The Montreal Canadiens had their final practice ahead of Game One, and although it’s an opportunity they didn’t want, it’s an opportunity they now have.
When the Trade Deadline came, the Montreal Canadiens sold. Ilya Kovalchuk, Nick Cousins, Nate Thompson and Marco Scandella all found new homes and with the Habs filled to the brim with injuries, they were looking forward to the NHL Draft Lottery. COVID-19 changed everything and brought the Habs back into the light, allowing them to compete with 23 other teams for a shot at the Stanley Cup, and Claude Julien wants his players to thrive on the opportunity and take advantage of it.
The Habs were at Ford Performance Center earlier today, having their final practice before Game One against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They also had a new face taking part as 2018 second-round pick Alexander Romanov joined as well. The defenceman had already been in Toronto but had to serve his quarantine after entering the country from Russia.
Romanov donned his new number 27 but was an extra on the ice, not skating with any particular defence pair. That’s to be expected as, unfortunately, the 20-year-old can’t play. In his first zoom conference, Romanov told media his goal is to train and be around the team but will return to Russia to gear up for the 2020-21 season.
As for the lines and pairings, Julien stuck to his guns:
At the very least, these will be the lines for Game One. If Saturday’s match up goes completely wrong, it’ll be hard to see Julien not make any single changes, especially if he’s prioritizing defence. Maybe that’s where we’ll see Noah Juulsen return to the Montreal Canadiens lineup or even Cale Fleury if the coaching staff is confident in his abilities.
What about Ryan Poehling? Could he slide into the lineup if the “fourth line” can’t get going? At this point, any possible shakeup that can create an edge for the Habs should be welcomed.
On Pittsburgh’s side, nothing has changed either.
This will be one of the greatest challenges this group of players has ever faced. There are a number of players who have never played a playoff game, and the Habs will be banking on that fresh energy against Pittsburgh.
Can they do it?