bulletin board material off of it. It’s been nearly 20 years since the Habs and Rangers last met in the playoffs, but it took just three games for the water to start boiling over between the two Original 6 clubs. Between trading injuries to key players, a pair of suspensions about to be served, and a war of words heating up between the head coaches, there’s no shortage of motivation in either dressing room at the moment.
“Any time you play teams consecutively three times in a row, emotions start to rise and tempers start to flare. I think you’re seeing that now in this series,” confirmed Josh Gorges. “It will continue to grow. Both teams are competing for something pretty important and when that’s the case, I think the competiveness on both sides is going to elevate and you’re going to have some dislike between the two teams. I think you have to use it but it has to be controlled. You have to be smart. This is an emotional time of year and these games are so important that you want to play on that edge and play with some fire and at the same time, you can’t cross that line. We can’t be stupid and we can’t be taking dumb penalties. It’s a matter of walking a fine line.”
- With two days between games for the second time this series, the Canadiens and Rangers have had some extra time to recover physically in the Conference finals than they did in the first two rounds. While some players would prefer to keep momentum rolling with less time between games, veteran defenseman Mike Weaver has no problem with the rare postseason rest.
“I don’t mind every other night, but I guess NBC dictates what goes on,” mentioned Weaver, who has also seen his team play two matinee games in the playoffs to fit better with network preferences. “It’s actually kind of nice to be able to heal up the bumps and bruises.”
- The extra time between games may be giving players time out of the spotlight, but it’s given both teams’ head coaches an additional day to stoke the fires of the extraneous storylines that have been stewing during off-days. While the media has enjoyed the back-and-forth exchanges between Alain Vigneault and Michel Therrien during the Conference finals, the players haven’t been following any of the off-ice happenings in the series – something both coaches were likely planning on when they stepped up to their respective podiums.
|Michel Therrien's post-practice presser|
“I don’t really know what’s being said,” admitted Max Pacioretty, who avoids social media and doesn’t read about or watch hockey commentary when he’s away from the rink. “I’ve only heard one or two things, but at the end of the day if you don’t play the right way or if you lose concentration or get focused on the wrong things, you’re going to lose and games are too valuable right now to get caught up in something off the ice.”
- Following the events of Saturday’s “practice-gate”, where Therrien let Vigneault’s assistant coaches know how unimpressed he was to see them breaking what he called a “gentleman’s agreement” by sitting in and watching the Canadiens’ off-day practice, the discussions continued between the two coaches on Sunday morning. As heated as things seem to be getting between the veteran bench bosses, Therrien doesn’t envision the jabs extending beyond the final handshake when the series comes to a close.
“Alain Vigneault, first of all, he's a good friend, and I'm privileged to be one of his friends. He's an important person in my life,” shared Therrien, who was the coach of the Canadiens’ farm team while Vigneault was behind the bench in Montreal in the early 2000s. “He's a guy that pushed for me to get into pro hockey, and I respect him. Over the years we became great, great friends, and I've got tons of respect for him, and he's a good coach. But right now we're battling for the same thing. He wants to get to the Stanley Cup Final with his team, and it's the same thing for me. We've got to put our friendship aside for, what, two weeks? I'm sure when everything's going to be done, as soon as we get a chance to see each other, we're going to have a cold beer like we have in the past, and nothing's going to change. But right now we're competing for the same goal. That's normal. It doesn't mean I have no respect for him. I have tons of respect, and he's one of the reasons why the Rangers are here, because he's a good coach.”
- While their press conference exchanges have become Broadway’s hottest acts over the last few days, no one has lost focused on what’s really at stake at the World’s Most Famous Arena on Sunday night.
“What’s important for us is tonight’s game,” stressed Therrien. “Everything else is just a side show.”
- The Canadiens practiced at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon, with all players except Carey Price and recently-recalled netminder Mike Condon taking part.
- A healthy scratch for the previous eight games, Francis Bouillon was paired with Mike Weaver for practice, while Nathan Beaulieu split time with Jarred Tinordi and Douglas Murray.
- With Brandon Prust set to miss the first game of his two-game suspension on Sunday night, Michael Bournival practiced alongside Daniel Briere and Dale Weise, while Prust rotated with George Parros, Ryan White and Travis Moen on Saturday afternoon.
|Prust discusses the hit and ensuing suspension|
“The hit itself wasn’t really a topic in the hearing; it was all about the timing of it,” he shared. “It was my first shift of the game and I’m trying to create some energy. I want to get out there and get some body checks in. I see Step with the puck and I was kind of backtracking and did a good job getting in front of him rather than coming in right from the side. I kept my skates on the ice, my shoulder into his chest and I didn’t leave my feet. It’s just all about the timing and it’s fractions of a second. The NHL deems a hit late around 0.6 seconds and I’m about 0.8 seconds. That’s on me. It’s late, but my focus was on trying to make a good, clean body check and not leaving my feet. Everything about the actual contact was clean, it was just late.”
A longtime fan favorite at Madison Square Garden during his three seasons in New York, Prust knows his popularity among the Blueshirts’ faithful has waned over the past few days and he isn’t anticipating a warm welcome from fans or his former teammates when he returns to town for Game 6.
“I know obviously New York fans aren’t happy, and rightfully so. They’re passionate fans and they protect their players, just like their organization does and just like Montreal fans would do for me,” said Prust, who played with Stepan during the Rangers forward’s first two years in the league. “I’m not too worried – they’re not my fans anymore. I’m in Montreal now and those are my fans and that’s who I care about. I remember my time here and love this city and appreciate this organization, but I’m focused on getting ready and coming back for Game 6, not about that other stuff.
“I did text Step,” he added. “Once I found out he had a broken jaw, I reached out for him and texted him. I feel awful. I didn’t want to injure anybody, especially a friend of mine. I told him exactly what I told you guys. I hope he recovers well.”
Lines and defense pairings at practice
(NHL.com) - Montreal Canadiens left wing Brandon Prust will have a phone hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday afternoon for his hit on New York Rangers center Derek Stepan during the first period at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
No penalty was called on the play at 2:48 of the first period. Stepan briefly left the game before returning later in the first period.
Montreal won Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, 3-2, in overtime.
The following grounds are being considered for supplemental discipline: Interference. However, the Department of Player Safety retains the right to make adjustments to the infraction upon review.
- The Canadiens held an optional practice at Madison Square Garden on Thursday morning. With the exception of Brandon Prust, all players were on the ice. Michel Therrien confirmed Prust would be available to play on Thursday night, but wouldn’t tip his hat regarding his finalized Game 3 roster.
“It’s nice that you’re trying, but I’m only going to reveal my roster tonight. There could be some adjustments,” he said, hinting at the possibility of shaking things up for the first road game of the series.
- Wheeling Nailers goaltender Mike Condon made the trip to New York with the team but was not on the ice for practice. Carey Price (lower body) is also with the team, but for Therrien, the reasoning behind carrying four goalies in the postseason isn’t rocket science.
“It’s pretty simple: if something happens to our goalie, we need to put our third goalie on the bench,” he explained of bringing the ECHL netminder with him to the Big Apple. “We had the choice between Patrick Langlois, who is our assistant equipment manager, and Mike Condon, so…”
|Dustin Tokarski will once again get the start in Game 3.|
- As confirmed on Wednesday, Dustin Tokarski will get his second career NHL postseason start between the pipes on Thursday night, and will be looking to build on the 27-save performance from his playoff debut. While the 24-year-old is still getting his feet wet at the NHL level, this isn’t his first taste of high-stakes hockey, having won the Telus Cup in Midget, the Memorial Cup and World Junior Hockey Championships in Junior, and the Calder Cup in the AHL, helping inspire faith in the rookie netminder among his dressing room peers.
“We have a lot of confidence in him,” confirmed Max Pacioretty. “He’s a great goaltender. Recently I found out he’s had a lot of success at every level so that says a lot about his character and his personality. He didn’t look nervous at all in the last game, and in a situation like that you wouldn’t expect that. He looks confident to me and he played a great game. We need him to keep playing like that.”
- Having trailed the Boston Bruins before roaring back from a 3-2 series deficit to win the Conference semifinals in Game 7, the Canadiens have some experience with pulling off comeback wins this spring. While the storyline ahead of Game 3 may seem familiar to those who tuned in before Game 6 against the Bruins, Dale Weise insists there’s a big difference between facing elimination in Round 2 and facing an opportunity to make it a 2-1 series in Round 3.
|Weise endearing himself to opposing fans|
“This is a whole different ballpark than being down 3-2 in Boston, but we have to come out with that same urgency. When you’re down 3-2 in a series, you’re not panicking, but the urgency is there. We’re not there yet,” he stressed. “This is 2-0 and we’re a very capable team on the road.
“I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but we’re very comfortable playing on the road,” added Weise, whose team is 4-2-0 on road ice this postseason. “This is a great building to play in. The atmosphere is going to be amazing. We’re very confident and I really think we’re going to come out with a strong effort tonight.”
- Having scored just three goals in two games against the Rangers after potting 36 in 11 previous playoff games, the Canadiens will be looking to tip, jam and backdoor their way past Henrik Lundqvist in Game 3. Almost doubling their shot totals from 22 to 41 between Games 1 and 2, the Habs made sure the All-Star netminder was kept busy on Monday night, but Josh Gorges knows it will take more than just throwing extra rubber at the Rangers’ net to beat “King Henrik”.
“I said last game that if he sees it, he’s going to stop it. He’s that good,” stressed the veteran blue-liner. “We have to get in his face. We have to make him play deep in his net and make his life miserable and be there for second opportunities. It’s not easy to beat him one-on-one. We have to make his life more difficult.”
- Lighting the lamp more frequently will most likely coincide with the Canadiens rediscovering their previous power play magic. Going 10-for-38 with the man advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Habs entered the Conference finals riding a 26.3% power play efficiency, but have gone 0-for-7 so far against the Blueshirts. Getting his special teams back on track will be a big part of Therrien’s game plan heading into Game 3.
“We have to be better not just on our power play, but on our penalty kill, too,” said the Habs’ bench boss, whose PK unit has given up four goals on 10 Rangers’ power play opportunities after allowing just five power play markers in the first two series combined. “After the first two games, we know we need to be better to have success. We have to make some adjustments, but we also have to go back to basics and make better decisions. Our power play has to play with more intensity and on the penalty kill, we lost a lot of battles that let the Rangers take advantage of their opportunities.”
Puck drop at MSG is slated for 8:00 p.m. EDT.
Words from the room
Game 3 preview: MTL vs. NYR
Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Rangers #3
A third edition for the Hockey de Rue – Together for the Kids Tournament
- After a day off on Tuesday, the Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Wednesday morning before heading to New York where they’ll contest Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
- All players were present and accounted for at practice, hitting the ice well-ahead of the scheduled 11 a.m. start time.
- The Canadiens spent the early part of the practice session working on the power play under the watchful eye of head coach Michel Therrien, assistant coaches Clement Jodoin and Gerard Gallant, and goaltending coach Stephane Waite.
- Michel Therrien paired Alex Galchenyuk on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. For his part, Thomas Vanek skated alongside Brandon Prust and Daniel Briere, while Michael Bournival rotated on that line as well.
- Therrien confirmed that Dustin Tokarski will get the start in goal in Game 3 on Thursday night in New York.
Lines and D pairings at practice:
- Daniel Briere, Dale Weise, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Carey Price were the only players not on the ice for the optional workout.
- Dustin Tokarski was in the net usually occupied by Carey Price at practice. Peter Budaj remained at his usual visiting side goal.
- After practice, coach Michel Therrien had some bad news to share with those present at the team training facility.
“Carey Price will not be available for Game 2, nor will he be able to play for the rest of the series against New York,” announced Therrien. Price had suffered a lower-body injury after being run into by the Rangers’ Chris Kreider in the second period of Game 1. “We are losing our best player, but we have faced adversity this year already.”
The Habs’ head coach did not announce who will start on Monday night, though he did say that his decision regarding the starter has already been made. In nets for the home team at the Bell Centre will either be dependable backup Peter Budaj, who is 10-8 on the season, or former AHL champion and World Junior gold medalist Dustin Tokarski.
- Assistant captain Josh Gorges gave his thoughts on what his team must do better in Game 2 against the Rangers.
“Systems are one thing. You have to be on the same page, but at this time of the year, it comes down to who wants it more in the battles in the corner and the battles in front of the net,” the defenseman added. “That’s what makes the difference. It’s a state of mind and we want to get back to that.”
- Like Gorges, veteran Mike Weaver believes that taking care of details can add up to a big swing in momentum in the series.
“I don’t think it was one thing which caused the Game 1 outcome. I think it was a lot of little things which added up to the final result,” offered the 36 year-old. “We’ve gone over it the last two days and focused on the things we’ve done right in the Boston series and the Tampa series. As long as we’re moving forward with that then we have a chance against New York.”
- Sniper Thomas Vanek figures to be a big part of the Habs’ offense going forward. The Austrian saw his team being outshot 28-22 in the series opener and will look to generate more scoring chances off the rush in Game 2.
“It’s an adjustment coming from the Bruins. The Rangers play a similar style as us, with a lot of quickness and puck movement. We didn’t do that in Game 1 and we have to get back to using our speed.”
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
Lars Eller, P.K. Subban, Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges and Carey Price did not participate, although Price was on earlier in the morning for a brief practice with goalie coach Stephane Waite. Michel Therrien warned journalists not to read into Price’s absence from the practice after he seemed to be hurt when Chris Kreider went barrelling into the netminder blades-first in Game 1, indicating that a few players took therapy days on Sunday and that the team would confirm on Monday if Price will start in Game 2.
Galchenyuk spent extra time on the ice after practice with Gerard Gallant working on his conditioning. He’s been cleared for contact, but as for whether or not he will be in the lineup in Game 2 against the Rangers, Therrien would only confirm that “there’s always a possibility.”
General manager Marc Bergevin met the media on Saturday afternoon ahead of Game 1 of the Eastern Conferece Finals between the Canadiens and Rangers at the Bell Centre.
Bergevin touched on a number of subjects during the media session, including several key player acquisitions over the course of the 2013-14 regular season campaign.
“There are players that get you in the playoffs, and players that get you through the playoffs,” offered Bergevin, noting the immediate impact that both Dale Weise and Mike Weaver had in the first two rounds of postseason play. “Dale and Mike are a big part of our success.”
As is head coach Michel Therrien, who Bergevin praised time and again for helping the Canadiens through several difficult stretches at different times during the year.
"Michel Therrien was a good coach six months ago, and he was good even when we lost five games in a row,” explained Bergevin, stressing that he has the utmost respect for the veteran bench boss’ body of work over the last two seasons in Montreal.
After praising his team for their unwavering work ethic and relentlessness in the face of adversity, Bergevin went on to express his admiration for the Canadiens fan base.
“I see a special team here, a team that when times are tough rolls up their sleeves and goes straight to work. I’m proud of this group,” indicated Bergevin, noting that he believes the turning point in the Canadiens’ season came on Mar. 15 when they staged a comeback for the ages over the Senators in Montreal. “The passion in this city and in the province of Quebec is off the charts. It’s incredible. The people live and breathe hockey.”
With a tough playoff series set to get underway against New York, the Habs GM also shared his thoughts on the Canadiens’ next opponent.
“We have a lot of respect for the Rangers. They want the same thing we do,” offered Bergevin. “I believe our guys are ready for this series because we’re aware of the challenge ahead of us.”