Montreal Canadiens center Eric Staal is injured and will be out for Game 3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Head coach Dominique Ducharme has decided to replace him with rookie Cole Caufield, who will make his Stanley Cup playoffs debut.
MON head coach Dominique Ducharme announces Eric Staal is injured and cannot play. So Tatar is staying in, along with Caufield's postseason debut
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 24, 2021
Eric Staal Injured, Out for Game 3
While Staal has been a fantastic veteran presence for the Canadiens, his actual on-ice performance has been ineffective. One point in two games so far, and only averaging about 11 minutes of ice time per game, Staal has been nearly invisible. He had one of his worst years ever on the Buffalo Sabres, and hasn’t seen much improvement since arriving in Montreal. The Canadiens acquired him from the Sabres to add some leadership and bolster their centers. So far, however, he has not produced as much as they hoped. Taking his place will likely be Paul Byron, shifting over from left-wing. Also playing on the third or fourth line, Byron isn’t an exceptional center, but he can fill in nicely for Staal.
How the Canadiens shift their lineup will be a telling sign of Ducharme’s trust in his young players. Caufield exploded into the NHL, impressing many with his four goals in 10 games, including two overtime winners. Keeping him out of games one and two was a shocking decision, but he’s ready to go. However, throwing a rookie into a high-pressure Game 3 is a possible recipe for disaster. Remember, Caufield only has 10 NHL games under his belt, and zero playoff experience. Especially coming off a 5-1 loss, the Canadiens need to win this game to not fall behind.
It was obvious Montreal needed more offence in Game 2 – they only registered 23 shots on goal. In addition, they took six penalties, which the Leafs turned into two power-play goals. Bringing a rookie in could end up backfiring, as emotions and nerves may get the better of Caufield. That being said, he was sensational in the games he played and seemed to have no trouble in the transition from college to pro hockey.