BROSSARD, Que. – Coach Michel Therrien doesn’t want to talk about who may or may not play in the second round of the NHL playoffs.
He has plenty of time to make those decisions as the Montreal Canadiens face what could be a 10- or 11-day break after completing a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning this week.
Therrien may not want to meddle at all with the 18 skaters, plus goalie Carey Price, who played in every game of the Tampa Bay series.
“I’m not there yet,” Therrien said Friday as his team resumed skating after two days off. “We don’t know who we’re going to play.
“I don’t have to make a decision for tomorrow morning, so my focus is to prepare the team to make sure we’re ready. Conditioning is important too because, for me, this is going to be crucial. But I’m not there yet to talk about lineups.”
The Canadiens next face the winner of the Boston-Detroit series. The Bruins have a 3-1 lead going into Game 5 at home Saturday afternoon.
Therrien wouldn’t bite when asked if he would want a bigger, more physical lineup against Boston, or a smaller, quicker one against Detroit.
“I don’t want to go there,” he said.
Physical winger Travis Moen should be ready to return from a concussion for the next round and there is a chance play-making forward Alex Galchenyuk will return at some point from a lower body injury. Moen is skating with the team but Galchenyuk hasn’t been seen.
“It’s a good thing Travis is healthy,” Therrien said of Moen, who missed the last nine games of the regular season and the first round of playoffs after suffering a concussion in a fight with Boston’s Kevan Miller. “Now we’re working on his conditioning and timing.
“We’ll see where he’s at when we start the next round, but it’s a big plus. He’s a big body. He kills penalties. He’s got experience. He won a Stanley Cup (with Anaheim). I see it more as a plus for us than a difficult decision. It’s always tough to take somebody out so we’re not sure where we’re going right now, but you want your players to be healthy.”
Rugged forwards Ryan White and George Parros and defencemen Douglas Murray and Jarred Tinordi were scratched in the Tampa Bay series but are also available. They also have 10 players from the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs on hand who are skating apart from the main group.
The entire team played well against the Lightning, so it will be difficult for Therrien to tell any player he will sit out in the second round.
All four forward lines produced, and the three defence pairs were solid.
What stood out, besides strong performances from centre Lars Eller and left-winger Rene Bourque, were the contributions from three players picked up in the past three months by general manager Marc Bergevin to add depth—forwards Thomas Vanek and Dale Weise and veteran defenceman Mike Weaver.
Weise was a spare part in Vancouver when he was acquired Feb. 3 for defenceman Raphael Diaz and became a useful fourth-line winger in Montreal.
The 25-year-scored an overtime goal in Game 1 against Tampa Bay and set up Daniel Briere for the opening goal in Game 4.
“I love the opportunity here,” the Winnipeg native said. “We have a great lineup here that matches up well against anybody.
“My first year in Vancouver we won the President’s Cup and we lost in five games to L.A. and I thought that was a really good team. But there’s just something about this team that I can’t quite put my finger on. We’ve got four lines that can score and can match up against everybody. We have seven or eight defenceman that can play. And we have one of the best goaltenders. This is a pretty special team here.”
Montreal got Weaver from the Florida Panthers for a fifth-round pick March 4, a day before the NHL trade deadline. The stocky defenceman, who turns 36 on May 2, fit nicely on the third pair with veteran Francis Bouillon and played on special teams.
“It’s been amazing,” the Bramalea, Ont., native said. “It gave me a bit of an adrenalin rush going from Florida to a big-market team like Montreal, with a history and everything.”
Many fans had never heard of Weaver before he got to Montreal. He has been a low-key player through an NHL career that began in Atlanta and had stops in Los Angeles and St. Louis before he joined the Panthers four seasons ago.
“I just play my game,” he said. “Every team I’ve been on, I find I’m (seen as) more valuable because people see me on a daily basis and what I’m able to do.
“I really pride myself on being consistent and being a simple player.”
There’s no flying under the radar in a hockey town, however.
“In Montreal, everybody’s over the radar,” said Weaver. “I always used to say that as long as I’m out of the paper I’m doing my job, but it’s kind of tough to hide from you (reporters) here.
“I don’t get as recognized as Vanek, but the fans here have been around hockey their whole lives and they recognize the little things I do.”
Vanek, picked up from the New York Islanders at the trade deadline for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a second-round pick, moved immediately onto the top line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.
Despite plenty of chances, they had one goal each in the opening round, including Pacioretty’s game-winner and series-clincher in the final minute of Game 4 on Tuesday night.