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Bottom Six Minutes 34: A game that never should have happened

The league allowed a COVID-stricken Canadiens team to take the ice in Florida.

Montreal Canadiens v Florida Panthers Photo by Joel Auerbach/NHLI via Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens — if you can even call them that — were presented with an unenviable task on New Year’s day. Decimated by injuries and the COVID protocol, they were in the sunshine state to face the Florida Panthers, who currently sit second in the Atlantic Division, and were coming off a 9-3 destruction of the Tampa Bay Lightning two days prior. The scene was set for the Habs to get their ugliest game of 2022 out of the way extremely early in the year.

Welcome to your Bottom Six Minutes, for a game that really should not have happened at all.

The Habs had a total of 18 players available — including their two goaltenders — for the game after Alexander Romanov and Jake Evans were added to the COVID protocol a few hours before puck drop. There is a legitimate outbreak in Montreal, so there were serious concerns about allowing this game to happen.

The NHL made the absurd decision to allow this game to be played notwithstanding the risks, as the Habs represent one of the bigger gates that the Florida Panthers see all season. Postponement? Of course not, let’s trot a brutally depleted — and potentially infectious — roster onto the ice in Florida in order to prop up ticket sales. If the outbreak spreads to the Panthers after this game, the blame should rest squarely with the league for their dereliction of duty in favour of some profit.

With only 16 skaters, there was an additional risk for injuries on Montreal’s side due to fatigue which luckily didn’t become a factor. This game truly should have been postponed. The Habs actually suspended all team activities through January 6 after the game...

If all this wasn’t enough, the Habs had to contend with one-sided officiating in favour of the Panthers. Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield were both hooked or held on separate breakaways in the second period without penalty. Sam Bennett got away with a headshot on Cedric Paquette in the opening minutes of the game. Florida probably wins that game without the officials support, but it would have been nice for the officials to give the Habs a fair shake.

They fought hard, and made more of a game out of this one than anyone expected. Your silver lining of the game goes to both Suzuki and Jonathan Drouin, who had excellent games with plenty of ice time. Frankly, it could go to the entire shortened bench, as the effort they put forth to keep the game close for as long as they did was commendable.

Click the play button below for my full thoughts, and we’ll be back after the break in action for the Habs, as they’re scheduled to take the ice next on January 12 against the Boston Bruins.