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Canadiens adjust to life in bubble with long break between games

Canadiens' Phillip Danault is thwarted by Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry in the qualification round last week. "We’re ready to play," Danault says about series with Philadelphia that begins Wednesday, "but we need to enjoy the rest we have because it doesn’t happen often.
Canadiens' Phillip Danault is thwarted by Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry in the qualification round last week. "We’re ready to play," Danault says about series with Philadelphia that begins Wednesday, "but we need to enjoy the rest we have because it doesn’t happen often.

You have to think there are parts of NHL bubble life that the Canadiens are enjoying.

It probably brings back fond memories of youth tournaments they played in where the players would stay together at a hotel, playing mini-sticks hockey in the hallway between games while the parents enjoyed a few cocktails and chatted in one of the rooms. Parents of the Canadiens must wish they had one of those rooms now in the NHL bubble.

The Canadiens will only start their first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday in Toronto (8 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio), after upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round with a 2-0 victory in Game 4 of the best-of-five series on Friday.

That means a lot of down time at the Royal York hotel and it’s unlikely the Canadiens players brought their mini-sticks — although they definitely have their video games.

NHL players never really have to grow up.

The Canadiens’ Phillip Danault became a father last year when his wife, Marie-Pierre Fortin, gave birth to Phillip-Édouard, who celebrated his first birthday on Feb. 20. Life in the NHL bubble means the only real contact he can have with them now is by video conference.

“They’re doing good,” Danault told the media during a video conference Monday. “She’s doing a good job taking care of the kid.”

Meanwhile, Danault gets to be like a kid again between games.

“It’s fun here, though, with the boys,” he said. “It’s a different scenario. It’s something very unique, special, being here all together celebrating after when you win a series or anything. So it’s definitely different. Right now, we’re playing Wednesday, so time is a little long. We’re ready to play, but we need to enjoy the rest we have because it doesn’t happen often. So we need to enjoy that, enjoy the time with the guys here. It’s been OK so far in the bubble.”

Canadiens coach Claude Julien gave his players a day off from practice Monday as they get ready for their first real playoff game in three years thanks to a big break from COVID-19, which allowed them to squeak into this 24-team postseason with a 31-31-9 record.

“2020 has been really weird for many people — for the whole world,” Danault said “That’s why we’re here, too. I guess we have a little luck from the Hockey Gods.

“We didn’t make the playoffs by one point last year — so it definitely hurt us — and we had 96 points, too,” Danault added. “I didn’t see many teams not making the playoffs with 96, so it’s kind of a Hockey Gods (thing) right now. I think we got a good team, too. We battled hard against Pittsburgh, we got momentum, our confidence back. We all believe here. Yes, we had a little bit of luck to be in the playoffs but, obviously, I think now anything can happen.”

scowan@postmedia.com

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