Stu's Slapshots: Sens owner has interesting comments about Canadiens

At age 38, has Father Time finally caught up with the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, who will be at the Bell Centre Saturday night?

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Michael Andlauer grew up in Montreal as a huge Canadiens fan and remained one until he officially purchased the Ottawa Senators last month.

Before the 57-year-old self-made billionaire purchased the Senators, he was a minority owner of the Canadiens — owning 10 per cent of the team — and dreamed of having another Stanley Cup parade come down Ste-Catherine St. like the ones he remembers from his younger days as a fan.

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Now, Andlauer is hoping to have a Stanley Cup parade in Ottawa.

Andlauer had some interesting things to say about his decision to sell his share in the Canadiens and purchase the Senators in a story written this week by the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch.

“Don’t get me wrong, I had a really great 13- or 14-year relationship with Geoff (Molson) and the partnership group,” said Andlauer, who paid US$950 million to purchase the Senators. “They’re still together, except for me, and it’s been collaborative. But my desire to be a part owner of the Montreal Canadiens was really to win a Stanley Cup. And I didn’t feel I had that alignment. I’m not going to go into details. Geoff has last say and I respect it. I was there for him when he needed me and there were times of frustration. I play to win. I think Steve (Staios) can attest to that because he’s been with me a lot of my hockey career.”

After purchasing the Senators, Andlauer hired Staois as the team’s president of hockey operations. Staios was general manager of the junior Hamilton Bulldogs from 2015 to 2022 when Andlauer was the team owner and they won two OHL championships during that time. Staios played 16 seasons in the NHL as a defenceman, including eight in Edmonton, and had been working as a special assistant with the Oilers before joining the Senators.

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“I thought, ‘My God, is this an opportunity,’” Andlauer told Garrioch about purchasing the Senators. “Ottawa is between two major markets. I love being the underdog. That truly intrigued me, plus Ontario hasn’t had a Stanley Cup in a long time and I wanted to bring one back to Ontario. I was sitting in my seats (at the Bell Centre). We (Molson and Andlauer) kind of talked about (buying Ottawa), just the two of us, and he said to me, ‘You should probably own your own team.’ That took me back a bit because I thought, ‘I guess I don’t own the team.’”

Is age catching up with Ovechkin?

The Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin comes into Saturday night’s game at the Bell Centre against the Canadiens with no goals in his first three games and for the first time in his 19-year NHL career he has gone two games without getting a single shot on goal.

After three games, the 38-year-old has only four shots on goal. There are 11 players on the Canadiens with more than four shots after three games, led by Cole Caufield with 11, Mike Matheson with nine and Sean Monahan with eight.

Father Time is undefeated in sports, but some athletes are able to fight him off better than others.

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Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis was 39 during his final season in the NHL when he posted 21-31-52 totals in 74 games with the New York Rangers to rank fourth in team scoring.

“I never felt Father Time was catching up to me,” St. Louis said after practice Friday in Brossard. “I don’t say that being arrogant. I played more in my 30s than I played in my 20s in the NHL and I took my conditioning seriously and improving every year seriously. I know I scored 21 goals my last year and I felt like I could have done more. I’m not saying that because I’m in a place of arrogance. I’m pretty sure Ovi feels the same way. He’s shown what he can do at an older age. You got to watch him when he’s on the ice.

“The minute that you think that Father Time is catching up to you, that’s when it starts going the other way,” St. Louis added.

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St. Louis wishes he could have played longer than he did.

“I think I could have kept playing,” he said.

It’s far too early in the season to think that Father Time has delivered a devastating blow to Ovechkin and it wouldn’t be a shock if he breaks out of his slump Saturday at the Bell Centre. In 55 career games against the Canadiens, Ovechkin has scored 37 goals, including three hat tricks.

Last season, Ovechkin ranked 12th in the NHL with 294 shots despite missing nine games.

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“I’d be very surprised if he’s not coming with the mindset that I’m shooting today,” St. Louis said about Ovechkin getting ready to play the Canadiens. “We got to be ready for it.”

With 822 career goals, Ovechkin is 72 away from tying Wayne Gretzky for the NHL record of 894.

Gretzky was 38 during his final season in the NHL when he posted 9-53-62 totals in 70 games with the Rangers.

Newhook fitting in well

Alex Newhook is quickly showing Canadiens fans why GM Kent Hughes was willing to trade a first-round pick (31st overall) and a second-round pick (37th overall) to the Colorado Avalanche the day before this year’s NHL Draft in order to acquire him.

Newhook has scored three goals in his first three games with the Canadiens and his versatility will be a big bonus now as he moves from wing to centre because of Kirby Dach’s season-ending knee injury.

The 22-year-old Newhook has averaged 15:59 of ice time through three games with the Canadiens after averaging 13:57 last season with the Avalanche while posting 14-16-30 totals in 82 games. Last season, Newhook didn’t score his third goal until his 15th game.

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“He’s a powerful skater,” teammate Brendan Gallagher said about Newhook. “Really powerful skater. Especially when he gets the puck in open ice he can really make stuff happen. He’s kind of jelled with our team really well. He’s a dynamic player, so get the puck on his stick and good things happen.”

St. Louis said he knew Newhook had speed, good hands and a high compete level when he was with the Avalanche.

“Those were obvious,” the coach said. “But then you get to be around him every day, there’s some seriousness about him getting better and being good. You can see the passion, the care, and that’s fun for a coach to have that type of player.”

Gallagher still looking for first goal

Gallagher has failed to score a goal this season and only has three shots on goal after three games.

When Gallagher set a career high with 33 goals in 2018-19, he averaged 3.7 shots per game. That was also the last season Gallagher didn’t miss any games because of injury.

Matheson knows what it’s like to play against a healthy Gallagher since he was with the Florida Panthers in 2018-19.

“He’s like mud on a dirty shirt,” Matheson said. “He just never leaves you alone. I think that’s been his DNA forever and it still is. It’s not fun to play against, I can tell you that.”

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Communication is key

St. Louis says communication is the most important thing when it comes to coaching today in the NHL.

Gallagher agrees.

“Especially at this level,” Gallagher said. “You can have whatever systems. If there’s no communication they’re not going to work. Communication between the players and the coaching staff really is the most important thing. It’s really what makes everything tick back and forth, whether it’s in-game adjustments. Just understanding players’ personalities I think is really important. I think the better communication there is the quicker you see wrongs corrected.

“There’s really good dialogue with Marty,” Gallagher added. “There’s no secrets.”

St. Louis is the fourth head coach Gallagher has played for with the Canadiens since his rookie season in 2012-13 with Michel Therrien behind the bench. Gallagher has also played for Claude Julien and Dominique Ducharme.

Penalty problems

Heading into Friday’s games, the Canadiens were leading the NHL in penalty minutes with 85 — an average of 28:20 per game.

Twenty-four of the Canadiens’ 29 penalties were minors, along with three majors and two misconducts.

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It’s a big problem for a team that gave up three power-play goals and two short-handed goals in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Defenceman Johnathan Kovacevic has yet to take a penalty while averaging 18:59 of ice time.

“I think a lot of them can be avoided with a simple keep your stick on the ice,” Kovacevic said after practice Thursday. “You’re kind of not used to it from summer hockey, pre-season, training camp, you’re not necessarily getting called like that all the time. I find early on in seasons, too, refs tend to call more penalties. I’m not sure if the numbers back it up, that’s just the way I feel. It’s just about being conscious of it, stick on the ice. Still competing hard, but maybe being more into the battle with your body as opposed to your stick so that your stick’s not taking a penalty.”

Looking at plus/minus

To me, one of the most impressive stats in NHL history is the plus-124 differential Hall of Fame defenceman Bobby Orr had in 1970-71 with the Boston Bruins while posting 37-102-139 totals in 78 games.

The only other players in NHL history to post a plus-100 or better season are Larry Robinson (plus-120 with the Canadiens in 1976-77) and Gretzky (plus-100 with the Edmonton Oilers in 1984-85).

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Bruins defenceman Hampus Lindholm had the best plus/minus in the NHL last season at plus-49.

Like a lot of stats, plus/minus has to be taken with a grain of salt — sometimes a large one — and analytics people don’t put much emphasis on the stat.

“We don’t overlook it,” St. Louis said when asked about plus/minus. “It’s a stat that tells some of the story, it’s not the whole story. There’s context to it, but it something that we keep an eye on.”

The list of top-five career plus/minus players is an impressive one with Robinson (plus-722), Orr (plus-582), Raymond Bourque (plus-527), Gretzky (plus-520) and Bobby Clarke (plus-507).

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Heading into Friday’s games, Kovacevic was tied for second in the NHL in plus/minus at plus-6, trailing only Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier, who was plus-7. Last season, Kovacevic’s plus-3 was the third-best plus/minus on the Canadiens, trailing only Matheson and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, who were both plus-7.

“Plus/minus is a stat that some people give a lot of weight on, some people don’t,” Kovacevic said. “It’s kind of going away. I try not to put too much of my mindset into stats in general. My focus is on being in the game. If you’re thinking about stats while you’re playing you’re probably thinking about the wrong thing, you know what I mean? I hope to be on the ice for not a lot of their goals, but for a lot of our goals. That’s what I hope to do and if it’s working out that’s great. But that’s not really where my focus is, so I don’t put too much weight into that.

“Stats can get you paid … plus/minus doesn’t necessarily,” Kovacevic added with a grin. “Goals and assists get you paid. Of course, you’re going to be into those stats, but plus/minus not as much.”

Matheson doesn’t focus much on plus/minus.

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“It’s such a popular stat, but I’ve played great games and been minus-2 and played terrible games and been plus-2,” he said. “It’s kind of an arbitrary stat in that sense.”

There are so many stats today with analytics and Kovacevic said it’s important not to get too wrapped up in them as a player.

“They’re tracking every single play and in the NHL there’s way more metrics than there was in the AHL,” he said. “So now when you look after a game there will be like: ‘He was 90 per cent today’ … I don’t even know (what it means). You don’t want to be thinking that. You make a bad play and then you’re like, s— my metrics are going to be down today. You really don’t want to be thinking about that. I think that’s a bad mindset to get into because then you’re always thinking about that instead of the next shift, the actual play. You want to focus on the actual play instead of what that play gets you in terms of stats.”

Too cute

You have to love this video that Arber Xhekaj’s mother shared on Twitter of a young fan trying to pronounce her son’s name.

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Chip of the old block

It remains uncertain when former Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty will make his debut with the Capitals.

Pacioretty tore his right Achilles tendon for the second time since the summer of 2022 last January in only his fifth game with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Pacioretty signed a one-year, US$2 million contract with the Capitals on July 1. The 34-year-old can earn an extra US$1 million if he plays 10 games, plus a US$500,000 bonus if he plays 15 games and another US$500,000 if he plays 20 games.

Pacioretty’s 8-year-old son, Maximus, put on a show last Monday when he scored three goals in three minutes of a Mites game between periods of a Capitals game at Capital One Arena.

Pacioretty and his wife, Katia, have five children — four boys and a girl.

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Edmundson goes on LTIR

Joel Edmundson also won’t be in the lineup for the Capitals Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

The former Canadiens defenceman was placed on long-term injured reserve Monday, meaning he won’t be able to play until at least Nov. 8.

Edmundson needed surgery on Sept. 26 to repair a hand he fractured during a training-camp scrimmage.

It seems like the Canadiens’ injury bug follows players even after they leave Montreal. Edmundson missed 79 games over the last two seasons with the Canadiens because of back problems.

Former Canadiens goalie Charlie Lindgren, now with the Capitals, was also placed on injured reserve Thursday with an upper-body injury suffered during Monday’s morning skate.

Petry a healthy scratch

Former Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry was made a healthy scratch after playing only two games with the Detroit Red Wings.

Petry was minus-1 and took two penalties in his first game with the Red Wings — a 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils — and was minus-1 again in his second game — a 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With Petry watching from the press box Monday night, the Red Wings beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0.

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Petry was back in the lineup for Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. He picked up two assists and was plus-2 while logging 19:32 of ice time.

Upcoming birthdays

Canadiens defenceman David Savard will turn 33 on Sunday, while former Canadien Réjean Houle will celebrate his 74th birthday on Wednesday.

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