Dupuis: A heavy order awaits the CH, but nothing inaccessible
Pascal Dupuis played 15 seasons in the NHL, during which he appeared in 871 games, recording 190 goals and 409 points. The Laval-born forward has had three seasons of 20 or more goals, and he won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 and 2016. Never drafted into the NHL, he is hired by the Wild du Minnesota as a free agent after playing with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Shawinigan Cataractes in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). In addition to the Wild, Pascal wore the colors of the New York Rangers, Atlanta Thrashers and Penguins. Pascal has agreed to collaborate with the NHL.com team to deal with various current hockey topics.
As everyone had expected, the Montreal Canadiens qualified without too much difficulty for the quarterfinal, eliminating the Winnipeg Jets in four small games.
All kidding aside, it’s really impressive how the Canadiens turned things around after being just one goal away from the elimination against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve won seven in a row and haven’t fallen behind once in that streak.
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This streak will be put to the test in the Stanley Cup semifinals, as they face the Vegas Golden Knights. They finished tied for first in the NHL with 82 points. We’re talking about a great hockey machine.
I’m sure the CH players watched all the games in the series between Vegas and Colorado carefully … and if they did, they must have seen the same thing as all the fans who imitated them: it skates please!
However, the Habs players are in such a good place mentally that the identity of the team they play against does not matter. I don’t think Vegas represents a better fit than Colorado for the Canadians, but neither is out of reach for Montreal. The confidence of the players is excessively high, and that’s obviously partly because the guy with the big pads in front of the net is always there behind them to erase any mistakes they might make.
This confidence, combined with the spark that the youngsters have brought and the fact that the veterans are doing what is expected of them … This is a great recipe that they have concocted, and it works!
When a team wins this often, they have a feeling they are going to keep winning no matter what. It’s not a question of thinking of being invincible, but of knowing that she will find a way to respond to all situations.
We will be entitled to beautiful intrigues in the series against the Golden Knights. The Canadiens will face their former captain Max Pacioretty and a nice skewer of Quebecers led by Marc-André Fleury, one of the most admired athletes in the province. If Colorado had won, we would have had the right to a duel against the former Nordiques of Quebec. Imagine if the Avalanche had the right to land at the Bell Center for Game 3 with its “Reverse Retro” jersey, which is a nod to the Nordiques… It would have revived old rivalries across Quebec!
The Islanders, eternally neglected
In the other semi-final, we will be treated to a repeat of the Eastern Conference final from last season between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders.
I don’t know why, but the Islanders still seem to wear the underdog label, even though they have come a long way since Barry Trotz took the helm.
It will still be the case against the Lightning, but I hope you don’t go betting your next paycheck on winning Tampa Bay. I expect a very close series between two excellent teams.
Although their style differs, the two teams are playing the right way and above all they have found a way to maximize their strengths. The Islanders may not play the most exciting hockey from an amateur perspective, but they make life miserable for the top offensive players on the opposing side.
If we find offensive talent in every corner of the locker room in Tampa Bay, we can not say that the Islanders are without good players. Mathew Barzal, without being a superstar, is a very good hockey player, and the team’s support players excel in their role. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Anthony Beauvillier, two players able to shine on both sides of the ice, play a central role in the success of the team. Pageau in particular is a player who always does well in the playoffs. He’s not the biggest, but it’s very difficult to face him. At five to five, he’s dominant, as evidenced by his plus-11 rating.
Video: NYI @ BOS # 5: Perfect shot in Barzal’s skylight
This is a nice acquisition from Lou Lamoriello a few years ago, and you have to recognize how adept the veteran GM is at finding the right ingredients that will raise the cake every time. It doesn’t change the recipe from year to year! He struck again this year by getting his hands on Travis Zajac and Kyle palmieri. He finds players who are capable of fulfilling certain roles, and Trotz takes care of valuing those players in those roles.
This is essential to ensure that newcomers accept their new responsibilities. There are several ways to promote a player whose contribution is not necessarily recognized in the media or by fans. The coach can praise this player in his press briefings, or even highlight his successes during team meetings where the video of the last match is analyzed. Trotz seems to be a master at this art, as the players under his command all seem to be pushing in the same direction.
The Islanders’ defensive squad is strong, and if I was a goalie I would definitely want to play for Trotz. It’s not complicated, all the goalkeepers who work under him look like Vézina trophy winners.
On the other side, we assembled an all-star team with the possible Norris Trophy winner in Victor hedman and a possible recipient of the Vézina trophy in Andrei Vasilevskiy. Add to this the return to health of Nikita Kucherov and of Steven stamkos, and we are talking about a fairly impressive training. Hats off to Jon Cooper and his assistants for being able to lead this team while keeping everyone happy, but let’s not forget the work done by Julien BriseBois and Mathieu Darche behind the scenes.
We know that the Lightning will score thanks to its power play. The outcome of the series lies in how Tampa Bay will be able to win five on five. It’s mentally draining to keep playing the right way against the Islanders. If the Lightning manages to do that, he might have the chance to defend his title in a few weeks.
* Interview by Sébastien Deschambault, Editorial Director LNH.com