MONTREAL | At another time, Phillip Danault and Yanni Gourde shared the same locker room with the Victoriaville Tigres in the QMJHL. At the time, both forwards were simply dreaming of a career in the NHL.
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Today, Danault and Gourde find themselves on the biggest stage possible: a Stanley Cup final. But they will do it as rivals.
“It’s an extremely special situation,” said Danault of his reunion with Gourde. It shows our character, we are two guys who want to win. I expect an exciting series. But there are no friends here. We know that. What happens on the ice will happen on the ice. “
“It’s very special to play in the final against Phil,” added Gourde. But at the same time, there are no friends in a game. It won’t be any different for a series. I’ll have to play my game and Phil will do the same. This is how it will be. “
Three years in Victoriaville
Danault and Gourde made their entry into the QMJHL at the same time. They won a full-time position with the Tigers during the 2009-10 season. They were teammates for three years, until the end of 2011-2012.
“We have always had a good relationship, Phil and I,” said Gourde. We started together as two rookies with the Tigers. He was 16, I was 18. We had a trip to Victoriaville. We were pushing each other to become better players. Phil wore the “C” to Victo. I only have good words for him. But there will be no friends on the ice! “
In his final year at Victoriaville, Gourde finished atop the league scorers, with 124 points (37 goals and 87 assists) in 68 games.
Never drafted in the NHL, Gourde had caught the attention of the Worcester Sharks at the end of this magical season. He had played four end-of-season games in the American League, in 2011-2012. He then quietly made his way to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the NHL.
In 2015, Danault was in the entourage of the Chicago Blackhawks when they won the Stanley Cup for the third time in six years. But he had a secondary role as a member of the reservist team (Black Aces).
Six years later, there will be the Lightning once again in its path. But we are talking about very different circumstances. Danault will act as one of the key players of the Habs.
Asked if he could describe what he felt on the eve of a first match in the final with CH, number 24 looked for his words.
“It is difficult to place in words, he replied. Winning is everything. Absolutely everything. It will be special to be part of a Stanley Cup final. ”
Like the three previous rounds, Danault will still serve as a shade for the best attackers of the opposing team. Against the Lightning, he will be in the breeches of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat.
Before the start of this final, Kucherov and Point were at the top of the NHL’s playoff scorers, with 27 and 20 points, respectively.
“I don’t know the confrontations yet, but we have four good lines to play a good defensive game,” Danault recalled. We have confidence in our four lines, no matter who we face. But it’s a huge challenge against Tampa to silence their big guns. “
Danault said a few words about Point, the cross he will often see in the face-off circle.
“Brayden has a lot of speed, he’s good in tight spots. It creates space for a small player. But I faced Matthews, Marner, Scheifele, Ehlers, Wheeler. They’re all similar guys, they’re all really good with the puck. There won’t be just a point to watch, the entire line with Kucherov is dangerous. It’s a very difficult trio to counter. ”