It’s the pivot point of the season for the Montreal Canadiens. A five-game road trip will go a long way in deciding whether the Canadiens are contenders or pretenders. One of the best teams in the NHL, the Boston Bruins, humbled the Canadiens outshooting them 44-22 and winning 5-2.
If this is what the next five games look like, be afraid. One week after beating the Bruins, Boston exacted its revenge easily. It was a game very much like the Vegas Golden Knights contest Thursday, but this time they didn’t have goalie Adin Hill to take advantage of.
Hill was terrible allowing Montreal to stay in the Vegas game right until the end. Jeremy Swayman wasn’t as forgiving. Swayman is tops in the league with a .944 save percentage. He had little trouble with the Canadiens who had few high danger chances.
Jake Allen was the best in red, white and blue, but it must be discouraging for the coaching staff when the stand-out is the goalie over and over again.
The highlight for Montreal was Juraj Slafkovsky scored his second goal of the season as he one-timed a pass from behind the net by Nick Suzuki. Slafkovsky also got the second assist on Jonathan Kovacevic’s late marker. Slafkovsky has improved in his last two weeks of games.
Domination by the Bruins. It was one of those nights that it felt like the rebuild has a long way to go. Rather than belabour that sad reality, straight to the hope that the future will be better in the Wilde Cards.
The Canadiens may be in the process of the strangest outcomes in draft history. In the midst of year three of the rebuild, Montreal’s draft world is unexplainable — the Biblical “the last shall be first and the first shall be last comes to mind.”
Montreal chose at number one and number five in consecutive years. Players chosen in those slots become regular NHLers 95 per cent of the time, yet we don’t know if either are going to be stars. Juraj Slafkovsky is playing better, but we surely can’t call two goals in a quarter of the season a lock. Meanwhile, David Reinbacher is not lighting it up in the Swiss League either.
While that is a little nerve-wracking at the moment, they’re both still in their teens, and their windows for big success remain wide open. However, wouldn’t it be nice if your favourite team had two top-five picks and there was, at least, one can’t-miss in there right now?
The oddest thing in the rebuild is the club may become competitive due to so many later selections showing potential well above their draft pick number.
Former NHL General Manager Craig Button said that if Lane Hutson were 5 foot 11, he would have been considered as the first pick overall with his skill level. Guess what? Hutson has grown to that height.
Hutson was drafted a lowly 62nd overall. All he has done since then is break Brian Leetch’s NCAA scoring record last season with 48 points in 39 games. This season he is on a similar pace with 8 goals and 14 points in 11 games playing just shy of 30 minutes per game.
If Montreal didn’t land a true number one pick at number one in 2022, according to Button, they may have landed him at 62.
In the same draft, the Canadiens chose Filip Mesar scoring at a two points-per-game pace with a massive 18 points. Mesar is suddenly unstoppable for the Kitchener Rangers. He had another three points on Friday night.
Another top team in the OHL is the Peterborough Petes. Their top player is Owen Beck at a point-per-game. He also looks like he will be an NHL regular.
Joshua Roy has played a mere 14 games in the American Hockey League, yet he is second in the league in scoring with 18 points. Roy was taken in the fifth round. The world is upside down.
Sean Farrell is now finding his way after a slow start with 12 points in his first 14 AHL games.
Logan Mailloux is a plus player in his last seven games amassing seven points. The only defender drafted this decade doing better than Mailloux in the AHL is Brandt Clarke who was taken eighth overall by Los Angeles.
It does not matter where the stars are found in a draft. It just matters which team picked the player. Nikita Kucherov and Patrice Bergeron became stars and won cups despite being taken outside the first round.
The conventional route, without a doubt, is top picks become stars. Statistically, 70 per cent of the league’s stars are picked within the first ten picks of a draft. However, it isn’t going to bother anyone if the Canadiens find their stars and success with the other 30 per cent.
Hutson, Mesar, Mailloux, Roy, Farrell, and Beck could be the stars, or maybe it is Slafkovsky or Reinbacher who do find their top pedigree in the end. It doesn’t matter where they were picked, only that they are Montreal Canadiens.