The 10-day break is over for the Montreal Canadiens.
Now, it’s time for the ultimate stretch, which began with a 5-2 win over the Capitals in Washington. Samuel Montembeault was the star of the sport because the Caps outplayed Montreal, however they struggled to complete their probabilities.
The recreation was an excellent begin for the Canadiens as they caught the Caps nonetheless having fun with the All-Star Break within the first interval. Montreal had a 7-1 pictures on purpose benefit early, and a two-goal lead.
All the offence got here early from the crew’s high line. They’re going to need to be nice for the remainder of the season, as a result of they’re mainly the entire scoring expertise that’s left proper now. Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and Juraj Slafkovsky led the cost.
The opening purpose was an absolute magnificence as Caufield stole the puck on the blue line. He laid an ideal cross-ice saucer go that landed proper on the stick of Suzuki, who one-timed a shot into the highest shelf.
Less than a minute later, it was the highest line nonetheless on the ice for a second marker. Suzuki was within the nook the place he jumped on a rebound from a foul angle. Former Canadiens goalie Charlie Lindgren didn’t look sharp on that tally.
Caufield has factors in 10 straight video games. He has 13 factors in that span. Ten video games is a small pattern dimension, however 13 factors is a quantity that claims that Caufield does have the power to be a points-per-game participant. Suzuki could have the power as properly. With a profession excessive of 66 factors, Suzuki is on tempo for 74 this season.
It is only a matter of getting some assist. For the road to have these wonderful numbers when the opposition can key on them is exceptional. Suzuki and Caufield face the most effective defenders and finest forwards each single recreation. There is rarely any aid.
Now think about a state of affairs the place the second line is simply nearly as good sooner or later as the primary line. That makes the Suzuki line higher as properly. This additionally makes the crew considerably higher.
Throw in a 3rd and fourth line with some depth, and a participant or two coming quickly who can contribute offence, and you’ve got a hockey crew. The membership must get wholesome, for as soon as, however this Montreal crew competing is nearer than it appears.
For now, take pleasure in watching the top-two scorers, and the primary general choose Slafkovsky as he grows his recreation on the highest line, as a result of contributions from others is an surprising bonus.
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For instance, the Canadiens made it 3-0 on a shot from Michael Pezzetta for under his third purpose of the season. That was it for Lindgren who was pulled for Darcy Kuemper. Lindgren allowed three objectives on 9 pictures.
In the third interval, the Canadiens put the sport away with a 4-on-4 tally. It was Slafkovsky with an incredible drag transfer on a wrist shot from 15 ft. If that was a glimpse of the long run for Slafkovsy, get the shades, it appears brilliant.
Five minutes later, it was the second that everybody has been ready for on the Canadiens energy play. If Slafkovsky goes to place up massive numbers as a professional, then he has to have the ability to one-time slap pictures from the best aspect half-wall on passes from the defenceman.
It lastly occurred. Suzuki to Matheson, he regarded left, then handed proper. Slafkovsky wired the shot into the far nook. That’s 9 on the 12 months for Slafkovsky with two objectives on the night time. That is the kind of second that may elevate even probably the most unfavourable that the Canadiens could have drafted the best participant at one general.
It wasn’t only a purpose for Slafkovsky. It was a breakthrough second. It was a second that confirmed it’s there, and now he can start to copy it frequently. A curl and drag purpose and a one-time slap shot purpose for Slafkovsky. You can’t get higher than that.
The solely challenge is General Manager Kent Hughes asking himself simply what number of gamers he has to ship out to get an excellent dropping streak going. Montreal will not be making the playoffs, so a excessive draft choose could be the primary order of enterprise for the GM. However, they refuse to place a dropping run collectively.
Hughes have to be shaking his head in disbelief. Montreal is within the combine with 5 groups so shut in factors. The Canadiens may get a dropping skid going to draft fifth, or this injury-riddled lineup may maintain stunning to the upside to trigger Montreal to draft twelfth.
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Gone are Gallagher, Dvorak, Dach, Newhook, Monahan. Take away as many as you need, it doesn’t appear to matter as they refuse to lose contact with .500.
The massive occasion in the course of the lengthy break for the Canadiens was the buying and selling of Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets for a first-round draft choose in 2024. The choose will doubtless be at across the 25 mark which is a spot that has a 50-50 likelihood of touchdown an NHL participant. It additionally has, at finest, a five-per cent likelihood of touchdown a star.
While the maths isn’t that excellent that the drafted participant will likely be a participant that strikes the needle, it’s higher than Monahan leaving for nothing as an unrestricted free agent.
Also, General Manager Kent Hughes has a chance to parlay the draft choose into one other choose to commerce for a stronger participant. This is how Hughes acquired Alex Newhook from the Colorado Avalanche for 2 draft picks across the 30 mark.
All in all, Hughes has performed an excellent job getting two first-rounders for Monahan. He bought a primary rounder to take the massive Monahan contract from the Calgary Flames, then bought one other to ship him off to Winnipeg. That is exceptional asset administration.
Hughes will proceed to attempt to purchase extra first-rounders because the deadline closes in on the eighth of March. He will doubtless look to deal David Savard and Jake Allen, and if the deal is true, many extra may half. Hughes will try to amass as a lot as a primary for both Savard or Allen. It may very well be a tough promote, however by no means write off this GM’s skill to discover a needy suitor.
The Canadiens now have 4 first-round draft selections within the subsequent two seasons. How they deal with these 4 will resolve how for much longer this rebuild must proceed. If they’ll purchase one of many high forwards on this draft like Ivan Demidov, Cole Eiserman, Cayden Lindstrom or Berkly Catton, the highest six fills out significantly better than it’s now.
Add yet one more ahead to the combo by way of the draft, or presumably market the entire younger left aspect power on defence for extra objectives, and the long run appears brilliant. All that’s required, doubtless, is that this 12 months’s persistence, and yet one more season. After that, the items ought to be in place able to develop their video games.
Only just a little extra time is required, Habs followers.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports activities author, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after every Canadiens recreation.
Call of the Wilde on Global News Morning