BROSSARD, Que. — Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien recently admitted—like several other NHL coaches had in preceding weeks—that he’s not entirely enamoured with the concept of having a CBA-mandated five-day break in the schedule.
No coach wants the rhythm of its team disrupted for an extended period, and not many—if any—are particularly fond of how the condensed schedule, as a result of the bye week and the World Cup of Hockey, has cut into practice time.
But for the players of the Canadiens, who have just pushed through the most demanding portion of their season, their bye week from Feb. 13-17 can’t come soon enough.
“Ask the coach how he likes the bye week two weeks after we’ve had ours,” said Canadiens forward Paul Byron a few days ago. “There’s not a player in this room who won’t benefit from that rest with the way things have been compressed this season.”
Three days away from the rink as of this Friday, when the NHL breaks for its all-star weekend, should also do the Canadiens some good.
That should provide centre Alex Galchenyuk some extra time to heal up from reinjuring his knee in Montreal’s 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. Considering he missed six weeks before appearing in the Canadiens’ last five games, the rest can’t hurt.
It won’t hurt 38-year-old defenceman Andrei Markov, who’s missed the last 17 games with a groin injury. Ditto for David Desharnais, who’s been out since suffering a knee injury on Dec. 6, and defenceman Greg Pateryn will have a few more days to rehab from a broken tibia—an injury that did not allow him to bear weight on his right leg for 35 days before he resumed skating last Thursday.
But the bye week will be a godsend for all-stars Carey Price and Shea Weber, who will be in desperate need of some rest by the time it rolls around.
Both players have been burning oil since early September, having played pivotal roles in a win for Canada at the World Cup.
And as Canadiens defenceman Zach Redmond noted on Monday, “Those guys aren’t exactly getting a break with an unscheduled trip out to California this weekend.”
The ones who are getting one feel it’ll be a big factor in riding out the eight games Montreal will play between the beginning of next week and the February pause.
“Just to get your mind away from hockey will be key,” said Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw.
Shaw will do exactly that with his fiancée in New York, where they’ll take in a Broadway show or two and hit the spa over the weekend.
Canadiens forward Phillip Danault will take his girlfriend up to Quebec City, where they’ll spend some down time with her family.
Defenceman Mark Barberio says he plans on just catching up on some sleep.
“We just have to get through that stretch after the All-Star Game and then it’ll be great to have a breather,” said Byron.
If the Canadiens can do that without suffering more injuries—and if they can maintain their stranglehold in the Atlantic Division in the process—it will only make the timing of their bye week more fitting.
“I think it’s an advantage,” said Canadiens defenceman Nathan Beaulieu.
It’s hard to argue with that logic.
There are only four teams currently in playoff spots that will enjoy a bye week after the Canadiens have theirs. Three of them are in the Western Conference.
“Pittsburgh had it right after Christmas, and I think you want to delay it as much as you can so you can benefit from it to make a good, strong playoff push,” said Beaulieu.
Only having to play two games this week and benefitting from the all-star break will make the wait for the bye week a little more digestible for him and his teammates.
But there’s no question the Canadiens are racing towards that time off, even if their coach isn’t overly excited about it.