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Dominique Ducharme’s baffling decisions cost the Canadiens

He’ll have a hard time graduating from that interim status with decisions like these.

NHL: MAY 05 Canadiens at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the already playoff-eliminated Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Canadiens travelled to southern Ontario to face a different animal altogether. One that they may soon find themselves in a playoff series against.

They needed a good showing to instill some confidence against a Toronto Maple Leafs squad that could very well be their first-round opponent. They didn’t get that, but rather gave up a four-goal deficit, which they would prove woefully incapable of surmounting.

Alex Galchenyuk scored on a weak backhander through traffic. John Tavares and Pierre Engvall both scored on bad rebounds. Mitch Marner was simply allowed to walk into the zone untouched, and beat Cayden Primeau when the latter ventured too far from his crease to challenge. It was a serious mess of a period for the young Montreal goaltender.

Montreal did manage to get two goals back, notably including Cole Caufield’s first five-on-five goal of his career, but it was far too little, far too late.

Primeau was clearly not ready to play the Leafs. He looked like a deer in the headlights — unsure of how to square up to shooters, let alone control the ensuing rebounds. Dominique Ducharme did decide to pull him during the first intermission, but at that point the damage was already done.

I can’t agree more with Mike Johnson here. The right time to pull was at 2-0, and hopefully that would spark the team to get back into it. At the very least, Jake Allen looked much more solid once he did get in, so it could have stopped the bleeding. Maybe you get into the third period with a 2-1 game instead of 4-1. Hard to say for sure, but maybe they stand a chance.

Furthermore, if you wanted to get Primeau a game in this back-to-back Ontario set, why not give him the Senators game the night before? Why throw him to the wolves against Toronto? Why not let Jake Allen take the tougher game, since he was acquired for the specific purpose of taking those games when Carey Price can’t?

I understand no part of the decision making from Ducharme there. This season has been challenging from a personnel standpoint, but he knew who he had for goaltenders ahead of time, and knew he had two games in two nights. This either could have been avoided, or he could have at least not hung a young goaltender out for four first-period goals.

But that wasn’t the only questionable decision of the night. Phillip Danault left the game in the first period, and post-game comments confirmed that he had been dealing with a lingering injury.

This was a game you want to win, but has little if any impact on the team’s playoff position. Why you would possibly ice a player who is nursing an injury for this game is beyond me. I know players have a tendency to want to play through things, but a coach’s job is to step in and stop them when they have such inclinations.

Hopefully Danault won’t be missing any significant time, because if he does then the decision to play him last night could have deeper consequences. Danault’s defensive abilities make him rather crucial to any hope of playing respectably against Toronto in the playoffs, never mind beating them.

I opined a few games back that the Canadiens could beat the Leafs in a playoff series. I stand by that statement, but I’d elaborate to say that they absolutely won’t if their coach continues to make baffling decisions like he did last night.