If the Canadiens’ players remain healthy, head coach Dominique Ducharme expects four lines capable of scoring goals this winter.
This recipe was partly responsible for the success of the Montreal team during the playoffs last spring. The fourth line then consisted of Corey Perry, Eric Staal and Joel Armia, and they provided several important goals.
Ducharme believes the team is once again relying on enough depth to be able to repeat the same recipe. “We want markers on each line,” he said on Tuesday.
“With depth in a formation, it neutralizes the game of confrontation and it gives you an advantage,” added Brendan Gallagher. If on some nights you know your line will find itself in a difficult confrontation, you will have the confidence to see your depth make the difference. This is what I see now with our group of attackers. “
Some trios to be specified
Tyler Toffoli, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield are expected to form a unit to start the season, having had success together during the playoffs. Jonathan Drouin, Christian Dvorak and Josh Anderson shone in their first preseason outing on Monday, amassing a total of nine points in a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have not yet given Ducharme a reason to separate them.
The composition of the other two trios is a little less clear. Jake Evans and Joel Armia have played with Rafaël Harvey-Pinard since the start of the camp. Harvey-Pinard should, however, continue his apprenticeship with the Laval Rocket in the American Hockey League.
Mathieu Perreault, Cédric Paquette and Alex Belzile have shown great energy together since the start of the camp. Artturi Lehkonen, Ryan Poehling and Laurent Dauphin pulled off a little more.
Gallagher has yet to be placed in a chair, replacing injured Caufield to Suzuki’s right on Tuesday. Mike Hoffman is also absent, he who is treating a lower body injury and who could miss the start of the season.
Ducharme has noted over the past few days that he may be looking for more good duos than good lines, in order to have a little more leeway if he wants to make adjustments to his units.
“It can be center-winger or winger-winger,” he said.
Due to the Canadiens’ pre-season schedule, Ducharme has already indicated that he will keep a high number of players at camp until the end of the week. Defender Daniil Sobolev, however, was removed on Tuesday.
The Canadian will face the Senators on Friday in Ottawa and in Montreal on Saturday. Ducharme does not want to force his players to play two games in as many nights during camp. We should therefore start to have a better portrait of the last two lines when we return to work next Monday.
It will be the same on defense, with no pair looking set in stone at the moment. Alexander Romanov once again trained alongside Jeff Petry on Tuesday as Joel Edmundson skated solo again.
Even if he were to make major cuts on Sunday, Ducharme ensured that players vying for positions will have the opportunity to continue to show off.
“If a kid is better than a veteran it will be like that and it will be for the veteran to take advantage of his chance when he comes back into the squad,” said Ducharme. It’s part of the daily struggles. “
“It’s not easy to reach the National Hockey League, but sometimes it’s even more difficult to stay there. The guys know that, and I’ve talked to some veterans to make sure they don’t take it for granted. We will make decisions based on what we see – which we believe will give us the best chance of winning at this time. Guys understand that, and it’s this competition that makes everyone better. “
The time for experiments is not over yet at the Canadiens camp, but Ducharme is probably hoping to move on to the next phase soon, when he has the opportunity to test the depth he has on hand a little better.