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McCarthy: Canadiens can use time off to advantage

by Arpon Basu

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens, enlisted the help of longtime NHL assistant/associate coach Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy played in more than 500 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, then spent a decade as an assistant and associate coach with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he was a member of the staff that led them to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006. He joined the Flyers as an assistant during the 2009-10 season and stayed in Philadelphia until October 2013.

With the Canadiens sweeping the Eastern Conference First Round series, McCarthy examines how Montreal will handle its time off.

Though no NHL team would ever turn down the opportunity to rest during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, an extended layoff like the one the Montreal Canadiens have can be a major challenge for a coaching staff.

But according to Kevin McCarthy, this should not pose too great a problem to Montreal coach Michel Therrien, thanks in part to what he considers to be a strong core of leaders who won't let the Canadiens' focus waver.

"It's a real fine line," McCarthy told "To make it simple, if someone offered me more time off or less time, I would take more time."

The change to a bracket playoff system this year helps the Canadiens as they await their Eastern Conference Second Round opponent because they already know it will be the Boston Bruins or the Detroit Red Wings. In the past it could have been any number of teams because of the reseeding that used to take place after each round.

Not only will the new format allow the Canadiens to focus on their video work, McCarthy said, it will allow Therrien and his staff to begin making certain system-based adjustments to combat each potential opponent. The extra time off will allow the Canadiens to work on situations teams don't get to devote much time to in practice under normal circumstances, such as 6-on-5 or 6-on-4 scenarios.

"They can do a little more detailed stuff in practice," McCarthy said. "So it's really to their advantage to have this extra time."

The downside is that the Canadiens' two potential opponents should be sharp after an intense playoff battle while Montreal sits at home.

"That's the toughest thing as a coach, because you can't duplicate the desperation of the playoffs in practice," McCarthy said. "But you try to create drills that replicate it as best you can."

As the Canadiens get closer to resuming competition, Therrien will need to make decisions when it comes to the lineup. Forward Travis Moen is recovered from the concussion that kept him out of the first round, and forward Alex Galchenyuk could return from a lower-body injury.

McCarthy suggested that, considering the success the existing lineup had, it would be a good idea for Therrien to consult with some of his more trusted players before deciding on any changes.

"The chemistry of your team is so important this time of year, so you don't want to upset that," McCarthy said. "But the players in the room know which lineup gives them the best chance of winning. So I'm sure the coaching staff will sit down with their leadership group and eventually come up with the best lineup possible."

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