Canadiens title quest begins 78 days after Cup loss – .

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Canadiens title quest begins 78 days after Cup loss – .


Carey Price and Jonathan Drouin are the two biggest question marks heading into training camp, while Dominique Ducharme has to set up new lines.

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Just 78 days after losing the Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canadiens will be back on the ice Thursday morning in Brossard at training camp.

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For a second consecutive season, this will be a new look for the Canadiens team after another busy off season for general manager Marc Bergevin. Head coach Dominique Ducharme will have three full weeks of training camp – including six preseason games – to implement his system, which he attempted to do on the fly after taking over from Claude Julien 18 games last season.

Julien only had 10 days of training camp last season – which started Jan. 3 due to COVID-19 – and no preseason games to figure out how to cope with off-season additions Jake Allen, Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Corey Perry, Michael Frolik and Joel Edmundson in training. The Canadiens got off to a great start, going 7-1-2 in their first 10 games, before the wheels started to fall and Julien was fired with the team going 9-5-. 4.

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The Canadiens will still pay Julien US $ 5 million this season in the final year of his five-year, US $ 25 million contract, while Ducharme enters the first season of an estimated three-year contract. US $ 7 million per season.

The Canadiens showed up to training camp for medical and physical tests on Wednesday and it will be interesting to see how Ducharme sets up his attacking lines on Thursday with newcomers Christian Dvorak, Mike Hoffman, Cédric Paquette and Mathieu Perreault getting together. joining the team. Defensive duos will also be interesting with newcomers David Savard and Chris Wideman.

Here is how I can envision the lines to the front:

Toffoli – Nick Suzuki – Cole Caufield
Jonathan Drouin – Dvorak – Brendan Gallagher
Hoffman – Paquette – Anderson
Artturi Lehkonen – Jake Evans – Joel Armia

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Perreault will be in a battle for one of the forward positions – possibly with Paquette as the third line center as Perreault has experience at the wing and center – and Ryan Poehling will also be looking to land a four job. years after being the first of the Canadiens. – Round pick (25th overall) in the NHL Draft and posting 11-14-25 totals in 28 games last season with the Laval Rocket of the AHL.

Shea Weber’s name was on the list of 70 players invited to training camp, but the captain is not expected to play this season and his career could end with thumb, ankle, foot and knee injuries. . The Man Mountain leaves a huge hole on the blue line after placing second on the team in ice time last season averaging 22:42 per game – behind Jeff Petry at 22:44 – and playing the best hockey of his five seasons in Montreal during the playoffs.

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“You lose your captain, for sure it’s going to hurt,” Bergevin said this month. “To replace him is impossible. We did things… we went looking for free agents that we think will help us continue in the same (direction). But time will tell exactly. But I like the team we have in place at the moment.

I can imagine defending pairs looking like this to start training camp:

Petry – Joël Edmundson
Ben Chiarot – Savard
Alexandre Romanov – Brett Kulak

This leaves Wideman fighting for a job with Kulak, the most likely player he could beat – although Ducharme has shown very little confidence in Kulak and Romanov in the playoffs. If 21-year-old Romanov can earn the coach’s confidence, he certainly appears to have the talent to become one of the top four defenders, which would shake up the blue line.

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Ducharme will likely get a good look at Mattias Norlinder, a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, during training camp, especially since he can play both sides with his left hand shot and can add a well-deserved attack to the Blue Line. If the 21-year-old can’t find a job with the Canadiens, he must return to Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League.

The biggest question mark leading up to training camp is the health of Carey Price, who just had surgery to repair a torn knee meniscus and also suffered from a hip problem last season. The 34-year-old goaltender underwent knee surgery on July 22 and only started skating again last Thursday.

Another big question mark is Drouin and his performance after leaving the team at the end of last season and missing the entire playoff run while dealing with anxiety and insomnia issues that loomed large. ‘sometimes led to spending three nights without sleeping. You can expect Ducharme – who coached Drouin in 2013 when they won the Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads – to give him every chance to succeed and putting Drouin on a line with Dvorak and Gallagher would be a good one. start.

Last season’s journey to the Stanley Cup Final was a remarkable one for the Canadians with so many stories along the way. The road to the playoffs will be tougher this season as they return to a full 82-game season in the Atlantic Division.

This new journey begins on Thursday.

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