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Crunch 1 – Rocket 4 | The rediscovered pleasure of Cédric Paquette

(Laval) A little less than two years ago, Cédric Paquette lifted the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. A year ago, he signed a contract with the Montreal Canadiens, the team of his childhood. Thursday night, he wore the Laval Rocket uniform, in the American League.

Updated yesterday at 11:33 p.m.

Simon Olivier Lorange

Simon Olivier Lorange
The Press

The last part of this list obviously did not appear in the career plan of the Gaspésien. At least not at this stage of his career. However, things are what they are.

It is however this same Paquette who, in front of the journalists, declared at the end of the evening to have “fun to play hockey at present”. He had just scored the winning goal for the Laval residents shortly before, in a 4-1 victory that gave the Rocket a 2-1 lead in this three-of-five series. The CH school club could eliminate the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday, at home.

A little before the middle of the third period, and while the Rocket was on the power play for the seventh time of the evening, Paquette deflected a shot from Jean-Sébastien Dea behind goalkeeper Maxime Lagacé. The celebration was what the scorer accurately described: that of a guy having fun.

Paquette, since the Habs demoted him in mid-March, has been a fine player. He accepted his fate, despite the obvious disappointment, at 28, to take this step back. Unable to produce offensively in the NHL, he pulled himself together and responded with 9 goals in 14 season-ending games at Laval.

Shut out in the first two games of the series, he scored two points on Thursday.

The team is united, I have fun, that’s all I needed, he explained again. It’s good for morale, and I hope it continues like this.

Cedric Paquette

Paquette did not become a perfect player. It was a missed shot from him that led to the Crunch counter-attack which allowed the visitors to score their only goal. He’s still not a virtuoso in the face-off circle.


PHOTO GRAHAM HUGHES, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Rocket head coach Jean-Francois Houle

But he has certainly found the essence of his game. Throughout the evening, he was visible. Minutes before the winning goal, the Rocket believed they had taken the lead, but the referee ruled that Paquette had disturbed the goalkeeper in his gesture – the officials did not review the sequence, which would certainly have received a lot more careful in the NHL. On the same sequence, who had just completed a check in the corner of the rink? The same Paquette. It was also he who, shortly after, jostled Gabriel Dumont, who was bickering with players sitting on the Rocket bench.

Head coach Jean-François Houle readily testified to the important role the veteran plays in his locker room. He obviously underlines the qualities of the “physical, tiring to face” player whom he knows very well for having led him 10 years ago with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, in the QMJHL.

But he appreciates just as much the “team guy”, “loved” by his peers. The one who “won a cup”, who “has experience, and it shows”.

“It’s fun to see him having fun,” concluded the coach. And he’s right.

Collective effort

It’s fine to talk about Paquette, but there was still a whole team in uniform around him on Thursday. It is precisely a collective effort that has contributed to this victory.

In the morning, the players had emphasized the importance of tightening up the overall defensive game, after giving up 70 shots in the first two games. The Crunch this time was limited to 23 shots on target, and Cayden Primeau, in full possession of his means, did a good job of keeping opposing shooters quiet.


PHOTO GRAHAM HUGHES, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Cedric Paquette (13) checks Darren Raddysh

“We played a solid game, everyone on the ice played well,” summarized Xavier Ouellet.

“The way our team is built, if we give 25 shots or less, we’re always going to give ourselves a good chance of winning. This is a priority for us,” added Jean-François Houle.

The defensive effort even came from those we didn’t expect – or more. Devante Smith-Pelly was, by a significant margin, the slowest player on the ice at Place Bell. The 223 pounds listed on his profile on HockeyDB is arguably a conservative estimate for the 6-foot forward. At the very end of the second period, while he was exhausted by a long presence, the former Canadian blocked two shots in quick succession, inspiring “DSP! PSD! in the satisfied crowd.

In another tough, high-intensity game, Smith-Pelly found a way to stand out, including defending her teammates.

He too, by the way, has a Stanley Cup ring, earned in 2018 while wearing the Washington Capitals uniform. Like Paquette, his presence in a group of players who have played surprisingly few playoff games in their careers brings a touch that cannot be learned.

What the Rocket learns, however, is to win. And if he were to win again on Saturday, who knows how far this team will be able to go?

In short

  • It was widely talked about the fact that this game was the first in the history of the Rocket in the playoffs, and the first of a school club of the Canadiens since time immemorial. So the Rocket organization and its supporters took it seriously. From the pre-game, and throughout the game, Place Bell vibrated in an atmosphere typical of spring hockey. “The crowd was extraordinary,” said Jean-Sébastien Dea. It was really impressive. I’ve been in the league for a long time, but I’ve never seen this before. »
  • The same Dea had less tender words for his numerical advantage unit, made up of Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, Cédric Paquette, Xavier Ouellet and Jesse Ylönen and himself. It was this quintet that produced the winning goal, but they had to pull themselves together, when despite the many penalties at the Crunch, it didn’t work too well for them at five against four. “We will not hide it, it was a disaster for our unit, launched Dea. We weren’t able to get into the area. We went back to basics, we adjusted. We showed strength of character and we were rewarded. »
  • Strength of character is also what caught the attention of Captain Xavier Ouellet. In a tight game, with a high level of emotion, the Rocket players remained focused, away from the penalty box, in addition to rebounding quickly after the disallowed goal. “We reacted well,” he said. The guys kept the focus and stayed motivated. We capitalized on the power play and found a way to get the win. »

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