By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
On Thursday morning, everything seemed to be progressing as usual. There were no games on the schedule until 3 p.m., the Flyers and Canadiens were both off until Friday and getting in another round of practices before facing off in Game 2 on Friday afternoon.
But it had been anything but a normal night for the Canadiens. After falling to the Flyers in Game 1, 2-1, Montreal head coach Claude Julien began experiencing chest pains overnight. After the Canadiens consulted with doctors, Julien was taken to the hospital. GM Marc Bergevin addressed the media following the Canadiens’ practice on Thursday, announcing that Julien will not return for the remainder of the first-round series against the Flyers. Assistant Kirk Muller will assume head coaching duties.
“He’s in good hands at the hospital here,” Bergevin said. “Everything should be fine and we hope for the best. There was some positive news. Hopefully he can be released shortly and go back home.”
This news certainly shook up the hockey world and certainly some of the Flyers as well. Alain Vigneault was teammates with Julien in the CHL with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles in the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons. As NHL head coaches, they have opposed one another twice in playoff series. Julien was behind the bench for the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, who defeated Vigneault’s Vancouver Canucks in the Final. Vigneault won a first-round series against Julien’s Canadiens in 2017 as coach of the New York Rangers.
“I’ve known Claude since I was 20,” Vigneault said. “We go way back. Good friends. I’m obviously going to reach out to him. I just found out the news 20 minutes ago before jumping on the bus, so I’m not aware of exactly what happened.
“When I found out about it, a lot of things go through your mind. We’ve been through different things, without a doubt, in our relationship. Right now, I want to get this press conference done to go see if I can’t reach him to find out the latest development.”
For the Canadiens, they have to move forward without their head coach, but as Bergevin was quick to remind, nothing changes with the group on the ice, the same group of players that shocked the hockey world and upset the Penguins in the qualifying round.
“I met with the coaches this morning. I have faith in them. We beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s not the coaches that beat them. It’s the players,” Bergevin said. “We have the same group. I thought last night, we were a little maybe nervous in the first 20 but after that I felt our team was coming and we worked hard and competed hard and I expect the same thing tomorrow. We shocked a lot of people in the first series and I expect them to rise to the occasion and keep on going.”
Shea Weber scored the lone goal for the Canadiens on Wednesday night. The Canadiens’ captain said the team can draw some inspiration in playing for their coach.
“I think in these situations, there’s always a bit of an emotional factor and, like Marc said, a shock factor,” Weber said. “Everybody learned about this this morning. The biggest concern is obviously his health and we want to make sure he’s healthy first, but I think that’s something that we can draw on. We were motivated in the first place, but this could draw a little more out of that.”
The Flyers and Canadiens take the ice for Game 2 in just less than 24 hours at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon.