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Sports Jack Todd: Habs have work to do after rousing run to the Stanley Cup final

05:05  12 july  2021
05:05  12 july  2021 Source:   montrealgazette.com

Canadiens vs. Lightning result, score: Lightning win back-to-back Stanley Cups with Game 5 shutout

  Canadiens vs. Lightning result, score: Lightning win back-to-back Stanley Cups with Game 5 shutout Sporting News had all the action as Tampa Bay won its second straight Stanley Cup.Remember way back in May, when the kids from Montreal trailed 3-1 against the Maple Leafs? Yep, they came back and won that series in seven games. The Canadiens staved off elimination on Monday night in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Lightning, too, and now they'll try to do it again two nights later.

a group of hockey players in front of a crowd: Canadiens players wait to shake hands with the Lightning after losing Game 5 of Stanley Cup final 1-0 Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa. © Provided by The Gazette Canadiens players wait to shake hands with the Lightning after losing Game 5 of Stanley Cup final 1-0 Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

Then came the next chapter in our saga: the “What next?”

Having demolished the mighty Leafs of Hogtown with their legion of attendant smoke-blowers, dispatched the Winnipegs and slain the Kitsch Knights of Vegas before falling to the Lightning bolts , our heroes headed for the golf course knowing that the mission was not complete because the sacred Cup had not been returned to its rightful home.

Cowan: Canadiens fans happy to see a Stanley Cup final game live

  Cowan: Canadiens fans happy to see a Stanley Cup final game live Derek Parker had a bit of a dilemma after he was one of the winners in a lottery for Canadiens season-ticket holders and got four seats to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The seats in the second level at the Bell Centre cost Parker $900 each and would be worth a lot more than that on the resale market since attendance was limited to 3,500 because of COVID-19 restrictions. Parker and his brother, Robert, split the half-season ticket package they have had for the last five years and the debate started. “4 tickets purchased!! Sell or cheer!????” Parker posted on his Facebook page.

There is much to be done. First the Kraken will rise from the deep (having purchased the NHL expansion draft largesse like the Knights before them.) Then there’s the draft, free agency, players to be signed, an extension for head coach Dominique Ducharme — so much to do, so little time.

The what-next began Friday on a somewhat sour note when GM Marc Bergevin, the architect of the club’s most successful run since 1993, was asked about his future. Unlike his predecessor, Pierre “The Ghost” Gauthier, Bergevin has never been shy about speaking out — but in this instance his response was so clipped and cryptic that it opened the door to all sorts of speculation.

“I have one more year on my contract and I will honour that,” Bergevin said.

Uh-oh. Was Bergevin’s comment an indication of trouble in River City? Or was he simply avoiding any statement that might affect reported negotiations with Geoff Molson on a three-year contract extension?

Canadiens Game Day: Joel Armia won't be in Habs' lineup for Game 1

  Canadiens Game Day: Joel Armia won't be in Habs' lineup for Game 1 The Canadiens won’t have Joel Armia in the lineup for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final against the Lightning Monday night in Tampa (8 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).  Armia did not fly with the Canadiens to Tampa on Sunday after being placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol and he was not on the ice for the team’s morning skate Monday at Amalie Arena. But assistant coach Luke Richardson said after the morning skate that Armia was on his way to Tampa and would be a game-time decision. Jake Evans took Armia’s spot on the fourth line with Eric Staal and Corey Perry at the morning skate and will also take his spot for the game.

There is little doubt that Bergevin has earned an extension after his adroit off-season moves polished off a long, steady build and led to a berth in the Stanley Cup final despite an excruciatingly difficult pandemic season.

But does Bergevin want that extension? As my friend and colleague Stu Cowan pointed out Saturday , it’s a gruelling and often thankless job and Bergevin has already been doing it through nine difficult seasons. He’s an emotional, let-it-all-hang-out guy, with the long hair and the pumped pipes and the flaming red suit (the complete opposite of the usual buttoned-down NHL exec) and the job has to take its toll.

Before Bergevin met the media, the players were still conducting their Zoom interviews Friday when the news broke that Laval Rocket head coach Joel Bouchard was leaving the team to take a similar post as coach of the San Diego Gulls in the Anaheim Ducks organization.

What the Puck: Losing the Stanley Cup is bittersweet for Habs fans

  What the Puck: Losing the Stanley Cup is bittersweet for Habs fans So close and yet so far. That old war-horse of an aphorism perfectly encapsulates the feelings of the Canadiens and their fans today. Montreal was three wins away from the Stanley Cup. Closer than they’ve been in 28 years and the real rub is none of us has any idea when they’ll be that close again. But watching that game Wednesday night, the Habs also seemed so far away from the National Hockey League’s ultimate trophy. They only lost by one goal, but they looked like a team that was never going to score another goal in their life. Once again, they were stuck in the mud in the first, completely dominated by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Their power play was beyond bad.

The timing seemed strange, Bouchard’s departure in itself stranger still. Among the fans and most of the media, Bouchard was seen as a brilliant young coach who finally solved the organization’s development problems at the AHL stage. He was touted as a future general manager of the Canadiens (which may not have gone over well with Bergevin) or as a head coach (a possibility that became much less likely with the brilliant playoff run under interim head coach Dominique Ducharme.)

There are definitely dissenting opinions as to Bouchard’s abilities, however. For whatever reason, including the possibility that the organization was disenchanted with him (Bouchard had been without a contract since July 1) the man is gone and finding a new coach for the Rocket is on Bergevin’s already lengthy to-do list.

The toughest task of all, however, might be deciding whom to protect in the Kraken draft. I am entirely in agreement with the fans, who don’t want to lose Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Joel Armia, Artturi Lehkonen, Jake Evans, or backup goaltender Jake Allen in the draft.

How the Lightning Destroyed the Canadiens in Game 1

  How the Lightning Destroyed the Canadiens in Game 1 The Habs captured hockey fans' hearts with their upset victories in the first three rounds of the playoffs, but the defending champion Bolts delivered a harsh wakeup call with a decisive beatdown to open the final. © Provided by Hockey News on Sports Illustrated The Stanley Cup playoffs are famously unpredictable. The plucky Montreal Canadiens upset teams favored to beat them in three consecutive rounds to reach the 2020-21 final, after all. But sometimes, the team with the 18th-best record in the NHL visits the defending Stanley Cup champion… and things play out the way they’re actually supposed to on paper.

Like everyone else, I want to see Bergevin find room within that hard $81.5-million salary cap to re-sign the absolutely essential Corey Perry . Virtually everyone who played performed above expectations during that magical playoff run, but the two players who surprised this old writer most were the greybeard Perry and the youthful Evans and I would be dismayed to see either depart.

That brings us to the thorniest issue on Bergevin’s list: the future of the talented Jonathan Drouin . Any discussion of Drouin is a minefield. You have to balance concern for the young man’s personal health and well-being with the hard-nosed business decisions Bergevin has to make. It seems almost impossible that Drouin could go on playing here but his future remains the biggest unknown of the off-season.

Whatever happens in the next phase, it’s important to recognize what the Canadiens accomplished this spring. Poor Aaron Rand drew the attention of the self-appointed Guardians of Habness when he dared ask whether a parade for the runners-up was in order . Rand was quickly shouted down, which is not to say the Canadiens did not deserve a parade.

Given the unique circumstances, this was a run for the ages — equal, in my view, of any Stanley Cup of the past. This team was tested in almost every possible way, from pandemic protocols to the firing of head coach Claude Julien to the absurd schedule through the last 25 games.

COMMENTARY: A life-long Montreal Canadiens fan on why this playoff run means so much

  COMMENTARY: A life-long Montreal Canadiens fan on why this playoff run means so much Mike Armstrong, Global National's Quebec correspondent and a lifelong Montreal Canadiens fan, writes about seeing his beloved Habs make the Stanley Cup finals.When the NHL came back with a compressed schedule in January due to COVID-19, it wasn’t that Montrealers welcomed the distraction. We needed it.

They were not found wanting, especially with the contribution of their stars. Opinions have often been divided on captain Shea Weber and goaltender Carey Price — but both players should have convinced the doubters. They gave everything they had — and they came oh, so close.

Let’s appreciate them now, rather than taking the usual Montreal approach and waiting until it’s too late.

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Montreal fans roar as Habs beat the Tampa Lightning in tense Game 4 of Stanley Cup final .
Montreal hockey fans celebrated Monday with cries and cheers of uninhibited joy after Josh Anderson scored the game-winning goal in overtime to lift the Habs to a 3-2 victory in Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. "We needed a victory at home to pump up the entire Habs nation and now we're going to Tampa and we're going to come back," said Habs fan Balraj Jutla after the win, as he and hundreds of others celebrated in the streets outside the Bell Centre. Fans had also packed the area around the stadium to watch the game on large screens. Game 5 of the best-of-seven match up is set for Wednesday in Tampa.

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