In this week’s edition of Montreal Canadiens news and rumors, Cole Caufield’s first NHL goal couldn’t have been scripted any better, Jonathan Drouin has taken a leave of absence from the team and there will be no playoffs for the Laval Rocket this season.
Plus, a few former Habs take home the Gagarin Cup with Avangard Omsk in the KHL and Patrick Roy is interested in a new NHL opportunity.
Cole Caufield’s Memorable First Goal
It seems only fitting that Caufield’s first NHL goal was an overtime winner which solidified the Canadiens’ playoff position and gave them their first two-game win streak since early February. Not to mention that it came on a Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators on Hockey Night in Canada.
It’s a goal that will be remembered for a long time. A goal scorer’s goal which was followed by an appropriately exuberant reaction. Having the presence of mind to sneak behind the defender to find open space close to the net at a crucial time in the game. These are the kind of instincts that Caufield has shown at every level throughout his career and in his first four games in the NHL. Even the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, took notice.
The only thing missing was 21,273 delirious fans packed in the Bell Centre. It will be interesting to see how Caufield fits into Montreal’s postseason plans considering that there will be a logjam at forward once players return from injury. He’s certainly making a strong case to stay in the top 12 as is his current centre, Jake Evans.
Jonathan Drouin Takes Leave of Absence
The Canadiens announced earlier this week that Drouin will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team for personal reasons.
“The most important thing right now is ‘Jo’ taking care of what he needs to take care of,” head coach Dominique Ducharme said Wednesday. “When I heard his name this morning, I don’t think hockey, I think about the person.”
Drouin has 23 points in 44 games this season but has been the subject of excessive criticism for his perceived lack of production. His leave has once again raised questions about the pressure of playing in a hockey hotbed like Montreal, especially for a Quebec-born player.
Here’s hoping that he returns stronger than ever to the game he loves and to the team he is very proud to represent.
The Canadiens are currently without six regulars in their lineup. In addition to Drouin, Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher, Carey Price, Tomas Tatar and captain Shea Weber are all missing in action. The long infirmary list has given the Habs’ youngsters the chance to take on bigger roles and so far, they are making the most of the opportunity.
The AHL Cancels Calder Cup Playoffs
The AHL has cancelled the Calder Cup Playoffs for the 2020-21 season due to league COVID-19 protocols. Unfortunate news for the first-place Laval Rocket who had serious Calder Cup aspirations this year.
They boast the best record in the league at 22-5-1. They can clinch the Canadian division title with one win, or two points, in their final seven games which will be played against the Toronto Marlies and the Belleville Senators. Given the Rocket’s impressive season, it’s no surprise that head coach Joël Bouchard is being pegged as a potential candidate to make the jump to the NHL.
We’ll see which players Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin calls up to the taxi squad for the postseason once Laval’s season comes to an end.
Alexei Emelin and Ilya Kovalchuk Win Gagarin Cup
Former Habs Alexei Emelin and Ilya Kovalchuk, co-captains of Avangard Omsk in the KHL, led their team to its first Gagarin Cup victory in franchise history.
Coached by former NHL bench boss Bob Hartley, Avangard Omsk defeated CSKA Moscow in Game 6 on Wednesday to take the final series 4-2.
It was great to see Emelin on the ice to accept the trophy after suffering a serious health scare last month.
Just days after the win, Avangard and Kovalchuk mutually agreed to terminate the forward’s contract. Perhaps opening the door for a return to the NHL next season?
Patrick Roy Eyeing NHL Coaching Return
Speaking of returns, Hockey Hall of Famer and four-time Stanley Cup champion Roy is looking for a new opportunity as an NHL coach or executive according to his new agent, Neil Glasberg.
Right now, the 55-year-old occupies the dual role of general manager and head coach with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL.
Although there is no imminent deal in place with an NHL organization, that didn’t stop the speculation of a possible return to Montreal after an 11-year playing stint with the Canadiens that saw him win two Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe trophies and three Vezina trophies. Especially considering that current interim head coach Ducharme is without a contract for next year and Bergevin has been on the hot seat for some time.
What’s Next For the Canadiens?
Yet another four-game week looms for the Canadiens as they look to book their place in the postseason. They’ll face the Toronto Maple Leafs three times in a potential first-round playoff preview and Ottawa once. Montreal will finish the regular season with a two-game series against the Edmonton Oilers on May 10 and 12.
Price is expected to begin skating in the coming days as he continues to recover from a concussion. In the meantime, fans will be crossing their fingers for more good news about the team’s injured players.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media Community Manager and a co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.