BROSSARD, Que. – Being the only rookie to play so far in the post-season for the Montreal Canadiens has been a thrill for left-winger Michael Bournival.
He didn’t get a point as Montreal took a 2-0 series lead with a pair of wins in Tampa, Fla., but he held is own playing on the fourth line with veteran Daniel Briere and Game 1 overtime hero Dale Weise.
“Every game is exciting,” Bournival said Sunday as the Canadiens prepared to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 at the Bell Centre. “I’m playing with Daniel and he’s got a lot of experience.
“We talk a lot. Not just about the game, but about positioning and things like that. He’s good for me. He helps me very much.”
The Lightning have used seven rookies in the series, including key players like defenceman Radko Gudas and forwards Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik and Nikita Kucherov.
Montreal has only two rookies with the team at the moment, Bournival and defenceman Jarred Tinordi, who has yet to play. Others should soon arrive from the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs, including defenceman Nathan Beaulieu, and may see action depending on injuries.
Coach Michel Therrien looks to Bournival to use his speed and tenacity to check the Lightning and free up pucks for his linemates. Nothing much showed on the scoresheets—no points, two shots, three of four faceoffs won—but the Shawinigan, Que. native has done the job.
It has helped Briere, who is known for raising his game in the playoffs, to go on attack and give the Canadiens an extra scoring threat.
“For a young player to be surrounded with a veteran like Briere is good because they communicate a lot on the bench,” said Therrien. “Bournival is playing really well.
“He’s playing the way we expected, like he showed us during the season. That’s why he’s got to focus on every shift, every period.”
The five-foot-11 190-pound Bournival was drafted in the third round by Colorado in 2010 and traded the following year to Montreal for defenceman Ryan O’Byrne, who is now playing for Lev Prague in the KHL final.
Bournival was not a prolific scorer in junior, although he had 30 goals in his final season and captained the Shawinigan Cataractes to a Memorial Cup title in 2012. His forte is a phenomenal motor, which lets him play at a frantic pace.
He spent last season with Hamilton and made the jump to the NHL out of training camp. He had seven goals and seven assists in 60 games, averaging just over 10 minutes of ice time per game.
With winger Travis Moen missing the start of the playoffs with a concussion and Alex Galchenyuk out with a lower body injury, Bournival and Weise got into the playoff lineup.
Defenceman Josh Gorges said Bournival is handling the pressure of his first NHL playoff experience perfectly so far.
“He’s playing on a line with Danny Briere and that’s the perfect guy to watch,” said Gorges. “His composure, his demeanour, his understanding the situation.
“That’s something we talk about in our room—everyone doing things together and feeding off each other just by watching each other. We don’t have to say a lot to a guy like Bourny. I don’t think there’s ever been a shift where he hasn’t worked at 120 per cent of his capacity. When you have a guy like that, you just say: ‘Go do your thing. Play hard and have fun.'”
Moen, who missed the final nine games of the regular season, was on the ice with his teammates Sunday morning and stayed long after to work with the trainers.
“He’s getting closer,” said Therrien.
Ondrej Palat, likely a candidate for rookie of the year, skated with the Lightning and will be a game time decision for coach Jon Cooper. Palat missed Game 2 after leaving the series opener following a collision with Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban.