The Montreal Canadiens completed their second-round sweep of the Winnipeg Jets on June 7. Coming in as the lower seed for the second series in a row, the Canadiens surprised hockey fans when they pulled off the win. So, what comes next for the Montreal Canadiens?
Round Three Matchup
The Canadiens will faceoff against the winner of the Colorado Avalanche-Vegas Golden Knights series. The Golden Knights currently hold a 3-2 lead in the series. Game 6 is scheduled for June 10 and Game 7 is scheduled for June 12. The start date for round three has not been announced yet, but it will not start until at least June 11.
While the opponent for the Canadiens remains unclear, they will be in for a challenging series. Both the Avalanche and Golden Knights have been impressive this season, both in the regular season and the playoffs. The Avalanche won the presidents trophy and the Golden Knights came in second place. Each team has a Vezina Trophy nominated goalie, with Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer and Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury. Each team has a variety of offensive threats, including the likes of Nathan Mackinnon and William Karlsson. Both teams also have solid defense, with Colorado’s Norris Trophy candidate Cale Makar and Vegas’ Selke nominated Mark Stone.
The Canadiens lack the regular season accolades of their potential opponents, coming in fourth in their division. Montreal, however, does not have a lack of skill. Goaltender Carey Price has excelled so far in the playoffs, putting up a 0.943% save percentage, one shutout and multiple highlight-reel saves in his past seven games. Price has been crucial to the Canadiens’ success so far and he will continue to be important in round three. Offensively, Montreal has played well so far in the playoffs. The Canadiens have averaged 2.55 goals for in 11 playoff games. They have not trailed in a game in 437 minutes, going all the way back to game four of the first round. Montreal has also been drawing points from across their roster, with 12 out of 22 players scoring goals and 19 out of 22 players recording points.
While regular season records and the opinions of a number of hockey fans make a strong case against Montreal in round three, the Canadiens have the ability to perform well. Should they bring their best game and give their best effort, the Montreal Canadiens have a fighting chance at a round three victory.
Off-Ice Aspects of Round Three
The Canadian government announced on June 6 that they would allow special travel permissions to the NHL. This means that the Canadiens and their opponent will be able to cross the border and stick to the normal travel schedule of a playoff series. There are, however, restrictions on the teams during travel. While in the US and Canada, the competing teams will essentially be quarantining. They will only be allowed to stay in certain hotels and travel to and from the rink. There will be no contact with people outside of the team. It is unclear if restrictions will impact the size of the crowds allowed in arenas.
Players have opened up throughout the year about the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on their mental health. Depending on how long the Canadiens stay in the playoffs, the restrictions may begin to wear players down. Hopefully there will be no issues on or off the ice relating to travel and quarantine, but it is one aspect of the series to keep in mind.