Canadiens News & Rumours: Suzuki, Kotkaniemi, Playoffs and More

What a week for the Montreal Canadiens! Not only did they force Game 7 in their first-round meeting with the Maple Leafs, but they did it in a heart-stopping fashion. They have already silenced most critics who had this team golfing in five or fewer games – I even went on record saying they would be out in six. Now, we wait for Game 7 to see if the Leafs will still be cursed or if the Canadiens already spent everything they have; until then, here’s what has happened this past week.

Suzuki Leads the Habs to a Game 5 Victory

What can you say about Canadiens young center, Nick Suzuki? He had a career year in points, playing as the Canadiens’ top center, and he’s once again leading the team in the playoffs, just like last season. Suzuki tied Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin for the team lead in points, with seven in ten games in the previous playoffs. In this playoff, he helped lead the way again by guiding the Canadiens to a Game 5 victory.

The Canadiens took a 3-0 lead with goals from Joel Armia (2) and Jesperi Kotkaniemi in Game 5 before the Maple Leafs pushed back and scored three unanswered goals to tie the game up and send it to overtime (OT). This was where the Canadiens’ young guns took over. Less than a minute into the OT period, Habs rookie Cole Caufield read the pass from Leafs forward Alex Galchyenuck. He intercepted it at the Canadiens’ blue line, giving him and Suzuki a two-on-none breakaway; after a couple of crisp passes back and forth, Suzuki netted the game-winner and helped propel the Canadiens to Game 6 and keeping them alive in the series.

Kotkaniemi Helps Canadiens Force Game 7

After Suzuki’s heroics in Game 5, the Canadiens still had their backs to the wall with yet another must-win for Game 6 – this time at home. There was some added fuel to the Canadiens’ energy because there were fans at the Bell Centre for the first time in almost 15 months – I’ll get into that a little later. With the pumped-up crowd and the need for a win, the Canadiens came out of the gate and hit the Leafs hard, outshooting them 10-3 after the first ten minutes of the game.

The first two periods of the game ended scoreless, with both Carey Price and Jack Campbell having kept their teams alive. The Canadiens then got a power play (PP) around five minutes into the third, and Corey Perry scored the team’s first PP goal in the series; Toronto challenged for goalie interference but lost the call, and the Canadiens went back on the PP. While on the PP, Leafs’ Mitch Marner put the puck over the glass, giving the Canadiens a two-player advantage, and Tyler Toffoli scored to make it 2-0. The Leafs then climbed back with two goals just over five minutes apart to tie the game and send it to OT, when, at the 15:15 mark, #15, Kotkaniemi, playing in his 15th playoff game and having exactly 15 minutes of ice time, scored to give the Canadiens a 3-2 win and force gaGameme 7.

Canadiens Have 2500 Fans at the Bell Center

For the first time since March 2020, a Canadian hockey team could have fans at a game. The Canadiens were allowed to host 2500 fans for Game 6 at the Bell Centre. The atmosphere was electric, not only in the arena but throughout downtown Montreal. It was the beginning of the end of a pandemic that has taken people to the brink; to get back a little sense of normality and enjoy the atmosphere of a live game was like a child waking up on Christmas morning.

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The Canadiens did not disappoint the crowd, and the team loved it all so much that they even gave the fans an extra 15 minutes of game time before scoring the winner in OT! From the emotional rendition of O’ Canada to the final goal, the crowd was loud, happy, and back to a place of comfort. The city and its people felt close to getting back to normal, and these days, there is no better feeling.

Laval Rocket Announce Signings

The Laval Rocket ended their season as the AHL’s Canadian Division Champions by finishing first and clinching the title with six remaining games. They quickly bolstered their lineup in the offseason by signing free agent Cedric Desruisseaux from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) to a two-way AHL contract and extending defenseman Tobie Bisson to a one-year AHL contract.

This brings two more Quebec-born hockey players to the roster of the Rocket and into the Canadiens’ extended family. Desruisseaux played for the Charlottetown Islanders, posting 78 points in 40 games; the dynamic forward brings speed and agility to the team but is an undersized player, standing at only 5’8″ and 165 Lbs. Bisson is a 6’3″ 193 Lbs defenseman who had seven points in his first season with the Rocket, a depth player who brings size and physicality.

Seth Jones Could Be a Canadien

Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets has informed the team that he will not be seeking an extension and will test the free-agent (FA) market this July. As we all know, the biggest hole that Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has yet to fill is another top-four puck-moving defenseman. Jones is not the left-handed defenseman that is needed but would still fill a huge hole on the Canadiens blue line, and, with not many good left-handed defensemen on the FA list this year, beggars can’t be choosers.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

Jones makes only $100,000 more than Canadiens pending – FA Tomas Tatar, who will also be looking for a raise in the offseason. With Tatar being a healthy scratch in the playoffs, the odds are quite high he will not be a Canadien next season. This will open up money for the Canadiens to fill a much-needed and deep hole by acquiring an excellent two-way defenseman. Jones had 28 points in 56 games last season but was a -18 on a porous Blue Jackets team. If the Canadiens can get him for under $7 million, he could be a key piece to this team moving forward.

The Canadiens have a huge Game 7 against the Leafs to kick off this week before – hopefully – they move on to the second round and have more home games with fans in attendance. Until then, be safe and have fun.

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