The Montreal Canadiens will board a charter flight to Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon in preparation for the team’s Stanley Cup Final matchup with the Lightning, set to begin on Monday evening from Amalie Arena.
Unfortunately for the Habs, head coach Dominique Ducharme will be forced to continue with his COVID-19 quarantine through Game 2 of the best-of-seven series. And considering the superstitious ways of general manager Marc Bergevin, he may never rejoin assistant coach Luke Richardson on the bench again.
On Sunday morning, Joēl Armia served as a noticeable absentee from practice. Post-skate Bergevin iterated that the forward had been placed in COVID protocol and would not be travelling with the team to Tampa Bay.
The 28-year-old Finn had actually previously dealt with COVID in March of 2021, so this news does come as somewhat of the shock to the Canadiens. He missed eight games from March 22 to April 13 while away from the team. Making matters worse for Montreal is the fact that Armia has been one of the team’s most consistent playoff performers this postseason.
After registering 14 points in 41 games of the 2020-21 regular season, the former Winnipeg Jets forward has delivered five goals and eight points in just 17 playoff games this summer.
Despite the fact he has been placed in COVID protocol, it does not mean Armia actually has COVID. Montreal recently announced that the team is fully-vaccinated, as all players and team officials received their second doses back on June 9. Further testing will determine Armia’s fate. He is not yet officially ruled ‘out’ for Game 1.
“Yeah, it’s not ideal,” noted fellow former Winnipeg Jet-turned-Montreal Canadien Ben Chiarot. “It’s something we’ve kind of been dealing with all year is guys going out through the COVID protocol. ‘Armie’s’ obviously an important player for us. It’s just another little piece of adversity we’ll have to deal with.”
In further news related to the Jets, Habs’ injured forward Jake Evans – who was the concussed on the play that saw Mark Scheifele suspended four games back in the first round – skated in Armia’s spot on Montreal’s fourth line on Sunday, alongside Corey Perry and Eric Staal.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final goes at 7:00 PM central from Tampa Bay. It can be seen live on Sportsnet and CBC in Canada.
*UPDATE – The Montreal Canadiens have announced that Joel Armia has been removed from the NHL’s COVID protocol and is on a flight to Tampa Bay to join his teammates on Monday. He is considered a game-time decision for Game 1.