For the Montreal Canadiens, the 2020-21 regular season has been one fraught with challenges. After a hot start, the franchise experienced turbulence, leading to the firing of head coach Claude Julien in February. Since then, things really haven’t stabilized, with the team posting a mixed 5-3-5 record while holding onto fourth place in the Scotia NHL North Division.
This being an abnormal NHL season, however, Montreal’s difficulties stretched beyond typical hockey fare like firing a coach and inconsistent play. In late March, the franchise was forced to pause their season after a player tested positive for COVID-19, causing multiple rescheduled games.
As time went on, it was announced that Canadiens’ forwards Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols list. As the franchise came off their pause on Monday, Kotkaniemi was dropped from the list, while Armia remained. After being removed, Kotkaniemi talked about his experience while in COVID-19 protocol.
“I was a little nervous about what’s going to happen,” Kotkaniemi said, “But the week went pretty well… got a couple workouts in and played a lot of Playstation, so that was about it”
Canadiens Need Consistency After COVID-19 Pause
With the 2020-21 season more than halfway done, the Canadiens find themselves in a precarious position. On the positive side, they are in control of their own destiny moving forward. Not only are they still in the playoff spot after the pause, but they have six games in hand on fifth and six place in their division.
Even if they don’t win all of those games, it gives Montreal a decent amount of buffer room should they start slowly after returning to play. For example, they could win just two games of those six and still increase their division lead by a fair amount.
On the negative side, teams that have been forced to stop play mid-season due to COVID-19 have struggled upon their return to the ice. Especially when you consider that the Canadiens are still working with a new coaching staff and how compressed their remaining schedule will be, this could make the return to play even more difficult.
However, as long as Montreal is able to quickly get themselves back up to game speed, they should be in good shape to at least make the 2021 playoffs. If they struggle, then they could find themselves in a real dogfight for fourth place in the Scotia NHL North Division.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.