TAMPA — Montreal Canadiens interim head coach Dominique Ducharme had to watch his team clinch a trip to the Stanley Cup final while in isolation, quarantining for 14 days following a positive COVID-19 test.
As the Canadiens beat the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the Cup semifinals — earning a date with the Lightning in the final — Ducharme did what he could: watched games on TV, talked to his coaches during intermissions and kept in contact with players through text messages.
But there was only so much he could do without being there.
“That’s the toughest part right there, is not being close to the guys, being able to just have a little chat like that,” Ducharme said Saturday on a Zoom call. “Sometimes a few guys text me, call me to see how I’m doing in between games and things like that.
“To watch the games on TV, obviously it’s a different point of view. It’s like I’m doing video (review) live. So I get to see the replay, I get to see different angles. So I’m doing the best I can right now with what I can do and trying to help the guys.”
Assistant coach Luke Richardson, who spent one season with the Lightning as a player in 2006-07, has taken over bench duties in Ducharme’s absence.
The Canadiens were the last team to qualify for the postseason in the all-Canadian North Division and had the fewest points of any playoff team. But they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Maple Leafs in the first round, swept Winnipeg and derailed a Vegas team that tied for the league’s best record during the regular season.
“I think right now I feel that our guys, they’re not thinking, they’re just executing,” Ducharme said. “They’re just playing, and that’s what we wanted to create. When things start to become just automatic and just become second nature, I really enjoy watching it and seeing the group playing that way together.”
Ducharme’s isolation will end later this week. He’s expected to be back on the bench for Game 3 of the final, the Canadiens’ first home game of the series.
“A lot (of anticipation),” he said. “I’m not putting Xs (on the calendar), I’m not trying to look at the calendar too often. It’s like looking at your watch too often, it looks like time doesn’t go by. I’m trying to be as busy as I can and watch a lot of video and help the guys get ready.”
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