Author: George Kurtz, Staff Writer

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the end of the regular season is always a gamble, as there is just no way of knowing how the players will respond. General managers may have noticed how teams like the Islanders and Bruins have played remarkably better after the change, and perhaps that is even what led to the firing of Montreal head coach Michel Therrien.

The Islanders probably aren

The Islanders probably aren’t wild about the players they got in return for Nino Niederreiter. Photo Credit: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

I found it odd that Montreal made this move for a couple of reasons. First, the team is in first place in the division. Yes, they have stumbled of late, going only 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, but first place is first place. Second, during the offseason the team seemingly had to choose between Therrien and P.K.Subban, their star defenseman, as the player and coach had been butting heads constantly. This is what made the Shea Weber for Subban trade necessary. So, it’s kind of odd that just a few months later they now don’t have either the player or the coach.

I also found it strange that Boston would allow Montreal, their number one and division rival, to talk to Claude Julien. The Bruins had just fired Julien and would have to give permission to any team wishing to talk to him. Julien is known as one of the best head coaches in the game. He already had multiple suitors for his services and would’ve had even more if he waited until the offseason to find a new job. Maybe the Bruins were doing him a solid. They knew they wronged him by firing him in the fashion they did. They also know that coaching the Canadiens is the equivalent to coaching the Dallas Cowboys or New York Yankees. Julien had also had one other stint with Montreal, so that was probably his preferred destination. Still, I’m surprised. I know the Bruins wanted to make sure to get the contract off their books, but that was going to happen eventually. Why let him go to Montreal? Did they need that money to come off their books immediately?

One of the biggest reasons for the Montreal swoon over the past month has been the play of Carey Price. Since the start of the new calendar year (15 games), Price has allowed 49 goals. That comes out to a GAA of 3.27. That’s just not good enough for a backup goaltender, never mind one of Price’s stature. Included in those 15 games are stints of 16 goals against in four games and his current stint of 12 goals allowed in his last three games. I wonder if Price and Therrien were having issues as well, and if this is the reason why Marc Bergevin (GM) finally pulled the trigger on Therrien. If not, the Canadiens are going nowhere fast.

One goaltender who has responded in a big way since the firing of the head coach is Jake Allen of the Blues. He has only allowed seven goals over his last five games. Is he playing better because they fired Ken Hitchcock? There really is no way of knowing, but new coach Mike Yeo has made it a priority for the team to clean up its play in front of the net. Either way, it’s once again safe to put Allen back in your starting lineup and his play has also slowed the trade rumors for the time being.

Do you think the Islanders would like to have Nino Niederreiter back? They traded Niederreiter to the Wild several years ago for Cal Clutterbuck among several others. Clutterbuck has his uses as an annoying little gnat that is an energy player, but Niederreiter is developing into a perennial 25-30 goal scorer. Wouldn’t he look nice on a line with John Tavares? Like the Wild in general, he’s having a career season. He’s already set a career high in power play goals and that’s just going to be the first of several personal milestones that he will pass. If he’s still available on your waiver wire, go out and grab him.

We’ve seen a couple of suspensions handed down over the past few days. Gustav Nyquist was given six games for swinging his stick and connecting with the Wild’s Jared Spurgeon in the face. I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t a longer suspension, but the NHL has always been dicey with how they hand out discipline. Tuesday night, I’m not sure what Antoine Vermette was thinking but he actually slashed a linesman. Granted, it wasn’t a hard slash, just a whack on the backside, but he is likely to sit 10 games for abuse of an official. Perhaps the long season is getting to these players but for obvious reasons they should be taken out of your lineup; not that Vermette would be in there anyway, unless you’re in a league that counts faceoffs won.

You can feel free to follow me on Twitter, @georgekurtz

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