Sports: Stu Cowan: GM Bergevin's retooled Canadiens proving doubters wrong

'I believed in this team from the start': Habs GM Marc Bergevin happy to see his moves pay off

  'I believed in this team from the start': Habs GM Marc Bergevin happy to see his moves pay off As the Canadiens departed for Las Vegas and a date with the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup semifinal , general manager Marc Bergevin paused to say: “I told you so.” The Canadiens were the last team to qualify for the playoffs but Bergevin said he never lost confidence in the team he assembled. “I believed in this team from the start,” Bergevin said Saturday after the team held a final practice in Brossard before boarding a charter flight to Sin City. “Even in January when I said I was building a playoff team, that’s what I thought. There are always obstacles. There are two kinds of hockey, one for the season and one for the playoffs.

a group of people racing each other on a snow covered slope: The Canadiens celebrate a goal by Cole Caufield (not pictured) against the Vegas Golden Knights during the second period in Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on June 22, 2021. © Provided by The Gazette The Canadiens celebrate a goal by Cole Caufield (not pictured) against the Vegas Golden Knights during the second period in Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on June 22, 2021.

“I believe in you guys, OK? We’re gonna win and we’re gonna move on. Adversity? We went through all year. And if you look at the poster child for adversity it’s you guys. And you overcame every one of them. And tonight, another step to show these people wrong. We believe in each other, we’re gonna play the right way and you’re gonna play for the guy next to you. That’s who you do it for. Let’s go!”

What the Puck: Canadiens' Marc Bergevin doesn't deserve to win GM award

  What the Puck: Canadiens' Marc Bergevin doesn't deserve to win GM award Let us now praise Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin. But let’s also not give him the GM of the year award. The most important thing to realize with the National Hockey League’s Jim Gregory Award for general manager of the year is that fellow GMs and a panel of league executives and media types voted for the three nominees after the conclusion of the second round of the playoffs. The three finalists are Bergevin, New York Islanders’ Lou Lamoriello and the Florida Panthers’ Bill Zito.

That was Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s speech — with a few F-bombs edited out — before Game 3 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series against the Vegas Golden Knights at the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens won that game 3-2 in overtime before losing Game 4 at the Bell Centre 2-1 in OT. Facing adversity yet again in Game 5 Tuesday night in Las Vegas after losing home-ice advantage, the Canadiens played what was probably their best game of the year, beating the Golden Knights 4-1.

The Canadiens can advance to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1993 — also the last time they won the Cup — with a victory over the Golden Knights in Game 6 Thursday at the Bell Centre (8 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

I’m one of those people the Canadiens are proving wrong. I picked them to lose in five games to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. Their seven-game win over Toronto convinced me the Canadiens could beat the Winnipeg Jets in the second round and I picked them to win that series in six games. The Canadiens swept the Jets in four.

Canadiens' Marc Bergevin finishes second in GM award voting

  Canadiens' Marc Bergevin finishes second in GM award voting The Canadiens’ Marc Bergevin finished second in voting for the Jim Gregory Award as the top general manager in the NHL this season. The New York Islanders’ Lou Lamoriello was announced as the winner Tuesday night, becoming the first GM to win the award in back-to-back seasons since it was first presented in 2009-10. No Canadiens GM has ever won the award. NHL general managers and a panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media vote for the Jim Gregory Award at the conclusion of the second round of the playoffs with the top three vote-getters being named finalists. The Florida Panthers’ Bill Zito was the third finalist this year.

But that still didn’t convince me they could beat Vegas and I picked the Golden Knights to win this series in six games. That’s obviously not going to happen.

“I don’t think we really care that much about what everyone says and thinks about our team,” forward Joel Armia said Wednesday morning before the Canadiens flew home from Las Vegas. “I think we have a big trust in each other in the locker room and that’s all that matters. All the guys in the locker room know that we’re a good team and we can win games. So that’s the biggest thing.

“I think everybody on the bench can trust the five guys on the ice to do their job,” Armia added. “I think that’s a big, key part that we can play all four lines and everybody knows that the guys on the ice are going to do their job.”

Everyone on the Canadiens is doing their job. There are no weak links on this team and they’re frustrating the heck out of the Golden Knights.

Stu Cowan: Remembering last time Canadiens went to Stanley Cup final

  Stu Cowan: Remembering last time Canadiens went to Stanley Cup final The last time the Canadiens advanced to the Stanley Cup final, Denis Savard was brought to tears. As the clock clicked down on the Canadiens’ 5-2 win over the New York Islanders in Game 5 of the Prince of Wales Conference final at the Forum on May 24, 1993, the future Hall of Famer couldn’t control his emotions on the bench. “He was crying big, salty man tears because real men do cry, and he was crying big, salty boy tears because every kid who ever laced on skates in Verdun dreamed of playing for the Stanley Cup with the Canadiens,” former Montreal Gazette sports columnist Michael Farber wrote in the next day’s paper.

This is the team Bergevin envisioned when he made all of the off-season moves. He was building a team he believed could win in the playoffs, adding Jake Allen, Joel Edmundson, Tyler Toffoli and Corey Perry, who all have Stanley Cup rings, along with power-forward Josh Anderson. He added Eric Staal, another player with a Stanley Cup ring, and veteran defencemen Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson before the NHL trade deadline.

Bergevin probably didn’t envision firing head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller and goalie coach Stéphane Waite during the season, which couldn’t have been easy for him. Being GM of the Canadiens can be a very lonely job with few friends, especially when the team isn’t playing well. But Bergevin made some tough decisions he felt he had to make.

Now, everything has come together for the Canadiens and they are one win away from the Stanley Cup final.

“I think it goes back to training camp, when Marc Bergevin said that he built this team to win in the playoffs,” assistant coach Luke Richardson said. “We had our ups and downs and struggles, as every team does. Obviously, a little concerning when it was that close to the playoffs. But we were lucky with some health coming back and we’ve just kind of clicked halfway through that Toronto series and we just started to find our way and I think it’s very exciting. The guys love playing for each other. We’re starting to get fans back in the Bell Centre and hopefully that keeps growing because they’re feeding off it.

Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher has playoff experience against Lightning

  Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher has playoff experience against Lightning Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry and Carey Price are the only three players who were with the Canadiens the last time they faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs. That was in 2015 when the Lightning beat the Canadiens in six games in the second round. The Canadiens had knocked off the Ottawa Senators in six games in the first round of the playoffs, while the Lightning eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in seven games in the opening round. The Lightning would go on to beat the New York Rangers in seven games in the Eastern Conference final before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup final.

“I know it’s a big week coming up in Quebec, with St-Jean-Baptiste Day,” Richardson added. “So what a festival that would be if we can get more fans in and excite the players and have a really good celebration because that’s just what it feels like right now. It feels like a celebration and we’re not satisfied. We’re just enjoying the ride and the run because the players deserve it. They’re earning it and we, as a coaching staff, are really enjoying watching them have the success that they deserve because they’ve really earned it on the ice.”

I now believe in this Canadiens team.

My new prediction: Canadiens in six.

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Related

Canadiens vs. Lightning result, score: Lightning win back-to-back Stanley Cups with Game 5 shutout .
Sporting News had all the action as Tampa Bay won its second straight Stanley Cup.Remember way back in May, when the kids from Montreal trailed 3-1 against the Maple Leafs? Yep, they came back and won that series in seven games. The Canadiens staved off elimination on Monday night in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Lightning, too, and now they'll try to do it again two nights later.

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