MONTREAL, Quebec — Kraken forward Yanni Gourde says the team’s efforts still aren’t consistent enough and must change.
“To be honest, the first two periods of the Ottawa game — not a great effort,” alternate captain Gourde said after Saturday’s morning skate, speaking of an overtime loss to the Senators two nights before. “The third period, yeah, we kind of showed up. But that was not a 60-minute effort. And if you’re going to win in this league, you’re going to have to play for 60. I don’t think we’ve done that consistently enough.”
The Kraken entered Saturday’s game against Montreal having lost 11 of their past 12 contests to remain just three points ahead of the Canadiens for last place overall in the league.
Gourde made his comments after skating on the Bell Centre’s ice for the first time since Game 4 of last summer’s Stanley Cup Final while still with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay beat Montreal in five games to capture a second consecutive title.
Though Gourde said he wasn’t “pointing fingers” at individuals, he suggested a lack of motivation might be behind the Kraken’s team-wide inconsistency.
“Let’s be honest, we’re out of a playoff spot,” he said. “So, to win games you have to be determined to win games in this league. And I don’t think we’ve been determined enough. The other teams are. And at the end of the day, if you do that in this league, you’re not going to have much success.
“So, you’ve got to find the right balance. You’ve got to go out there and give it your all. There’s no easy night in this league. There’s no free puck. You’ve got to battle for each puck. And you’ve got to be willing to pay a price to win those battles.”
Gourde reiterated for media members — both in English and French — that his personal approach hasn’t changed from when he played for a Lightning team renowned for its hard work and consistency. He focuses on taking care of his own business and leading by example. He also said he and other team leaders have addressed the subject of effort behind closed doors.
“I mean, the message has been sent,” he said. “Now, it’s a matter of 20 guys going out there and doing it.”
Gourde was raised in the small town of Saint Narcisse, about 110 miles northeast of Montreal. He expected 10 to 15 friends and family members would be at Saturday’s game.
Kraken defenseman Jeremy Lauzon, born in the northern Quebec mining town of Val d’Or, also had his immediate family and friends drive down for the game and other relatives from Montreal planning to come.
Lauzon agreed with Gourde the team’s effort level hasn’t been consistent enough. He suggested distractions such as the March 21 trade deadline might be playing into it but quickly added that it can’t continue.
Lauzon was a healthy scratch against the Senators but played previously on the trip in late losses to Toronto, Carolina and Washington.
“That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been losing — we haven’t been playing 60-minute games,” he said. “We’ve put ourselves into a good position coming into the third (period) and we’ve seen our team going down.
“So, I think it’s just focusing on playing a full 60 minutes as a team. Be consistent on little plays on the boards, winning battles, winning one-on-ones.”
As with Gourde, he didn’t attribute the lack of focus to late-season fatigue.
“I think there’s been a lot going on,” he said. “The trade deadline’s coming up. And it’s hard as a team when you haven’t won for a couple of games, especially on a long road trip.
“As a team, you expect to win every night. And you want to win as a competitor and you’re mad when you lose. Obviously for me, I hate losing so. You just come into the game and expect to play a full 60 minutes. That’s what we need to do.”
Lauzon ‘proud’ of brothers’ decisions to end hockey careers
Among family members in town to see Lauzon play were his younger brothers, Zachary and Emile, who both abruptly halted their own hockey careers in recent years due to concussions.
Zachary, 23, a defenseman, was drafted in the second round, 51st overall by Pittsburgh in 2017, but retired two years later due to concussions suffered while still playing for junior-level Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Then, just three weeks ago, Emile, 20, announced he was stepping away from his final season with Val d’Or of the QMJHL. He’d missed several months after suffering lingering effects from a head injury in his fourth game of the season Oct. 9.
Lauzon said it was very tough on his family three years ago when Zachary’s NHL dream was thwarted. But it made it somewhat easier to come to grips with Emile’s decision.
“I think for Emile, with Zach having already taken that path, it was a little easier to understand and to live with it because Zach was there with him,” Lauzon said. “Health is the important part. If you don’t feel healthy playing hockey — that was the case with Emile every time he was stepping on the ice after that. He was going to school and he couldn’t concentrate for the whole day.
“For him and for my parents, our family, school is really important. So, he decided to step away from hockey and concentrate on school. Now he’s doing way better. I think the pressure of trying to come back is off his back, too.”
Lauzon said he’s “proud” of his brothers’ decisions. The three siblings and their parents spent Friday together in Montreal.
Alex Wennberg was scratched from Saturday’s game with an upper body injury suffered in Thursday’s loss to Ottawa. Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said the centerman didn’t really feel the effects of the injury until the morning after the game.
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