Lightning’s connection to Canadiens runs deep ahead of Stanley Cup Final

TAMPA, Fla. — When Julien BriseBois first started working for the Montreal Canadiens, they gave him an office next to the one Jean Beliveau kept at the Bell Centre.

The early days of his hockey career were shaped by the organization’s alumni. BriseBois was raised in the Montreal suburb of Greenfield Park and got hired by the team as a 24-year-old lawyer in 2001, leaning heavily on the experiences of Bob Gainey, Guy Carbonneau, Rick Green, Roland Melanson, Pierre Mondou and Rejean Houle.

“I was learning a lot more than I was contributing at that point,” he says now, on the verge of watching his Tampa Bay Lightning face the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final. “I asked them a lot, a lot, a lot of questions and they were very generous in sharing their experiences.”

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With that kind of education, BriseBois understands better than most what the pursuit of a 25th championship means in Montreal. How this unexpected playoff run has reverberated across the province over the last six weeks and sent thousands into the streets on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day to celebrate the berth in the Final.

And how several members of the Lightning have now gone from friend or family member to foe.

“There aren’t too many sports organizations where people write songs on the team and they become hits,” Brisebois said Sunday in French. “We’re very conscious – we have a number of Quebecers in our organization – we know we have eight million opponents that we will need to beat if we want to win the Stanley Cup.”

It was only in this pandemic-altered season that the Canadiens and Lightning could even meet with a championship on the line. They both usually play out of the Atlantic Division, and faced one another in Round 1 in 2014 and Round 2 in 2015.

It’s unusual for a Canadian player to go against his hometown team in a Stanley Cup Final because a decade has passed since anyone last had the chance — when Milan Lucic’s Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.

The Lightning are loaded with Quebec connections. Yanni Gourde and David Savard were both raised as Canadiens fans in the province, as was Alex Killorn in the Montreal suburb of Beaconsfield. Extras Mathieu Joseph, Alex Barre-Boulet and Daniel Walcot are all from Quebec, too.

Then you have BriseBois, director of hockey operations Mathieu Darche, director of player development J.P. Cote, goaltending coach Frantz Jean and strength coach Mark Lambert, among others.

Killorn said his text messages from 514 area codes have been pretty civil so far, but only because he’s got friends hoping to score tickets off him. He knows that even those wishing him good luck probably don’t mean it sincerely.

“Listen, I understand how important this is to the city of Montreal,” said Killorn. “I grew up there, I grew up a Montreal Canadiens fan. I’m happy for the city: They’ve been locked down and [under] curfew and for them to get this?

“It’s exciting, for sure.”

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The Stanley Cup is destined to spend a fair amount of time in Montreal this summer no matter who wins this series. And not just because that’s where it’s engraved with the winner’s names each year.

Gourde is from Saint-Narcisse and scored the only goal in the Game 7 victory over the Islanders to get Tampa here. The prospect of playing his boyhood team is so exciting that he’ll be reminding himself to stay calm in the leadup to Game 1 on Monday night.

“It’s big, honestly. It’s very big,” Gourde said in French. “I’m excited for the challenge. I can’t wait for it to start, for that puck to drop, to leave all this aside and just play hockey, to battle against the Canadiens.

“We know how good they are, how tight they play, how hard it’s going to be to generate scoring chances. We’re looking forward to the challenge, it’s big for me and for the team.”

There are big historical undertones to a series that will be contested in the heat of late June and early July. The Canadiens can extend their NHL-best championship total by winning one that few thought possible as recently as two months ago. And the Lightning are trying to go back-to-back and claim their franchise’s third title in the process.

BriseBois has had a huge hand in their recent success, joining Tampa in 2010 to serve as Steve Yzerman’s right-hand man before taking over the GM post from him in 2018. He’s tried to transport some of the Canadiens’ culture to a place where many Canadians come to escape the harsh winter months.

“When Steve and I started putting the program together here, obviously he was coming in from a great organization, the Detroit Red Wings, and they had had a lot of success and so he was bringing those lessons to our management group and I was bringing experiences and lessons that I had learned in another great organization, the Montreal Canadiens,” said Brisebois.

“We kind of put all of those experiences together in trying to build the team that we have here and the organization that we have here.”

The last organization still standing between the Canadiens and the Stanley Cup.

What Guerrero Jr. and Biggio did to provide timely offence for Blue Jays

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Canadiens open Stanley Cup Final as underdogs on NHL odds

The Montreal Canadiens will make their long-awaited return to the Stanley Cup Final when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the series on Monday night as lengthy plus-170 road underdogs on the NHL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Montreal punched its ticket to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 28 years by knocking off the heavily favoured Vegas Golden Knights in six games during the semifinals, and has now claimed victory in 11 of 13 games ahead of Monday night’s matchup at Amalie Arena.

The Canadiens have fuelled their unlikely run through this year’s playoffs by sticking to a defence-first game plan and seizing offensive opportunities when they present themselves. Goaltender Carey Price has been key to the club’s success. Price has seen his play steadily improve as the postseason has progressed, allowing two or fewer goals in 10 of his past 12 outings. That has enabled Montreal to put together an 11-0 run when scoring two or more goals so far in this postseason.

Despite his heroics, Price looks to his first Stanley Cup Final appearance trailing his Lightning counterpart Andrei Vasilevskiy on the Conn Smythe Trophy odds at online sports betting sites. Vasilevskiy has been equally dominant, with three of his four shutout wins coming in series-clinching contests. That has lifted him to a plus-125 favourite, just ahead of Price as a plus-175 bet.

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Now faced with the task of dethroning the battle-hardened defending Stanley Cup champions in their bid to claim their first title since 1993, the Canadiens also trail on the NHL playoff series prices. Montreal opens the series as plus-200 underdogs to raise the Cup, well back of the Lightning, who are set as minus-240 chalk to claim the third championship in franchise history.

Complicating matters for the Canadiens is a growing concern over the presence of COVID-19 in the team’s camp. Head coach Dominique Ducharme has been absent from the team for the past 10 days after testing positive, and worries have heightened with reports on Sunday that forward Joel Armia will not travel to Tampa Bay for Game 1 after being placed in COVID-19 protocol.

That represents a potentially big blow to a Canadiens team that has struggled in recent years against their Atlantic Division rivals, falling to defeat in 12 of their past 15 meetings, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. As for the Lightning, they expect to have forward Nikita Kucherov in the lineup in Game 1 on Monday night as they seek to extend a three-game home win streak during which they have outscored opponents by a 13-3 margin.

Blue Jays’ Guerrero Jr., Semien among finalists for MLB All-Star ballot

Five Toronto Blue Jays players are among the finalists for the 2021 All-Star Game voting ballot, with home run leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leading the way.

After Phase 1 results, Guerrero Jr. remains atop the MLB ballot with 2,704,788 total votes, joining José Bautista (2011, 2014) and Josh Donaldson (2015) as the lone Blue Jays to finish atop the majors in all-Star balloting. Marcus Semien leads all second basemen with 1,810,230 votes.

Three other Blue Jays will move on to the next round as Bo Bichette sits second among shortstops, while Teoscar Hernández (sixth) and Randal Grichuk (ninth) are also among the finalists.

Guerrero Jr. leads MLB with 26 home runs and 64 RBI this season while slashing .341/.444/.685. Semien tops all second basemen with 18 home runs and is second with 45 RBI wit a .278/.344/.520 line in his first season with Toronto.

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The second phase of voting, which begins June 28 and lasts until July 1, will determine the starters for the game.

This year’s All-Star Game takes place July 13 at Coors Field in Colorado.

BriseBois on Price: ‘เขามีอาชีพ Hall of Fame ถ้าเขาเกษียณตอนนี้’

{* ผสานบัญชี *}


Caufield soaking up every moment of Canadiens’ Stanley Cup Final run

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Canadiens’ Bergevin was ‘not aware’ of Blackhawks’ sexual assault allegations

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin says during his time with the Chicago Blackhawks he was “not aware” of sexual assault allegations made during the 2010 playoffs by an unidentified former player in the organization against a then-assistant coach.

“It came out recently. There was a meeting that I’ve heard was done in Chicago. I was not part of any meeting and I was not part of any decision based on that. I was not aware of what was going on at the time. You can go on the record with that,” Bergevin told reporters Sunday during the Stanley Cup Final media day.

Bergevin, who was serving as director of pro personnel at the time, was referring to a reported meeting between then-skills coach Paul Vincent and team executives, including team president John McDonough and general manager Stan Bowman, during which Vincent says he told management to report the allegations to Chicago police but that his request was rejected.

The former Blackhawks player has filed a lawsuit against the organization and ex-assistant coach Bradley Aldrich, who after leaving the team was convicted in 2013 in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a student and is now on that state’s registry of sex offenders.

The former’s player’s attorney, Susan Loggans, says inaction by the Blackhawks allowed Aldrich to go on and assault the Michigan student, and possibly others.

The lawsuit, filed on May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Aldrich also assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages is referred in the document as “John Doe.”

According to TSN, two Blackhawks players told Vincent in May 2010 of inappropriate behaviour by Aldrich.

The eight-page lawsuit says Aldrich, then a video coach, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. It says Aldrich also threatened to “physically, financially and emotionally” hurt the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with him.

Chicago public radio station WBEZ obtained police records for its latest report this week that indicated Aldrich faced other allegations of unwanted sexual contact, including when he worked at Miami University after leaving the Blackhawks.

An attorney for Aldrich told WBEZ that his client denies the allegations in the lawsuit. In a May statement to the radio station, the Blackhawks said the allegations directed at it were groundless.

According to the lawsuit, the former player reported the allegation at the time to the team’s then-mental skills coach, James F. Gary. It says Gary “convinced plaintiff that the sexual assault was his fault.”

Gary, who has since retired, told WBEZ he didn’t know “anything about this.” Vincent told TSN he had asked Gary to follow up, a request that preceded his meeting with team executives.

The former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting filed a separate lawsuit against the Blackhawks on May 26, saying the Blackhawks provided positive references to future employers of Aldrich despite allegations from at least one player and took no action to report the matter.

That suit says the student was a hockey player at Houghton High School near Hancock in 2013 when Aldrich sexually assaulted him at an end-of-season gathering.

Loggans also represents the student, referred to a “John Doe 2” in the lawsuit. She confirmed to WBEZ that he was the student Aldrich was convicted of assaulting.

“Had the Blackhawks accurately reported what had occurred with John Doe 1, then Aldrich would never have been allowed to be in a position where he could molest other people,” Loggans said.

Houghton police records obtained by WBEZ said Aldrich resigned as director of hockey operations at Miami University of Ohio in 2012 “under suspicion of unwanted touching of a male adult.” The school said it has launched an internal investigation.

The records cited repeated allegations from Aldrich’s time as an assistant high school hockey coach in Houghton. The precise timing of his departure from the Blackhawks is unclear.

The police records say investigators reached out to the Blackhawks about Aldrich but its front office would confirm only that he was once an employee.

A lawyer for Aldrich responded to the WBEZ report by noting that his conviction was a matter of public record and added that “any publication of untrue material by WBEZ will be treated as libelous.”

With files from The Associated Press

Discipline key as Canadiens head into special teams battle vs. Lightning

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Highlights: Cardinals 3, Pirates 1

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