ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. —Last week will be remembered for a long time by Canadiens fans, hockey fans, sports fans, and the world. The world has drastically changed over the last seven days due to Coronavirus disease.
The National Hockey League (NHL) made the right decision on Thursday to pause the 2019-20 season in light of ongoing developments resulting from the Coronavirus. It followed the footsteps of the National Basketball Association (NBA) that suspended its season on Wednesday. All professional and amateur sports globally have halted their activities by now.
When I was playing EA Sports’ NHL94 on my game console, I would hit the pause button on my controller when I needed the game to wait for me to finish my homework, eat my dinner, head to the boys’ room, or anything that a teen has to worry about at that age.
Right now, it feels like the world has pushed the pause button on our lives, allowing us take care of ourselves.
Playing or watching sports helps people, including myself, escape from the ‘real’ world. To help fill the void, the Habs Notepad column will continue to be published while the NHL season is on pause.
Week in Review
The Habs played once last week before the stoppage of play and suffered a 4-2 loss against the Predators. Nashville took a 4-0 lead at the Bell Centre, before Montreal scored two goals in the third period to reduce the gap.
“The first period wasn’t much better, either. I think that if not for Carey (Price) in the first period, it would’ve been different. Carey saved us in the first,” said Claude Julien. “The second was catastrophic. We came back with a lot more energy in the third, a lot more determination, and that’s what’s disappointing.”
The feel good story of the game against the Predators was Lukas Vejdemo‘s first career NHL goal in his final game before being returned to Laval. Dale Weise from behind the net passed the puck to Vejdemo in the slot for the goal in the third period.
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) March 11, 2020
Vejdemo has played seven games with Montreal averaging 8:01 ice time playing left wing on the fourth line during his two stints. His first recall was on December 14th after Matthew Peca suffered an injury and played four games before returning to Laval on January 9th.
Vejdemo returned with the Habs as an emergency recall on March 4th after Tomas Tatar suffered an upper body and played three games before returning to the Rocket following the game against the Predators.
In the American Hockey League, Vejdemo has scored nine times and added 10 assists in 47 games. For most of the season, he has played on the third line in the middle of Alexandre Alain and Joe Cox, and receives regular ice time on the penalty-kill.
Suzuki Hits A Wall
Claude Julien often gets criticized by experts and fans about the usage of the young players on the roster. The more frequent criticism is when a rookie player gets benched or called out by the coach to the media after making a mistake, or when a prospected gets called up and receives minimal ice time.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi was glued to the bench in the third period of the January 11th game against the Senators when his line was on the ice for the tying goal, finishing the frame with 1:04 of ice time.
Lukas Vejdemo (8:01, seven games), Gustav Olofsson (8:06, three games), and Otto Leskinen (10:18, five games) are just a sample of players that were called up and were given minimal ice time.
Nick Suzuki has generally been the exception to these rules. The coach has publicly criticized mistakes that Suzuki has made, but has continued to give to give the rookie plenty of ice time. Through 71 games, Suzuki has averaged 15:59 of ice time, with a consistent spot on the power play unit and would occasionally play during the penalty kill.
The 4-3 loss against the Red Wings on February 18th will be remembered for being the final game of the season sweep by Detroit, and Julien’s post-game rant where he says that he can’t put the skates on for the players.
“Sometimes, it’s sloppy mistakes or lazy backchecking. Guys don’t learn from that. They don’t put more effort into it, that’s the result they’re going to get. We need to be better,” added the coach. His comments were directed to Suzuki for the game winning goal shown below.
“We’ve blown a few leads and the last goal was directly from me. I can’t let that happen. I didn’t see. The bench was yelling there’s a guy on me and I should have tried to get rid of it. I should have just chipped it into the zone,” spoke Suzuki about that goal.
Following that night, Suzuki went on an eight game point drought, his longest of his young career. “It’s just right now, he’s hit a bit of a wall. It doesn’t make him a bad player, but he’s certainly doesn’t have the impact that he had earlier on,” Julien explained Suzuki’s lack of production ahead of the game against Nashville.
“Last year was a big year for him. World Juniors and Memorial Cup, everything. So a lot of extra games that that he’s played, finished, you know, in May, by the end of June he’s back on the ice here for development camp, rookie camp, big season, first season, so eventually those things catch up. And that’s, to me, it’s just a normal thing,” added the coach.
That night, Suzuki got himself on the scoresheet for the first time in nine games with an assist on the team’s first goal. The coach had demoted Suzuki from the second line to the third line, playing in the middle of Artturi Lehkonen and Jordan Weal for the game versus Nashville. Not an appropriate decision in my opinion, considering it was a meaningless game for the Canadiens.
Bell Centre Employees
In the aftermath of the paused season, there was a movement on social media that sports organizations should help the employees of the venues for lost wages while the games are postponed. Several organizations and players stepped up by making a commitment or donation to minimize the impact to those individuals.
The Canadiens announced financial measures on Sunday for their 1,200 game-day employees for Canadiens and Rocket games. In addition to the Canadiens games, the World Figure Skating Championships from March 16th to 22nd, the Harlem Globetrotters on March 27th, and Elton John concerts on April 2nd and 3rd, have also been cancelled, according to the Bell Centre event calendar.
Now that we know that Canadiens management have taken care of their employees, I wonder if there will be a movement on social media to assist individuals affected in other industries for lost wages due to the pandemic.
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