The Montreal Canadiens had a busy week on the ice trying to clinch the final playoff spot. After a three-game win streak, they have stumbled as of late but still hold the upper hand in the race to the playoffs. With only two games remaining, the Habs need a single point to clinch the final spot. While we wait for them to play, here are the news and rumours from last week.
Edmundson Fined for Trip
Canadiens defenceman Joel Edmundson was fined $1,000 on Sunday for a dangerous trip on Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Tavares. The supposed trip came late in the game while the Leafs were on a power play; Tavares was not injured, and there was no penalty on the play.
The fine left many Canadiens fans confused and angry, especially since what looked like an even worse infraction on Habs forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi happened the game previous with no call or fine.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has been questioned many times on its decisions this season. One notable event was the Tom Wilson situation last week. He was fined $5,000 for punching Pavel Buchnevich while he lay prone on the ice; he also pulled down Artemi Panarin by his hair and accidentally injured him. Many felt Wilson, who is a repeat offender, should have been suspended.
Suzuki Heating Up at the Right Time
Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki is on fire; in his last 21 games, he has 19 points – 12 points in his last 9 games – and is now on pace to score 59 points and 20 goals in an 82-game schedule. This is a great progression for a second-year player who, a month ago, many thought was mired in a sophomore slump when he had only 10 points in 22 games before going on a recent seven-game point streak.
Suzuki’s play last season in the bubble was a big reason why Canadiens’ general manager Marc Bergevin stayed the course with his young players and didn’t go after a bonafide No. 1 center in the offseason. Suzuki is improving on every aspect of his game and getting hot at the right time, just as the Canadiens are heading for the playoffs.
Bergevin Meeting with Molson About the Future of the Team
Bergevin has had meetings with the Canadiens owner Geoff Molson this week to discuss the future of the franchise and Bergevin’s extension. The Habs have been an up-and-down team in the nine years that Bergevin has been at the helm; five seasons into his tenure, Bergevin and the organization decided to “reset” the team and, four years after that, they are on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time in a regular postseason format.
In the nine seasons Bergevin has been the GM, the Canadiens have seen many highs and lows. They have won three division championships and four playoff rounds – the most since Bob Gainey was GM – reaching the Eastern Conference Final in 2014 and making the playoffs in every season but three. The team, however, has also finished in the bottom five twice, and Bergevin has never quite been able to land that star player the team so desperately needs. He has been a master at trades and asset management but average when drafting and cap management. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the Canadiens GM.
The Canadiens have had a rough go as of late when it comes to injuries. So far, they have six key players out with an unknown timeline for when they will be back. Carey Price is still listed day-to-day with a concussion, but he has been on the ice in Montreal’s practice facility in full gear and could be back for at least one of the season’s final two games. Paul Byron (lower-body injury) and Shea Weber (upper-body injury) are both day-to-day and expected to be back for the playoffs.
Jonathan Drouin is still out indefinitely for personal reasons and may not return for the playoffs. Brendan Gallagher has been seen skating on the ice but not shooting as he recovers from a broken thumb; he is on schedule to be and could be back for the playoffs. The Canadiens did have winger Tomas Tatar return to action this week but lost Phil Danault to a concussion. No timeline has been set for his return, but he is listed as day-to-day.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
The Canadiens have their final two games against the Edmonton Oilers, and if they get just one point in either tilt, the Habs will clinch their playoff spot. As it stands right now, the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks both have a to win every game remaining to catch the Habs, which will prove impossible for one of them because they have four games remaining against each other. The Habs still have a chance at third place if they win both their remaining games and the Winnipeg Jets lose all three of their games left.
Trege Wilson lives in Nova Scotia and is a member of the RCN. He is a life long Habs fan and is creator and co-host of the popular Canadiens podcast Habs Unfiltered.