Ducharme expects to return to Canadiens by Stanley Cup Final Game 3

As with most things COVID-related, things could change. But Montreal Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme expects to return to their bench by Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This falls in line with recent word that Ducharme considered himself symptom-free following a positive COVID-19 test.

Ducharme return for Canadiens likely by Stanley Cup Final Game 3

Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the 2021 Stanley Cup Final schedule. Game 3 is scheduled for Friday, July 2 (8 p.m. ET; NBC / Peacock).

If that holds true, that would mean Ducharme experienced a COVID-related absence from Game 3 of the Semifinal against the Golden Knights, to Game 3 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final vs. the Lightning. Take a look at the game-by-game recap of that Semifinal series; it was 1-1 when Ducharme needed to begin isolating; the Canadiens won three of four games with Luke Richardson behind the bench.

CANADIENS VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (MTL wins series 4-2)

Game 1: Golden Knights 4, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2
Game 3: Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)
Game 4: Golden Knights 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)

Game 5: Canadiens 4, Golden Knights 1
Game 6: Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)

Overall, it’s an interesting and odd situation. After all, Ducharme served as an in-season replacement for Claude Julien. As great as Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield have been for the Canadiens, you can criticize Ducharme for not emphasizing them sooner, and sometimes scratching them altogether.

In other words: are we totally certain Richardson isn’t an upgrade over Ducharme? At times, the Canadiens put on a defensive clinic against the powerhouse Golden Knights:

Of course, just because Ducharme wasn’t physically behind the bench, doesn’t mean he couldn’t help the Canadiens reach the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. He praised his team for not overthinking in big-game situations.

Ultimately, the Canadiens need to be at their best to thwart the defending champion Lightning in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. Whoever’s behind the bench will have their work cut out for them.

CANADIENS VS. LIGHTNING – series livestream link

Game 1: Mon. June 28: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 2: Wed. June 30: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 3: Fri. July 2: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC)

*if necessary

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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