Habs Notepad | Week in Review, Playoff Hopes, Communications

Claude Julien (hoto by TVA Sports)

ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. —The Canadiens started the week off at home on Monday with 3-2 loss against the Coyotes. Jake Evans and Brendan Gallagher gave the Habs a lead by scoring in the opening 1:52 of the matchup. “It was just chills and I just wanted to scream, honestly. I was just so excited. I’m really happy I got that one, and it’s a dream come true,” said Evans on his first career NHL goal. 

The Coyotes scored three unanswered goals including the game winning goal with one minute remaining in the third period. “Penalty kill and (Carey) Price were awesome tonight. Other than that, not a good enough effort,” said Gallagher.

On Wednesday, David Pastrnak scored a hat trick in front of the home crowd to lead the Bruins to a 4-1 win against the Canadiens. Nick Suzuki was the only scorer for Montreal in the game.

“We need to shoot the puck a little bit more. We need to go to the net more and probably be a little hungrier in that part of it. As for the rest, we did some good things and we were competing hard, but we were not good enough to win,” said Claude Julien.

On Friday, the Canadiens lost 4-1 to the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Tomas Tatar scored with 54 seconds remaining in the second period to close the deficit, however on the ensuing shift, Jason Zucker scored for the second time in the game to restore the two goal deficit. It was the 21st time that Montreal has allowed a goal this season in the final minute of a period.

“The third goal hurt us. We scored to make it 2-1 to allow us the chance to try to come back in the third. The third goal really hurt us,” Julien said.

On Saturday, the Stars came back from 3-0 deficit and scored four unanswered goals to win 4-3 in overtime at the Bell Centre. The game was highlighted by frustration from the Canadiens towards the officials for inconsistency in calling penalties.

“They looked frustrated, or one of them looked frustrated tonight, the referee. He should have been. Because tonight, to me, it was embarrassing. I can’t say anything else,” spoke Julien about NHL referee, Dean Morton.

“They looked frustrated, or one of them looked frustrated tonight, the referee. He should have been. Because tonight, to me, it was embarrassing. I can’t say anything else.”

Montreal heads on the road this week for three games. On Tuesday, the Canadiens will try to beat the Red Wings for the first time this season after losing the three previous games. Immediately following the matchup, the Habs will travel to Washington to face the Capitals on Thursday, and then head to Ottawa on Saturday. 

Reality Setting In

Last Monday, the Habs were five points out of a playoff spot, a number that gave the impression was easier to close the gap on than it reality. Losing their next four games, have made it nearly impossible for the team’s hopes in clinching a playoff spot. To finish with the projected 97 points required to earn an invitation to the post season, Montreal needs to collect 35 points in their final 21 games. This represents a .833 winning percentage.

In fact, most specialized websites have the odds set to under three percent. Montreal has a bigger a chance of winning the draft lottery than playing an 83rd game this year.

This reality has started to set in with the players and the coaching staff. In the locker room after Monday’s loss, we were able to hear it in Gallagher’s voice that he knew that they wouldn’t make it in the post season. If you want to hear how Gallagher feels about missing the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, you can clearly hear him in the background while Ben Chiarot is speaking to the media.

“I know our chances are getting slimmer every game we lose,” said Julien following the loss to Pittsburgh. “At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple. We’re gonna have to get on a really good winning streak if we plan on getting back into this hunt.” This sounds to me like a coach that knows that the season will end for his team in April.

Communication Mess

The organization continues to handle communications around player injuries poorly. We can go back and find several examples from previous years, but I will focus on two recent situations.

On December 31st, Gallagher suffered a concussion after getting Chiarot’s knee to the head and falling on the ice. That  incident forced him out of the lineup for the next four games before returning to face the Oilers on January 9th.

Gallagher ended up missing another six games because of headaches that he suffered following the game against Edmonton.

“No, because they don’t really have one. Okay. It wasn’t a conclusive thing that he had a concussion. It could have been a variety of different things. But what we do for cautionary reasons, is we go back to the protocol and make sure that all those things are covered,” answered Julien on January 27th, 17 days after Gallagher’s last game, when asked about the diagnosis. 

Shea Weber played his last game on February 4th in New Jersey, and was placed on injury reserve with a lower body injury two days later. At the time, Julien advised that they were waiting for swelling to go down before the medical staff is able to make a diagnosis.

The team’s silence generated speculation on the severity of the injury. TSN’s Bob McKenzie and former Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos both reported a long absence for the captain, with Kypreos adding that the injury puts his future is in question. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that Weber was meeting with a specialist in Wisconsin.

Only a few hours later, the Canadiens issued a statement advising that Weber will be out of action for four to six weeks due to an ankle sprain and that a full recovery is expected.

“It was actually what I was trying to tell you guys for the last week you know, we said there was some swelling we had to wait for the swelling to go down before we were able to evaluate him and once the swelling went down and he got evaluated properly then we got the right answer,” commented Julien after the announcement.

I don’t think that the organization had the intention to make the announcement at that time, but were forced to do so when information was being circulated by the media.

I’m not pointing my finger to the coach about the updates (or lack of), as the messaging that Julien delivers is based on conversations with management and the communications team. I’m certain that Julien would rather answer hockey questions and have a medical expert deliver injury updates. 

Paul Wilson, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications, and his team need to find a better way for the organization to handle communications related to injuries.

By Chris G., Senior Writer
All Habs Hockey Magazine
Copyright © 2019 Rocket Sports

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