When Paul MacLean was named head coach of the Ottawa Senators, many people felt he was put in place to take a lot of heat. The team seemed to be in rebuilding mode. Many young players would be in the lineup. Winning seasons did not seem to be right in the future.
He took that team into the playoffs last year and has done it again this year. They play very well as a team. They are an organized group of five players on the ice.
Even this year when the team suffered major injuries, Paul MacLean kept them from drowning. When most teams lose their stud defenceman (Karlsson) and top center (Spezza) their ship sinks. Somehow MacLean kept them going and got them into the playoffs.
He is a character. He always seems to have a funny line for the media or a quick one liner. He has a big bushy mustache and a unique look. I would think the players really like playing for him and it shows on the ice.
My producer Marc Majeau put it best I think. He is the Columbo of hockey coaches.
At times he may look or act like he doesn’t know what is going on but the opposite is the truth. He is very shrewd and is playing the Canadians like a puppet master players the strings of his favorite doll. I love how he has got all of the Canadians rattled!
When Eric Gryba hit Montreal’s Lars Eller (a hit I think that was totally legal), Paul MacLean played it perfectly. In his news conference he referred to Raphael Diaz, the Habs player who passed the puck as, "#61". He said the hit was legal and really just stirred up the Habs.
They took the bait. Of course they are going to come to the defence of one of their injured teammates in the media but I think they got distracted. Brandon Prust referred to MacLean as a "Bug eyed, fat walrus."
They next thing you know MacLean is talking about that to the media when asked. Although it may seem that he was caught off guard, I guarantee he was ready for the question and had his answer ready. Just another way to help the Habs gets distracted.
The topper for me came in Sunday night’s game. Paul calls a timeout with seventeen seconds left! What a prick move to do. The Sens were killing the Habs and it was just delaying the inevitable.
MacLean did it to throw the Habs off their game even more. There had been a lot of fights before this point and he knew emotions were running high. Calling a timeout in that situation is uncalled for and quite honestly just wrong. But by doing it he got what he wanted, another response from an emotional head coach of the Habs, Michelle Therien.
He was losing it. Therrien kept looking over at the Sens bench, getting madder by the second. In his post-game scrum, Therrien made it clear that he did not respect that timeout call. I don’t blame him, I would have been upset as well. The problem for Therrien is that this is all organized by the Puppet Master, Paul MacLean.
MacLean wants the Habs to lose focus. After the puck drops, Josh Gorges tries to shoot the puck at a Sens player. Gorges is one of the leaders of that team. If he is rattled how do you think the rest of the team feels?
The challenge for the Canadians is to refocus. This series is far from over. There are down by one game in a best of seven, long ways to go. But how should or can the Habs regroup.
It starts with head coach Therrien. If I were him I would have sat down with my team today and discussed how the game ended. The brawl and fights wouldn’t have been my issue. I would have discussed out team’s reaction to the time out and the hit on Eller.
He needs to regain control of the team. Letting out frustration with some fights and dirty play isn’t the end of the world. It might even relax the guys. But now Therrien needs to make them understand that this is the playoffs and both coaches and players can’t lose sight of their goal, winning the series.
The veterans in the room like Gionta, Moen and Ryder need to have a similar discussion with their teammates. Do not react to what the Sens are doing. Initiate and make them react to us. Simple to say and harder to do.
I understand the response by the Habs. At this point in the year it just won’t win you games by getting so rattled. They need to refocus in a hurry or in less than a week they will have lots of time to focus about their mistakes in during the summer.
Lets get physical
Wow. If you have not been watching the series between the Blues and Kings you have been missing some great hockey. They are pounding each other into the ground. If I am the winning coach heading into the next round I am really wondering what my team has left in the tank. This one will go seven games, won’t be much time to rest.
I hope it goes seven!
Don’t forget to play StreakCred the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Only $20 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.
I am playing almost every game but so far I can only get a streak of two games going! It is harder then it seems!
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