This would be the year the Sabers finally battled for a playoff spot, but Buffalo was a disappointment well below the season’s .500 mark. Montreal would compete for a place in the top five, but are battling for a playoff spot by the season quarter mark.
Everything seemed upside down, until they met Tuesday night at the Bell Center, where Buffalo rode to a 7-2 victory.
A highlight of any game for those thinking about how to rebuild the Canadiens for lasting excellence is when a player who can be traded at deadline contributes to their strong season.
Sean Monahan is the best Canadiens player to fit that scenario.
Monahan came in for a first-round draft pick from Calgary, and there’s a chance he could leave for a second first-round draft pick if he continues to play strong hockey for Montreal. The club’s top three scorers are all from the same lineage, but after Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach comes Monahan.
Monahan averages about half a point per game while playing intelligent two-way hockey. He would be a strong addition to any team looking to strengthen their midfield. He scored on a great play in the second period, taking the first shot, then splitting the defense to jump on the rebound to get a second shot in front of goal.
Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens beat Philadelphia Flyers in thrilling finish
Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens beat Philadelphia Flyers in thrilling finish
Quite a bit of well-deserved ink has been used to glorify Kaiden Guhle’s hockey talents, but there’s another side to his game that seems ready to explode. Guhle has a mean streak in him, and when he develops it more, he will scare many players into approaching the blue line with their heads bowed.
Guhle likes to stop an opponent with a smart poke-check, but the more games that pass, the more it becomes clear that he’s just as happy to collapse into a chest or two. Guhle had a bone breaker in the second period against Dylan Cozens, and when Guhle was challenged to fight for the hit, Guhle put the fear of God in JJ Peterka as well.
Peterka doesn’t know the rookie and must have thought he hired someone who would back down. Instead, he found a Canadiens player who had anger in his eyes. Guhle is reminiscent of Shea Weber in this way.
He will get a lot of respect if he becomes a veteran of this league. He has the potential to make excellent plays, score big hits and also stand up for himself. He doesn’t have Weber’s shot, but the ceiling is high for Guhle.
He is not lacking much in his game. All he needs is to gain experience leading to slightly better body positioning and decision making in defense zone coverage.
It was a quiet night for the top line, but Cole Caufield scored his 12th goal of the season to take the team lead from Nick Suzuki’s 11. Caufield is on target for 52 goals this season. Caufield will enter a break at some point this season, but if that break isn’t too severe, he should become Montreal’s first 40 goalscorer this century.
Another highlight for the Canadiens on a lousy night was the play of Juraj Slafkovsky who was elevated to the second line due to Mike Hoffman’s lower body injury. Slafkovsky did have a moment in the first period where he couldn’t remove the puck, causing 40 seconds of Buffalo pressure, but that was the only sour moment.
On a positive note, Slafkovsky split the Sabers defense in the third period to create a power play in Montreal. The Sabers couldn’t handle his power. It’s a great development for Slafkovsky to see what he can bring with his power and how difficult he is to handle.
Slafkovsky is also getting better along the boards, winning more fights and protecting the puck better. Slafkovsky is only 18, so what he learns so quickly at the NHL level is encouraging.
The Canadiens have been having trouble starting their games lately. They allowed a goal in the first minute and two in the first three minutes against Philadelphia on Saturday night, but it was nothing compared to Tuesday’s events.
The Sabers set a franchise record for the three fastest early game goals in their history. Rasmus Dahlin, JJ Peterka and Alex Tuch all scored after two minutes and 13 seconds.
Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens beat Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime
Two different Montreal lines were scored and a penalty kick unit as Jake Allen got no help at all. Montreal does a great job getting back into games and showing a never-die attitude, but an even easier way to win a game is to not score three goals before all your players have seen the ice.
The Sabers went into the game with an eight-game losing slip, so they were hungry from the first showdown. The Canadiens will have to make sure their first shifts match that intensity.
Call of the Wild!
It was another night where the power play struggled to go zero for six in the game. There is only one thing to reiterate here and that is the lack of a quarterback that causes a lot of problems.
Lane Hutson has the skills to turn that around as he is the first player in the organization to resemble the late Andrei Markov. Hutson has the vision and intelligence with the extra man to take out the life support.
This power play from Montreal won’t make it to the top 10 in the league until they get a Markov type. It could also be Logan Mailloux, but Hutson is more likely. Whoever it is, before the Canadiens rise to the top of the league, they will need to find someone on the blue line to change what has been a problem for five years since Markov’s departure.
The 2023 Entry Draft may be the strongest in NHL history. We won’t know until 2028 when the players are mature, but initial thoughts are that this draft could have as many as four generation players and ten elite players.
1. Connor Bedard center
2. Adam Fantilli Center
3. Leo Carlsson Center
4. Matvei Michkov Winger
5. Brayden Yager center
6. Will Smith Center
7. Dalibor Dvorsky Center
8. Zach Benson Winger
9. Eduard Sale Winger
10. Calum Ritchie Center
This list changes throughout the season as players’ games mature, but on November 22, this is the list for the Call of the Wilde.
The sleeper here is Will Smith, who was on some lists in the 1920s, but his stock is rising fast with staggeringly good statistics for the United States Development Program. Smith’s numbers rival some of the best in USDP history early in the season. He is in the category of Jack Hughes, Cole Caufield and Logan Cooley with two points per game.
Other players are more famous, such as Connor Bedard who puts up Connor McDavid-style numbers in the Western Hockey League in his draft season. Michigan’s Adam Fantilli also shows numbers that rival the best in NCAA history, such as Jack Eichel, Paul Kariya and Craig Simpson.
Leo Carlsson is yet another number that rivals some of the best draft year numbers in his respective league. Carlsson plays in the Swedish Hockey League and his numbers resemble Peter Forsberg’s at the start of his campaign.
Matvei Michkov is another who could just as easily end up at number one if he weren’t Russian. It’s not just that he’s Russian from a political perspective, they’re at war and drafted a Philadelphia Flyers goalie when he went home to spend the summer with his family. It is also that Michkov has signed a long-term contract to remain in the Kontinental Hockey League.
The club that Michkov drafts must have a strong constitution to wait for all Russian issues to be resolved, or not – who knows?
Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens shadow Detroit Red Wings with 3-2 shootout victory
The list has as many as seven centers with the Canadiens in the hunt for a top-six center depending on what they do with Kirby Dach in the long run. Wherever they end up placing Dach, the club needs a top-six striker, and if they get into the top-10 they’re practically guaranteed to be an elite.
So far, the Canadiens have their own pick in the first round and the Florida Panthers in the first round. Montreal has a lot of expendable players to trade if they want a third pick in the first round, but it will be very interesting to see how willing teams with Stanley Cup aspirations will be to deal their first-rounder, given the draft talent that they would be. giving up.
This could be a year where no one wants to give up their first round. It will be interesting and entertaining this winter around the trade deadline and draft day in 2023.
Montreal-based sports writer Brian Wilde brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after every Canadiens game.