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Canadiens coach Claude Julien trying to keep things calm

 Injured Montreal Canadien Jonathan Drouin watches practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Nov. 27, 2019.
Injured Montreal Canadien Jonathan Drouin watches practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Nov. 27, 2019.

Canadiens coach Claude Julien is trying to remain a calming influence while Montreal hockey fans are in a state of panic about the team’s current eight-game winless streak (0-5-3).

“Right now, our focus is to fix things, which is being fixed right now,” Julien said after practice Monday in Brossard as the Canadiens prepared to face the New York Islanders Tuesday night at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). “I think the last couple of games there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be winning hockey games if we play that way. We’re going to need a break here or there, just like the other team got a break last night on a poor call. They took advantage of it. So eventually those things will fall into place where we’ll get our opportunity here. That’s where our focus is.”

The Canadiens were playing a solid game and leading the Bruins 1-0 Sunday night in Boston when Nick Cousins was penalized for holding at 8:38 of the third period. The Bruins scored on the power play with nine seconds left in the penalty and then added two more goals for a 3-1 victory.

Julien, in his 17th season as an NHL head coach, noted he has been around a long time and this isn’t the first time he’s gone through a situation like this. He said the keys are to stay calm and positive and make sure the players keep competing hard and playing the “right way.” He also noted that injuries to Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron and Victor Mete have forced him to use young players like Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Cale Fleury and Gustav Olofsson more.

“When I say remain positive, it’s not about being happy,” Julien said. “It’s about telling yourself we’re going to get out of this by doing the right things. And that’s where as a coaching staff you keep your team focused on doing what needs to be done in order to turn things around and not get caught up with all the other stuff that’s going on around us right now.

“Those are hockey players,” Julien added about his team. “They know the game. They know they’ve played pretty decent hockey in the last couple of games. They know that. They also know when they don’t play well, OK? You don’t have to tell them 10 times … they know that they didn’t have a good game as a group or as individuals. But they know what’s going on and right now they’re believing that if we play the right way the wins will come. I hope that in a month from now we can say that adversity is what made us the team that we are today. I can’t say that right now, but I’m hoping that in a month that’s what’s going to be coming out of our mouths here.”

One of the reasons for the Canadiens’ struggles is the fact goalie Carey Price hasn’t been playing great with a 10-9-3 record, a 3.18 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage. He has also been facing a lot of Grade A scoring chances.

Price said he’s impressed with the way Julien has been handling the situation.

“He’s been really good,” Price said. “It’s not an easy situation to be in. We’ve got a lot of young players that he has to be mindful of. It’s definitely frustrating for all parties involved, but I feel like he’s doing a pretty good job of handling himself.”

Julien said the eight-game winless streak isn’t necessarily indicative of how his team has been playing overall.

“This is from a hockey side of things,” the coach said. “When we look at these last eight games and we look at whether it’s scoring chances, how the game was played, and looking at it in a realistic view, we could easily be 4-4 right now. But we haven’t won a single game out of those. I thought against Philadelphia (a 4-3 overtime loss on Saturday at the Bell Centre) we were the better team, last night we played a heck of a game until we get called on that penalty and they score a power-play goal. We had played really well. But there’s other games, too, that we’ve totally out-chanced the other team, haven’t been able to score as much as they have.

“We gave up some bad goals from some bad defensive decisions and all that stuff,” Julien added. “But at the end of the day, we could easily be 4-4 right now. So this is where you have to look at the things in a realistic way and say: ‘Yeah, we are what we are, but we need to fix this.’ And the right way to fix it is by having the right approach and the right attitude. No matter what happens on the outside of our dressing room, it’s important to focus on what’s inside and what can fix this situation.

“The only people that can fix it — unfortunately, our fans can support us but they can’t fix it. We’re the only ones that can fix it.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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