Stanley Cup Finals: Canadiens Still Out to Prove They Belong
This appearance, against a rival in the Atlantic Division, is unlike any other in the venerable history of Montreal. In that truncated 56-game season, the Canadiens soared, then collapsed. They fired their coach, then their goalie coach a week later. They lost Price and defenseman Shea Weber to injuries, then Joel Armia to a positive coronavirus test which further squeezed an already condensed schedule. They have played their last 25 games in 44 days and have lost 15, including the last five. The playoffs only got attention because, playing in a single division populated by the seven Canadian teams, Montreal was slightly less mediocre than fifth-placed Calgary.
“They are exactly where they thought they would be,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Monday morning. “They didn’t go the same way, so it looks different because they look like the Cinderella team. But I don’t believe it for a second. And no one does it in our room.
Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin likes to say that there are players who bring you in and there are players who let you pass. He reshuffled the roster during the offseason and again at the trade deadline, acquiring six Stanley Cup-winning players including defenseman Joel Edmundson, substitute goalie Jake Allen and forwards Eric Staal, Tyler Toffoli and Corey Perry.
“It has really been useful to our team this year and we want to use it and I think we have done it,” said Montreal assistant Luke Richardson, who took over as coach after Dominique Ducharme – who replaced Claude Julien as head coach on February 24 – contracted the coronavirus. (Ducharme missed the last four games of the semifinal against the Vegas Golden Knights, but expects to return for Game 3 in Montreal.) “Maybe all of these players didn’t win the Cup. last year, but maybe there’s even more motivation to come back there to win this Cup and know that this could be one of their last chances. So it’s a good message to pass in the locker room.
The Canadians, who had little time to train after Ducharme arrived, merged midway through their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They knocked out Toronto in seven games, swept the Winnipeg Jets and strangled Vegas in six, going 7-2 on the road.
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