Montreal Canadiens: In Other News… Series Deficit, Lineup Changes, AHL Signings

Jul 2, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Phillip Danault. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 2, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Phillip Danault. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /
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As an avid fan of the AHL myself, I’ve been a noted supporter of how Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, has been handling the Laval Rocket’s off-season. Though, considering how things have been going for the Canadiens over the past few months, I doubt many of you took notice of it. Heading into Game 4 of their Stanley Cup Finals series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, it seems as though Montreal’s proverbial bubble has been burst.

Facing what many consider to be the NHL’s best team, the Habs haven’t managed to turn their series in their favor or get the bounces to go their way in spite of some relatively solid play. Had it not been for a shaky start to Game 3 that resulted in a 2-0 lead early on, however, we might’ve been singing a different tune, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be, with Montreal ultimately losing 6-3. With numerous developments having come up in the lead-up to Monday’s potential series clincher, here’s a look at what’s been going on recently, in other news… for the Montreal Canadiens.

Lineup Changes a Possibility for Canadiens Following 3-0 Series Deficit

Over the course of this postseason, the Canadiens have made numerous changes to the lineup most were familiar with over the course of the regular season. The Habs long standing first line of Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, and Philip Danault? Gone. After producing just 1 assist over his first 5 games as Montreal went down 3-1 in their first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tatar was relegated to the press box and hasn’t returned since.

In spite of being a positive presence off the ice alongside fellow black aces like Alex Belzile, fans and analysts alike are now tempting the idea of inserting Tatar back into the lineup come Game 4, alongside some notable defensive adjustments. Theirs no beating around the bush here. Montreal’s third pairing of Erik Gustafsson and Jon Merrill hasn’t played well.

Now granted, when I caught wind that the Canadiens had acquired Gustafsson, I was excited to see the former 60-point option join Montreal, in spite of a less than stellar start to 2020-21 in Philadelphia. Well, unfortunately, that less than stellar start carried over into the post-season, as aside from a clutch powerplay marker in Game 4 of their second round series against the Winnipeg Jets, he’s been virtually invisible, ditto Merrill in spite of some solid plays here and there.

While the two are listed in Montreal’s lineup as their third pairing, for the most part head coach Dominique Ducharme and interim head coach Luke Richardson have chosen to flip flop the two between the other two pairings. With Brett Kulak and Alexander Romanov continually waiting in the wings in spite of continually solid play, it remains to be seen whether Ducharme will opt for the three now rested options come Monday’s potentially deciding Game 4, with both Kulak and Romanov have performed well when slotted in.