In the Habs’ Room: Seeing the result might not have played a better option

Due to the lack of a full roster due to COVID, Montreal pushed through, as it was already dealing with a backlog of eight postponed games.

Article content

In a perfect world, the National Hockey League could have – and should have – pulled the plug on Saturday’s game between the Canadiens and Florida Panthers.

Advertisement

Article content

But the game went on as planned because, in part, the Canadiens wanted to play.

The NHL, their players and the Panthers all had a vested interest because they needed the gate revenue, and a visit from the Canadiens is one of those rare games that produces an audience close to capacity at FAA Live Arena.

After Jake Evans and Alexander Romanov introduced the NHL COVID-19 protocol on Saturday, the Canadiens were left with only 16 healthy skaters and there was an argument for postponing the game. That option was presented to the Canadiens during morning talks with the NHL, but Montreal decided to play.

The decision made sense because the Canadiens are not in the playoffs this season and they already have to deal with a backlog of eight postponed games that need to be rescheduled.

Advertisement

Article content

With a ranking lacking in quantity and quality – Nick Suzuki, Brett Kulak and Cole Caufield were the only players in the lineup to be part of last season’s run to the Stanley Cup final – the Canadiens were lucky to lose the game two periods before losing 5-2.

“There were a lot of guys who played great minutes, we did not stop at all during the game and I’m proud of the boys for that,” said Suzuki, who scored to end a six-game drought. He was one of the players who played great minutes with 24:41 ice time. Montreal’s only skater with more ice time was defender Kale Clague, who played a career-high 27:34.

The Canadiens were up to 10 forwards after Cédric Paquette took a knock on Sam Bennett’s chin. As a result, Suzuki and Jonathan Drouin – he scored Montreal’s second goal and played 23:10 – found themselves with a variety of linemates as coach Dominique Ducharme juggled three lines. Suzuki played more than 70 minutes on the roadtrip of three games. That was not uncommon when he played junior, but it’s more taxing in the NHL.

Advertisement

Article content

“You choose your places and try not to waste energy,” Suzuki said. “You try to take short shifts when you can. You don’t want to sit in the defensive zone for too long. It happened a few times and it takes a while to get the energy back.”

With 14 players in the COVID protocol and five others unavailable due to injuries, there are opportunities for younger players to impress Ducharme and de facto general manager Jeff Gorton.

Clague, who said he was surprised by his ice age Saturday, falls into that category.

“It’s a great opportunity to show that I belong in this league,” said the 23-year-old Clague, who was sued on Dec. 4 by the Los Angeles Kings. “I do not think there is a player I always want to be on the ice and every time you are thrown out, you try to make the best of it, and that is what I tried to do last night.

Advertisement

Article content

The Canadiens had postponed four home games over the coming week and will not play again until they travel to Boston on January 12 for a game. Thursday. It is hoped that the five days of isolation will combat the spread of COVID-19.

The players who entered the protocol during this trip will stay in the US for at least five days and the team will try to fly some of them north and then arrange for land transportation to Montreal.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a vibrant but civic forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their opinions about our articles. Comments can take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email when you receive a response to your comment, there is an update for a comment thread you follow or if a user follows your comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to customize your email settings.

Leave a Comment