The Montreal Canadiens have had a wild week – they are in the middle of a classic Stanley Cup Semifinal battle with the Vegas Golden Knights and they temporarily lost their head coach due to COVID-19, but the team keeps proving the doubters wrong and winning the heart of its fans and city. Here’s the latest news and rumours from the past week.
Ducharme Tests Positive for Covid
Head coach Dominique Ducharme tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from Vegas. Ducharme has had both of his vaccination shots, the last one administered on June 9. No other member of the team’s bubble has tested positive for COVID. Ducharme failed two tests and must quarantine for 14 days – he is currently at home with no symptoms and hopes to return sooner than expected, if permitted. Ducharme started his quarantine on Friday, June 18 – if he has to stay out the full 14 days, he will not be able to return to the team until July 3.
Assistant coach Luke Richardson replaced Ducharme behind the bench for a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3, and will continue to be the fill-in head coach until Ducharme returns. Sean Burke joined Alex Burrows in assisting Richardson and has taken over as the defensive coach. If the Canadiens win their series in seven games and the New York Islanders/Tampa Bay Lightning series goes seven games, Ducharme may only miss the first game of the Stanley Cup Final, depending on when that starts.
Caufield Making a Name for Himself in Playoffs
Cole Caufield has had a storied season, from a successful year in the NCAA, to his pro debut with the Laval Rocket, and his NHL debut with the Canadiens. Caufield is everything he was advertised to be. Since turning professional, he has 7 goals and 10 points in only 12 games split between the Rocket and the Canadiens. This year in total, he has amassed 39 goals and 66 points in 50 games at all levels of hockey.
For all the success Caufield has had this season, he has really taken it to another level in the playoffs for the Canadiens. After missing the first two games, Caufield has re-energized the Canadiens and is a big reason for their success – his contribution hasn’t been the way you would think. Caufield is a prolific goalscorer and probably the best pure shooter on the team, but his best plays have set up his teammates.
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Two of Caufield’s five assists have been on game-winning goals, both in overtime – he didn’t score his first goal until the first game against the Golden Knights. Caufield is currently on a five-game point streak and has seven points and two goals in 12 playoff games.
Toffoli Making Canadiens History
Tyler Toffoli knows what it’s like to go deep in the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup, doing it with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. This season, he’s helping lead the Canadiens to the same goal. Toffoli leads Montreal with five goals – tied with Joel Armia – and has the most points, with 12 in 14 games. He scored the series-clinching goal against the Winnipeg Jets.
Toffoli’s playoff run has been so good that he is embedding himself in the Canadiens’ record book. Toffoli went on an eight-game scoring streak, starting in Game 6 of the Toronto Maple Leafs series and ending in Game 3 against the Golden Knights. This points streak puts Toffoli second all-time for the longest Canadiens points streak, behind Habs legends Larry Robinson and Guy Lafleur.
Canadiens Sign Vejdemo to a One-Year Deal
The Canadiens have signed Lukas Vejdemo – their third-round selection in the 2015 NHL draft – to a two-way, one-year contract. Vejdemo will be paid $750,000 in the NHL and $175,000 in the AHL – it’s a $42,000 drop in his pay at the NHL level but a $100,000 raise at the AHL level.
Vejdemo has been with the Rocket since the 2018-19 season – in 2019-20, he played seven games with the Canadiens, scoring his only NHL goal. This season with the Rocket, he scored 7 goals and 13 points in 27 games while playing a solid two-way game.
Bergevin Nominated for GM of the Year
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has been nominated for the Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award. Bergevin joins Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders and Bill Zito of the Florida Panthers as the three finalists. After the second round of the playoffs, the league’s GMs, a panel of league executives, and media members conduct the voting. This is the third time Bergevin has been nominated, finishing third in 2012-13 and second in 2013-14.
Bergevin made several key moves in the offseason, acquiring defenceman Joel Edmundson, goalie Jake Allen and forward Josh Anderson, while also signing free agents Tyler Toffoli, Corey Perry and Michael Frolik. The Canadiens had a subpar season which featured coaches being fired and a condensed schedule because of a COVID-19 outbreak, followed by the team limping into the postseason with the worst record of any playoff team. The Canadiens now, however, are just one series win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
That was the week for the Canadiens, and now we can sit back, relax, and watch Montreal battle it out in the playoffs to hopefully continue their Cinderella run.
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.