I was actually hoping that Max Domi would stay home and skip the Montreal Canadiens postseason play-in tournament. But the 25-year-old Domi either made a courageous decision or a calculated one.
As Canadiens’ fans know well, Domi is a Type 1 diabetic and he’s at a huge risk for – should he catch the COVID-19 virus – for not faring well because of his pre-existing condition. But then I’m in my mid-70s and when you get to be my age clearly you begin to recognize that health is more important than money.
Why Might Domi Have Agreed to Play?
One can only speculate about why Domi agreed to play this postseason with all the personal health risks. Perhaps the most positive spin is that he’s a member of a team made up of other men and one simply doesn’t let one’s team down. A less positive spin is that, given (a) his poor 2019-20 season, (b) his moodiness when head coach Claude Julien moved him from center to wing, (c) his lack of production (scoring only 17 points and 44 points in 71 games), (d) knowing your physical game translates well to the postseason, and (e) the fact that he’s up for re-signing as an RFA after the season means that your play during the next 3-5 games actually negotiates next season’s contract.
Domi is, in fact, an RFA and general manager Marc Bergevin must negotiate a new contract once the postseason is finished. Logic suggests that the better he plays over the next few postseason games, the higher his contract numbers would be if he signed. Should he have a great postseason, the upside would be huge. However, should he have a poor postseason, not much changes for him. He certainly doesn’t want to test positive fro COVID-19; but, from a players’ perspective, he’s largely in a no-lose situation.
What Happened During the Phase 3 Training Camp?
Canadiens’ fans just can’t know what motivated him to return. But we can know what happened to him during the team’s training camp. His play wasn’t up to par in Julien’s books. In fact, he slipped “down” from his regular spot in the lineup. Or, we believe he did, because it’s hard to tell given coach Julien’s report that he hasn’t numbered his lines, so there really isn’t a first line, a second line, etc.
Still, during postseason games, the coach will dispense ice time. And, my logic tells me that, if the Canadiens wish to engage their best chances to score goals, they’ll likely play the line of Tomas Tatar (22 goals, 39 assists for 61 points in 68 regular-season games), Philip Danault (13 goals, 34 assists, for 47 points in 71 games), and Brendan Gallagher (22 goals, 21 assists, for 43 points in 59 games) more than they play the line made up of Domi, Dale Weise (one goal and four assists in 23 games with the Canadiens), and Jordan Weal (eight goals and seven assists in 49 games). Who cares what those lines are numbered?
Coach Julien’s Reasoning for Why Domi’s on a Great Line
Coach Julien has reported that, if his team has a chance to win against a difficult Pittsburgh Penguins team that’s loaded with stars throughout every line, that he believes the team’s best chance to win is to counter what the Penguins throw at you by creating four balanced lines before the Canadiens take on the Penguins in the play-in series.
Why balanced lines? Because, as Julien says, “You’ve got good balance and you have some experience on each line because we’re a young team. When you have some young players in your lineup, you try to give them an opportunity to have some success by having some experienced guys around them.”
Here’s What We Know About Domi
Julien has Max Domi on what seems to be the fourth line, although the coach doesn’t like labeling his lines by numbers.
About Dale Weise: “When you look at Dale Weise, he’s a guy who’s been around for a long time and he has a lot of experience and a lot of playoff experience.”
About Jordan Weal: “When you look at Jordan Weal, he’s a guy we’ve put on our power play and, when you see him with the puck, he makes things happen.”
About the Domi Line: “There’s an element of grit and an element of skill that Max has on either side of him. I don’t think Max is disappointed at all by his linemates.”
About Julien’s definition of a Fourth Line: “When people label them as a fourth, line, I never said they were a fourth line.”
About Julien’s Goal for His Team: “At the end of the day, what I tried to do is balance things out so that we counter a team with experience, a team that’s going to be throwing certain players out there, and we need to make sure we’re not a big disadvantage.”
We’ll know more when the Canadiens play their exhibition game against the Maple Leafs tonight and after the qualifying series against the Penguins begins on August 1.
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