Montreal Canadiens rookies Jarred Tinordi, Michael Bournival and Nathan Beaulieu have all proven themselves this season to be capable of playing in the National Hockey League. However, they are unlikely to get a chance to show what they can do in the NHL playoffs.
The Canadiens bench boss Michel Therrien has been reluctant all season to give him youngest players any responsibility on the ice, while constantly relying on aging veterans to get the job done.
At the most important time of year, there is no chance Therrien changes his philosophy now.
For much of the season, fans of the Canadiens have been screaming for Therrien to bench Douglas Murray and Francis Bouillon, in favor of Tinordi and Beaulieu. Instead of giving the youngsters more of a chance, the team went out at the deadline and picked up Mike Weaver, a clear sign they are more comfortable with veteran defenders on the ice.
Murray played 53 games this season, was injured for 13 and was suspended for three others. That totals 69 games, meaning he was a healthy scratch only 13 times this season, and almost always to make room for Francis Bouillon.
The 38 year old Bouillon had one lengthy stretch where he was scratched for 15 of 16 straight games. Since then, Bouillon has dressed in 14 of the Habs 16 games, only sitting out of the second game of back to back situations.
It appears the benching in February and March was just to keep him rested for the stretch drive.
Beaulieu has already been sent back to the Hamilton Bulldogs, and at 8th on Therrien’s depth chart, Tinordi may as well have gone with him.
Therrien appears to be impressed by the same thing when it comes to forwards, and that thing is apparently age.
Michael Bournival made the team because of an excellent training camp where he showed speed, smarts and an ability to kill penalties. The rookie was scratched in three of the six games to open the season, and then had an offensive outburst when put on a line with Tomas Plekanec.
It would not be long before he was relegated to fourth line duties, not even being trusted to take faceoffs. For the season, Bournival had 14 points in 60 games, a nearly identical stat line to Rene Bourque, the 32 year old winger who had 16 points in 63 games. However, Bourque averaged over 14 minutes per game this season, while Bournival was lucky to get more than 10.
With Alex Galchenyuk and Travis Moen injured to begin the series against Tampa Bay tomorrow night, Bournival will be in the lineup, but don’t expect to see much of the rookie on the ice with Therrien controlling his ice time. If he happens to make a mistake in this series, it will surely be his last, as he will be stapled to the bench the rest of the game and likely sat in the next one.
We all have seen that Tinordi and Bournival especially are capable of handling NHL minutes, and would love to see them get playoff exposure to help them develop, and help the team right now.
However, Therrien simply will not trust his youngest players, and unfortunately that means we will be seeing even more of Murray, Bouillon and Bourque and much less of Tinordi and Bournival during the postseason.