Carey Price and the Canadiens allowed fewer goals than six playoff teams last year and hope the addition of defenceman Ben Chiarot holds that line and reduces it this autumn.
Chiarot, who came East from the Winnipeg Jets and signed for three years at US$10.5 million, is ready to lean his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame into a few opponents and get his new team back in the post-season tournament. He’s a big upgrade for the Habs in more ways than one with close Atlantic rivals Toronto and Ottawa making off-season blueline moves as well.
Montreal, which is an NHL-best 4-0 in pre-season play, meets the Maple Leafs (1-3) twice early this week to get the Hamilton-born Chiarot dialled in on the NHL’s oldest rivalry and in at least one game. Chiarot is hitting it off with fluid partner Jeff Petry, who had a personal best 46 points in 2018-19.
“He’s a guy that plays a physical game, which I like to have as a D partner,” Petry told the Montreal Gazette. “He said ‘join the play and do your thing and know that I’ll be back there.’ He’s shown that he can skate the puck up and join the attack as well.”
They also have an off-ice bond with wives and young families. Petry has three young kids, including a new baby, Chiarot becoming a first-time Dad in the summer. And not that five years in Winnipeg allowed Chiarot media seclusion, but Petry tried to brace him for the attention he’ll get in Montreal.
“Block out as much stuff and everything that you hear,” was Petry’s advice. “You’ve played the game long enough. It’s just a matter of going out there and playing because there’s going to be people who love your game and there’s going to be people who hate your game. You don’t want to get caught up in trying to please everybody.”
CAT OUT OF THE BAG
Alex DeBrincat’s celebrity has not yet caught up to his impressive point totals.
The laid back left winger from the Blackhawks is okay that his canine, a Shiba Inu nicknamed Ralph DeBrindog, is more of an internet sensation than himself. Fans regularly send Ralph chew toys and biscuits while TV cameras at the recent Bears-Packers game didn’t know who DeBrincat was when they panned a private box with him, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, only mentioning the latter two.
But the 21-year-old is making waves on the ice, looking to improve upon last year’s 41 goals and team-best 13 on the power play. The Michigan native is just the 10th NHLer in three decades to record more than 68 goals in his first two seasons.
“I feel like I’m more quiet in the locker room, I try to stay out of the chirping and stuff,” DeBrincat told the Chicago Sun Times. “Those core guys have been there for a long time and are obviously very respected around the league. So especially my first year, I kind of stayed away and kept my mouth shut so I didn’t get in any trouble.”
Matt Duchene had quite an exhibition-game debut with the Nashville Predators, scoring with 3.6 seconds remaining in regulation against the Tampa Bay Lightning, before the Preds won 5-4 before a healthy crowd at home in overtime.
“It’s definitely the biggest preseason crowd I’ve played in front of, by double,” said Duchene, looking for some stability after playing on four teams since 2017-18. “It felt like a regular-season game with the crowd.”
It was the first time the Preds put all of their big guns in the lineup.
First rounder Dylan Cozens, who played well against the Leafs in back-to-back games last weekend, survived Sunday’s first cuts in Buffalo … Nick Suzuki, a former No. 1 with Vegas, has three assists and is plus-3 in three games for Montreal. “We see his potential, it’s huge,” linemate Phillip Danault said of the 20-year-old from London. “He’s like a little magician. He’s very intelligent, always in the right place. He can play defence and he has good speed on top of exceptional hands. His hockey sense is really a step above the rest” … Mike Smith didn’t reach the momentun he wanted in Edmonton’s camp, a strength-sapping virus forcing the 37-year-old goaltender to stay in bed three or four days. He just rejoined the Oilers on the ice. “I’ve honestly never been so sick in my life,” Smith told reporters … We all know Bobby Orr can fly from the famous Cup winning goal picture, but in the past few days, his statue actually did take off. Construction of a new building next to TD Garden in Boston necessitated the iconic bronze be stored and then set up a short distance away. That’ll be for three years until he gets star billing in the revamped entrance to the rink complex … Leaf centre Jason Spezza told Sportsnet that his wife Jennifer “runs a tight ship” with him away and four daughters aged nine and under to organize for school etc. “When I come home (in summer) it’s like I get in the way. It’s a well-oiled machine” … Monday marks 27 years since Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play goal in an NHL exhibition, making seven saves on nine shots in one period for Tampa Bay against St. Louis. Current Leaf president Brendan Shanahan had one of the goals, Jeff Brown the other. Rheaume later went into amateur women’s coaching.