Morning Forecheck: What to Watch 2/25, Kings Resurgence, Habs Fire Julien
|Photo Credit: Elsa Garrison/Getty Images|
Welcome to another edition of Morning Forecheck, where I go over some of the biggest news and notes around the league and give my own spin on it. Be sure to subscribe to the site with the link at the top of the site to get the latest updates, and follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy for more.
Los Angeles Kings, Playoff Team?
Already with one of the best prospect pools in the game, the Los Angeles Kings added another blue chip prospect in Quinton Byfield through the second overall pick of the latest draft.
As the team continues to transition to their next generation of core players, not many thought they would compete this season for a playoff spot.
But here we are towards the end of February and not only are the Kings competing for a playoff spot, they are currently third in the West Division.
Rookie forward and former first round pick Gabe Villardi is showing why he was so highly regarded, with five goals and eight points in 18 games playing as the team's second line center.
Dustin Brown has seen a career resurgence, averaging nearly a point-per-game (17 points, 18 games) but the difference so far this season as been in net.
Cal Petersen has been splendid all season, posting a 2.28 goals-against-average to go along with a .931 save percentage. After initially struggling to start the year, Jonathan Quick is looking like his former self since returning from injury.
In the three games since his return, he has posted two shutouts and has stopped 79-of-81 shots.
I'm not sure how for real this team is, but they look like they are fun to watch again, and its worth looking more into to see if this is a sustainable run they are on.
Canadiens Fire Julien
In the first coaching shakeup of the season, the Montreal Canadiens fired head coach Claude Julien yesterday admits a slide that has cost them six of the past eight games they have played.
Montreal, like every year, walked into the season with high expectations. With one of the best goalies in the league, a strong defense and growing depth at the center position, it was expected they could compete for a top spot in the North Division.
Now 18 games into the season and back-to-back losses to the Ottawa Senators, Montreal felt like now was the time to make a move.
"It happens in professional sports when the coach continues to give words of instruction but after a time he message doesn't get through," Habs GM Marc Bergevin said during a press conference.
Assistant Head Coach Dominique Ducharme now takes over for Julien.
While it's true that sometimes teams stop responding to head coaches, this is what happens - at least in my opinion - when you continue to recycle coaches. The end result is always this, but we keep seeing the same coaches over and over again.
GMs always lean towards the known quantity, even if that means knowing they are going to fire them. While every so often we get a coach out the college ranks or who has paid their dues in the minors, a lot of times its just the same few getting rehired.
Their potential to win certainly is there, and worth it, but after a few season we are always back to this.
Let's see if Ducharme can break the trend.
Added Note: That's also the reason why there is no shock in finding that Bruce Boudreau is interested in the Seattle Kraken job and the feeling is more than likely mutual. Boudreau is a great coach, but he is a known quantity. Wouldn't it be more interesting to find someone new, especially with an expansion franchise?
What I'm Watching: February 25th
When three of the five games the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have played also went to overtime, you know you're in for a good game. Kasperi Kapanen scored the overtime winner in their last game on Tuesday, now they face off again today.
Montreal travels to Winnipeg to face the Jets in the Habs first game without Julien at the helm. Winnipeg has struggled defensively this season, but Mark Scheifele is having one of the best seasons of his career.
If you want to stay up late, you can almost bet there is going to be plenty of fireworks that would make a short night of sleep worthwhile. Neither Edmonton or Vancouver have been great defensively or in net and both have the offensive firepower to capitalize on it.
Plus, Connor McDavid. That should be enough on most nights to tune in.