Price focused on regrouping after Canadiens fire goaltending coach

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Carey Price said he is eager to get working on simplifying things with Sean Burke, the Montreal Canadiens’ new director of goaltending.

Burke replaced goaltending coach Stephane Waite, who was fired following the second period of the Canadiens’ 3-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. 

“It’s surprising, obviously,” the goalie said after practice Wednesday. “It’s an unfortunate part of the business. It’s just about moving forward. I’m grateful for the time that I spent with Steph. He’s been a hard-working, dedicated goalie coach, and I really appreciate all that work that he’s done with us. 

“Right now it’s a quick turnaround. We don’t have a lot of time to dwell on things, it’s all about regrouping and getting the work done and start bonding quickly (with Burke). I’ve spoken with Sean, I don’t doubt it’s going to be very quick.”

Waite, who won the Stanley Cup as goaltending coach with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and 2013, had worked with Price since joining the Canadiens on July 4, 2013. In 385 regular-season games under Waite, Price was 209-137-38 with a 2.46 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and 29 shutouts. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he was 21-19 with a 2.10 GAA, .926 save percentage and four shutouts.

In 13 starts this season, Price is 6-4-3 with a 2.96 GAA (second-highest in his 14 NHL seasons) and .893 save percentage (his lowest in the NHL) for Montreal (10-6-5), which is in fourth place in the Scotia North Division. The Canadiens host the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; TSN2, RDS, TSN3, NHL.TV).

Price said Waite’s firing was “an evolution of maybe small things that have led up to this point,” and that those things were technical and mental.

“Sometimes change is good. Sometimes it’s good to just hear a new voice. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate what Steph was doing, it’s just sometimes a necessity in pro hockey.”

Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin said the decision to replace Waite was made earlier Tuesday but was put off so it wouldn’t cause a distraction before the game. Bergevin informed Waite at the start of the third period in the Bell Centre suite above the rink, where Waite was watching the game.

Bergevin said firing Waite was based on a gut feeling and not a specific incident. 

“Just to be clear, nothing happened (between Price and Waite),” he said. “There was no fight, argument. There’s none of that. I think they had a good relationship. I make the decisions for the organization, for the team, for the players and that’s my job. I take full responsibility for making that change.

“You run a business, whatever you do, and you have some instincts you trust. You have to go by what you believe. … Without getting into exact details of the goaltending issues, I go back to a pattern that I saw recurring the last few years. That’s why I felt it was necessary to make that change.”

It has been a tumultuous week for the Canadiens, who on Feb. 24 fired coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller, naming Dominique Ducharme as coach and Alexandre Burrows as an assistant. An hour after its victory against Ottawa ended a five-game losing streak (0-2-3) and gave Ducharme his first NHL win, Montreal announced the firing of Waite and the new position for Burke. 

Burke, a former NHL goalie who since 2016 has been an Arizona-based Western scout for the Canadiens, is expected to join Montreal on March 19 upon its return from a two-week Western road trip after he’ll have served a 14-day pandemic-mandated quarantine. His work will have him involved with goalies throughout the organization. 

“I believe that the more smart people you surround yourself with, the better [for] all of us,” Bergevin said. “So bringing ‘Burkie’ closer to us makes the Montreal Canadiens better today.”

Bergevin said there are high expectations for the Canadiens, who began the season 8-2-2 but have gone 2-4-3 since.

“I’ve said from Day One, I expect this team to make the playoffs,” Bergevin said. “I have the expectation that we have a good team that can beat anybody if we’re on top of our game. That’s why I felt it was important to make those changes. You don’t look forward to make changes just to make changes, but if I see things that I don’t like, and I could help, that’s what I have to do. That’s my responsibility.

“Every player, if it’s Carey, if it’s (defensemen) Ben Chiarot, Shea Weber, (forwards) [Phillip] Danault, Brendan Gallagher, they’re all responsible for the performance. That’s on them. Every one of them. My job is to provide them the best tools I can for them to have success, but at the end of the day, it’s on the players to perform, and if they don’t perform, then that’s where I come in and try to help.”

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