There are only two weeks left in the roller coaster season for the Montreal Canadiens.
It’s been a busy time, with the club playing four games in six nights. They will do so without Jake Allen who was called off for the season with a groin injury. This means that it is up to Samuel Montembeault to carve out the lion’s share of the work.
The Canadians were in Columbus on Wednesday to face the Blue Jackets, with both teams out of playoff contention.
Columbus picked up an easy 5-1 win.
With nothing to enjoy in the standings and nothing at stake, really, all you can hope for from a Habs game these days is that it’s exciting. You’re hoping there’s a lot of happening – two-on-ones, breakaways, big hits and lots of goals, especially from the youngsters, so you can feel that hope on the horizon.
This one had virtually none of those things. It was a low event game. It was simply one to miss. In an 82-game season, bad games happen. It happened.
In a search for positives, we find Ryan Poehling, who provided the two best moments of the entire contest. He scored a goal on a deflection for his sixth of the season. It wasn’t his best game, though. His best moment was skating 170 feet to stop a breakaway. He showed tremendous speed to overtake his opponent so completely that he angled his body to stop play completely.
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Poehling has the wheels. He has the size. It’s just a matter of getting his bearings on the ice better, so he has more impact in the game. His biggest problem is how little he holds that little black disc during the game. He should do more. There’s nothing in his skill set that tops him at the NHL level.
He is an actor with whom the organization must be patient. He’s still young. He still has plenty of time to find his way on the ice.
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They lost, but let’s look at the bright side.
The Canadiens have eight games left and they haven’t compromised their draft placement. Sure, they would love to win, but that won’t make a real long-term difference to how it ends up this year.
Nick Suzuki played well. Cole Caufield exploded onto the scene. The young defensemen have shown they have a skill set in the NHL. The new head coach, Martin St. Louis, is highly regarded. None of that changes if the club ends up with a bushel of losses.
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There’s not much more to prove in the last two weeks, so of course a win is good, but a loss is good too. The Canadiens remain in 31st place ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes. The club’s chances of ending up in the top five look very good.
In fact, here’s the math: The Flyers and Canadiens have six points between them, with each having eight games left. If the Canadiens finish five and three, then the Flyers, with the tiebreaker against Montreal, would only need to pick up a win and an overtime loss in their final eight games for the Canadiens to get past them.
Canadians are in very good mathematical shape to have, at least, the third most balls in the drum for the lottery.
The call of the wild!
This section is usually full of information on the club’s prospects, ranking draft picks, and general off-ice concerns for the Montreal Canadiens.
For this one, rather, a suggestion for all of you and also for the horns of the Canadiens of Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes.
Alexis Lafrenière was a healthy forfeit for the New York Rangers against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night. He had not scored a single point in the last eight games. They see his defense as a liability, so this might not be the only time he’s been watching Rangers from the player’s living room on a couch.
Lafrenière was drafted number one overall and was expected to jump straight into the NHL and start playing. The only problem is that he’s 20, and it doesn’t always happen that fast. In fact, most of the time it doesn’t happen at all to a player fresh out of their teenage years. It takes time to mature and develop.
Overall, Lafrenière has 15 goals and 12 assists this season in 72 games, and is actually at a lower points-per-game pace than his rookie season. It has not changed from one year to the next statistically.
Rangers won the toss when they took on Lafrenière. Right now, the Canadians may be ranked among the top picks. They have a chance to win the lottery and the draft first. It’s a number one for number one trade.
Imagine the excitement if Canadians could acquire Lafrenière. He is from Quebec, of course, and has been a hero in that province for about five years now. He is 20 years old and would already be in the team in the fall. The Rangers would have an 18-year-old player, and given their near-top NHL ranking, they can wait a few years for their new top pick to mature.
Fans tend to hyper-like the player they already know and not value so-called pick number two too much, so there will be a segment of people who can’t grasp the value of both picks. What if New York Rangers scouts right now love Juraj Slafkovsky or Shane Wright more than they love Lafrenière? What if Canadians loved Lafrenière more than they loved Wright or Slafkovsky? What then would make this trade unpalatable for both parties?
Rangers are already showing they don’t like certain aspects of Lafrenière. He’s not in the press box because they love his game after two seasons in the NHL.
If you were the Rangers, would you? Slafkovsky for Lafrenière? If you were Canadians, would you? Lafreniere for Wright?
It would be a blockbuster, no doubt. It would also be a profession that Montrealers would love, and which could turn the cogs.
Which player do you prefer to have? Lafreniere or Wright? Lafrenière or Slafkovsky? Keep these thoughts in mind this summer. I wouldn’t be surprised if this trade happened.
Montreal-based sportswriter Brian Wilde brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after every Canadiens game.
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