Canadiens ponder lineup changes on brink of elimination

Jul 2, 2021, 10:50 PM | Updated: Jul 3, 2021, 10:53 am

Alexander Romanov played 54 games during the regular season for the Montreal Canadiens. Tomas Tatar played 50 and Jake Evans 47.

In the playoffs, it has been a completely different picture. Romanov has only gotten into only two games and Tatar and Evans five each.

Facing elimination at home Monday in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning might finally be the impetus for coach Dominique Ducharme to shake up his lineup and bring in fresh legs.

“Will we make changes? Too early to tell,” Ducharme said Saturday. “But we’re looking at every situation right now.”

The situation is dire for Montreal after a 6-3 loss Friday put them on the brink of getting swept. Of particular concern is the Canadiens’ inability to match the Lightning’s physicality in an effort to wear down the defending champions.

Romanov could certainly help in that department. The 6-foot, 208-pound Russian led the blue line with 138 hits during the regular season and showed he wasn’t out of place in his playoff cameo when Jeff Petry was injured.

That’s the only opportunity the 21-year-old has gotten this postseason, but Ducharme isn’t worried about stunting Romanov’s development by not playing him regularly now.

“He’s been part of it,” Ducharme said. “He’s young. We still work with him. It’s not because he’s not playing that he’s not learning part of it. He’s with us.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is starting goaltender Carey Price, who has played over 1,219 minutes in the playoffs and has shown signs of wearing down. But after saying he and his staff is looking at every situation, Ducharme said he is not considering in any way starting backup Jake Allen on Monday.

“Carey’s the guy playing Monday,” he said. “If you wonder or people wonder about who’s going to be in net, Carey’s going to be in net.”

NO EXEMPTION

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday that the Canadian government has not granted an exemption for family members of Lightning players and staff to travel to Montreal for a potential Cup celebration.

That means they could win a second championship in 11 months without family there to enjoy it.

“Much like last year, we’re secluded, so we’re kept away from everybody,” coach Jon Cooper said. “Actually it’ll be similar to last year if we’re fortunate enough to win because of just the scenario that’s gone on, what’s been agreed to.”

Francesca Vangel, wife of Tampa Bay’s Patrick Maroon, tweeted her frustration about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying, “How about you let the families of the players cross the boarder (both teams) and enjoy it this year. Just a thought.”

JOSEPH’S CHANCE

When Nikita Kucherov returned for the Lightning at the start of the playoffs, someone had to be the odd man out. It turned out to be Mathieu Joseph, who played all 56 regular-season games.

Joseph knows what it’s like to be part of a Cup run but not play after doing that in the bubble last year. When veteran forward Alex Killorn was injured in Game 1 of the final, the 24-year-old from Laval, Quebec, got his opportunity.

Assuming Tampa Bay closes this out, Joseph would be one of the 52 names on the Stanley Cup.

“It means a lot,” Joseph said. “Being part of that last year in the bubble was definitely special, even though I didn’t play. I consider these guys my family and being part of it and on the bench is different than when you’re off the ice, so definitely happy to be part of it for the time that I got so far. It’s definitely something that you want to be part of and you’ve worked hard all year for that.”

COOPER’S SHIRT

Over the past couple of years, Cooper has taken to honoring bands with the T-shirts he wears for interviews. Saturday was ’90s metal band Deadguy. Of course, it had a little extra meaning.

“They got their name from a great John Candy movie, ‘Only the lonely,’ Cooper said. “Do you know what one of their albums was called? Work ethic.”

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Canadiens ponder lineup changes on brink of elimination