Bruins, Canadiens Shake Up Atlantic Division in Short, Long Term

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) /

Wednesday was a busy day in the NHL’s Atlantic Division, as the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens grabbed headlines for different reasons.

The Canadiens opened and filled their head coaching position all within a matter of hours in a move that will hopefully get the Habs trending in the right direction.

Former coach Dominique Ducharme was relieved of his duties after guiding Montreal to an abysmal 8-30-7 record this season. He did lead the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final last season, but his overall 23-46-14 record was not enough to save his job.

He will be replaced by first-time head coach and Hockey Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis. The 46-year-old Stanley Cup champion will step into his first coaching gig with a franchise that has sky-high expectations, yet very few reasons to think they can reach them.

This was not the first major change on the season for the Canadiens. Earlier this year, Montreal fired General Manager Marc Bergevin in favor of Kent Hughes, who has now started to leave his mark on the organization.

The Canadiens’ and Bruins’ headlines will shake up the Atlantic.

Meanwhile in Boston, the Bruins learned that they will be without forward Brad Marchand for their next six games after he went after Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry in the final seconds of a 4-2 Penguins victory in Boston on Tuesday night.

Marchand is no stranger to on-ice antics of this nature, nor is he new to sitting out games as a result of such actions. Not to say that his past infractions were excusable, but this particular situation is really a head-scratcher.

The game was over, the play was over, and the Bruins’ alternate captain decided to go after Jarry not once, but twice. His inexcusable actions will have him out of the lineup until February 24.

In addition, the Bruins saw goaltender Tuukka Rask announce his retirement from the NHL. Rask, who missed the bulk of this season while recovering from an injury, recently returned to the Bruins, playing four games. He recorded a 2-2 record, 4.28 goals against average, and .844 save percentage.

Clearly, something was missing for the Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup winner, but he retires as an all-time great for the B’s. No goalie in the history of the Boston Bruins has played more games or picked up more wins than Rask.

In terms of the impact that these changes will have on the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens probably won’t see anything impactful happen until next season. Obviously, Montreal will want to see improvements this season in order to establish a foundation for next year, but for the 2021-2022 season, the Habs are a lost cause.

On the Bruins side of things, the Marchand suspension and Rask retirement will send a jolt through the lineup in the short term. Boston will face three playoff teams while without number 63, which will hurt the team’s chances to pick up points.

As far as the rest of the season goes, Marchand will be back, but the magnitude of Rask’s departure will be determined by Boston’s goaltending come playoff time.

Rask really wasn’t a part of this team, so it’s not as if his exit will cripple its ability to win in the regular season, however, if Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman prevent the Bruins from advancing through the Atlantic, the Bruins will wonder what could have been with Rask between the pipes.

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These Atlantic Division rivals made waves on Wednesday, and now they will move forward with some new faces present and some familiar faces missing.