In this week’s Montreal Canadiens news and rumors rundown, we’ll break down trade rumors, Canadiens roster updates, and much more.
The Language of Hockey
In the 55th game of the season, the Canadiens iced a lineup that was without a francophone Quebecois player. This caused a massive reaction among the local politicians who stepped up to demand the team have more local representation.
Taking time out from a press conference giving updates on how the province is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Premier of Quebec, Francois Legault, took time out of his more important work to comment on hockey,
“I think things start at the top. Geoff Molson and Marc Bergevin should be sensitive to the fact Quebecers like to see Quebecers (play). I understand some are not good enough, but some are very good.”– Francois Legault (Phillip Authier,Legault says Habs brass could try harder to get Quebecers on the team, the Montreal Gazette, 11 May 2021)
There are only 30 francophone Quebecers in the league at the moment – an average of fewer than one per NHL team. The Canadiens have two, with Phillip Danault and Jonathan Drouin, along with players available to them in AHL Laval such as Alex Belzile, who has played games this season. This seems to be a non-issue this season.
The Boys are Back in Town
Carey Price, Shea Weber and Brendan Gallagher are expected to play when the Canadiens visit the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs first round on Thursday.
“These guys are so hungry to win, they do the right thing day in and day out. And in terms of leadership, this is the time of year that you really notice it. so I think they both have their own individual personalities that seem to rub off on the team.”– Brendan Gallagher
“‘Pricey’ is perfect for this time of year. He’s so calm back there. You know the emotions of playoff hockey, the hardest thing, especially for younger players, is to control your emotions, and when you have a guy in net, whether it’s Pricey or Jake, they’re both so calm back there and it seems to have a calming influence throughout your team.”Brendan Gallagher
The Canadiens will need the added confidence that Price can provide. Also, the addition of their star goaltender, top shutdown defenceman, and a proven 30-goal scorer who is also known as the team’s heart and soul player can only help a lineup in desperate need of a spark to inspire them as the playoffs are about to begin.
On 28 April, the Canadiens announced that Drouin was going to be placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) for personal reasons. There had been no news on his status until Eric Engels of Sportsnet broke the bad news for Canadiens fans:
With Drouin out indefinitely, the Habs are going to be missing some offensive skill. More importantly, however is a young man who is having personal issues that must be addressed. Hopefully, whatever is causing him problems can be rectified and he can return to his career.
For the second practice in a row this week leading up to the first-round series versus the Maple Leafs, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Cole Caufield and Michael Frolik were wearing the traditional fifth-line grey jerseys.
This suggests that the 20-year-old forwards, Kotkaniemi and Caufield will have to wait for a veteran to play poorly enough to force head coach Dominique Ducharme to make a lineup change. The Habs have several players who can be playmakers, who need a quantity of chances to score. Caufield, however, is someone who can change the game with a single shot. This is a rare type of player available to the Canadiens, even if he is a rookie with only 10 games experience.
As it stands, it looks as though Ducharme will be relying heavily on his veterans and a physical style to counter the skilled lineup in Toronto.
Zero predictions at Sportsnet have the Canadiens winning the series. ZERO. None had the Leafs taking the series in a sweep, however only one, Eric Engels, sees the Canadiens capable of taking the juggernaut Maple Leafs to seven games.
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For the second year in a row, the Canadiens have been declared the largest underdogs of the NHL playoffs. Sportsnet had the Habs being steamrolled by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2020 play-ins. Much like last season, the franchise has an uphill battle. However, they have a recent track record that proves they can surprise the hockey world – perhaps history can repeat itself.
Here’s a video from the Canadiens to hype their fans with images of the last few times these two rivals have met in the playoffs. Most are in black and white, as it’s the first playoff meeting in 42 years:
As the NHL season continues, keep an eye on The Hockey Writers and our new THW Podcast Network for the latest Canadiens news, notes and rumors.