TAMPA – Interim Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme had to watch his team win a trip to the Stanley Cup Final while in isolation, in quarantine for 14 days after a COVID-19 test positive.
As the Canadiens beat the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the Cup semifinals – winning a date with the Lightning in the final – Ducharme did what he could: watched games on TV, spoke to his coaches during intermissions and kept in touch with players throughout text messages.
But there was only so much he could do without being there.
“It’s the hardest part there, is not being close to the guys, being able to just have a little chat like that,” Ducharme said on a Zoom call on Saturday. “Sometimes a few guys text me, call me to see how I’m doing between games and things like that.
“Watching the games on TV is obviously another point of view. It’s like making a live video (review). So I can see the replay, I can see different angles. So I’m doing the best I can right now with what I can do and I’m trying to help guys.
Assistant coach Luke Richardson, who spent a season with the Lightning as a player in 2006-07, has returned to bench duties in Ducharme’s absence.
The Canadiens were the last team to advance to the playoffs in the All-Canadian North Division and had the fewest points of any team in the playoffs. But they recovered from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Maple Leafs in the first round, swept Winnipeg and derailed a Vegas team that was tied for the league’s best record in the regular season.
“I think right now I feel our guys, they’re not thinking, they’re just performing,” Ducharme said. “They’re just playing, and that’s what we wanted to create. When things start to get automatic and become second nature, I really love watching it and seeing the band play that way together.
Ducharme’s isolation will end later this week. He should 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 don’t put an X (on the calendar), I don’t try to look at the calendar too often. It’s like looking at your watch too often, it seems like time is not passing. I try to be as busy as possible, watch a lot of videos and help the guys get ready.
• • •
Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.
Never miss the latest news with Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida College Sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.