As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and that was the case for Montreal’s playoff hopes. While they were able to avoid the sweep, the offence dried up as they were blanked in Game 5, giving the Lightning their second straight Stanley Cup.
The Week That Was
July 5: Canadiens 3, Lightning 2 (OT) – Scoring first helped the Habs considerably in the playoffs and they were able to get the elusive first goal as a re-jigged Nick Suzuki line paid early dividends when he set up Josh Anderson to open the scoring. Tampa Bay replied late in the second before Alexander Romanov scored a rare goal to restore the lead in the third period. However, the Lightning tied it up again, sending it to overtime where Anderson was the hero, scoring less than a minute after Montreal killed off a double-minor penalty to Shea Weber.
July 7: Lightning 1, Canadiens 0 – This was a game where Montreal was in it right until the end and yet it never felt like they were going to get one through Andrei Vasilevskiy. They had a few chances but Tampa Bay played a strong defensive game to keep the attack at bay, allowing for Ross Colton’s tap-in goal in the second period to stand up as the winner, ending the 2020-21 season in the process.
Goals: Nick Suzuki (7)
Assists: Suzuki/Toffoli (9)
Points: Nick Suzuki (16)
+/-: Shea Weber (+4)
PIMS: Shea Weber (28)
Shots: Nick Suzuki (53)
News And Notes
– As anticipated, the Habs confirmed that Jeff Petry and Shea Weber were playing through finger injuries while Brendan Gallagher and Tyler Toffoli had groin issues with Gallagher having some other undisclosed injuries as well. As things stand, all of them are expected to be available for training camp in September.
– Joel Bouchard will indeed be taking Laval assistant coach Daniel Jacob with him to San Diego. This means that there are no returning coaches for the Rocket next season.
– Director of Sports Science and Performance Pierre Allard is leaving the Canadiens after the draft, reports Radio-Canada’s Martin Leclerc. He is heading to Germany to become an assistant coach with Red Bull Munich.
Last Game’s Lines:
Anderson – Suzuki – Caufield
Toffoli – Danault – Gallagher
Byron – Evans – Lehkonen
Armia – Staal – Perry
Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Romanov – Kulak
The Month Ahead
There will be a lull in the offseason but that won’t come for a while yet as the next few weeks figure to be busy. Here’s a quick overview of some of the key dates to watch for.
July 13: Deadline for teams to ask players to waive their no-move clauses for expansion (it applies to Jeff Petry, Brendan Gallagher, and Carey Price). Those players would have until July 16th to agree.
July 17: Submission of protected lists for Seattle’s expansion. Trade and signing freezes come into effect at the protection list deadline.
July 21: Expansion draft.
July 22: End of trade and signing freeze.
July 23/24: NHL Entry Draft
July 26: Deadline for teams to submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents.
July 27: End of buyout period. Beginning of RFA interview period (there is no longer a UFA interview period though).
July 28: Beginning of 2021-22 year, free agency opens up. Players with one year left on their contracts become eligible to sign an extension.
One thing that GM Marc Bergevin has taken heat for in the past is stating that the goal is simply to get to the playoffs and then anything can happen from there. From a historical lens, that seems like a low bar for a team that has had as much success as the Canadiens but it also lacks proper context. The playoffs weren’t all that hard to make in the early days of the league and franchise. They are now and next season, half the league will miss the postseason. The last time that happened was, well, never. Player movement was way more restricted back then than it is now and the salary landscape is vastly different between now and the previous eras. They’re not comparable.
Where am I going with this? Bergevin has been absolutely correct all along. The playoffs are tough to make and when a team gets there, anything can happen. Otherwise, how does a team that basically backed into the playoffs make its way to the Stanley Cup Final? Some of it is luck but some of it isn’t and the Habs should be proud of getting where they did; it wasn’t just a series of random flukes. But being in the right place at the right time matters and that’s what his point with that comment has always been. Once you get there, anything truly can happen from an early elimination to a two-month run that hardly anyone saw coming. When Bergevin makes a similar comment heading into next season, it won’t be time to ridicule it – it already has been proven right.