Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens hammered by Boston Bruins

It was a busy week for the Montreal Canadiens. Cynics said this would be the week they fell out of the playoff hunt. However, after wins over the Avalanche and Devils, it was a week that surprised to the upside.

Boston was the final test. However, the brutal schedule finally caught up to the Canadiens as they were poor defensively in getting blitzed by the Bruins 9-4.

Wilde Horses 

With early season injuries to Kirby Dach and Alex Newhook, the Canadiens biggest weakness this season has been no second line to help the cause. After the injury to Dach, Sean Monahan was the obvious second best centre on the club, but he didn’t have anyone to compliment him.

Finally, it appears the club has a second line of some respectability. This week, Monahan hooked up with Joel Armia and Joshua Roy, and they are excellent. What is interesting is it would not work with just Monahan and Armia. They’ve needed Roy to join the fray.

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There are times when a duo can succeed. An example is Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield have had success even if they could not find a third to join them until recently. They are better as a trio with Juraj Slafkovsky improving dramatically, but they were also able to succeed without a third.

Not Monahan and Armia. Early first period, it was Armia who made a terrific breakout. After that, Roy and Monahan hooked up for an excellent chance. It produced a Montreal power play which the Canadiens scored on.

The goal was netted by Caufield who remains hot. It is now five straight games with a goal for Caufield who has improved his total tremendously in the past month. Caufield is now on pace for a 29 goal season. In November, he was on pace for 15 goals.

Caufield has a tremendous shot, but recently many of his goals have been scored from in close around the blue paint. Caufield adding this component to his scoring, not just lasers from 20-feet, will make him a better goal scorer in the long run. In truth, every 40-goal scorer also has some cheap tap-ins like his 1-0 marker.

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If the Canadiens first line stays strong, and they add a second line, that would change everything. It appears it is on its way. Still first period, it’s Roy with an absolutely perfect pass through defenders to Armia for an easy tap-in goal. Roy is an NHL player. He has arrived.

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It’s starting to look like a hockey team up front.  Add Mesar and Beck who have had outstanding junior seasons , and there is reason for more optimism this year than last. Newhook was a good Montreal winger when he was healthy on pace for 24 goals. In addition, the Canadiens have one high first round pick in 2024, and two firsts in 2025.

Just let this thing marinate for a year or two. No question there is no superstar in this mix, and it sure would be outstanding for the organization if they could find one, but one through 12 forwards, this is coming together.

Wilde Goats 

It was a rare poor night for Samuel Montembeault. He has been a rock this season. In fact, all three of the Canadiens goalies are top-five in Games Stolen this year. However, not this one as Montembeault allowed five goals on the first 23 shots that he faced.

Montembeault just could not stop quick shots, or make the right decisions in close. Early in the contest, he took a powerful shot right in the face. It was not a glancing blow. It hit him square in the mask. It was apparent that the shot hurt.

He wasn’t right after that. The Canadiens haven’t been right in the last two games defensively. They tightened up for a while, but allowed six in Ottawa and nine in Boston to close the road trip.

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The Canadiens simply did not have the energy to defend with the commitment that is required against a club like Boston. Nine may seem horrific, but it was essentially over at six. After that, the Bruins were excited to pad their stats, and Montreal wasn’t that bothered by it. Boston’s intensity never dropped at all.

It’s a long season. This was the Canadiens fifth game in eight nights. They were a tired team letting go at the end of a demanding run. This one says just as much about the team’s talent level as a win over Colorado, or two wins over the Jets. It’s a long season and every team has rough nights when the tank is empty, but your opponent is ready to roar.

Wilde Cards

Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson seems to have gotten a big boost of confidence from a dominating performance at the World Junior Championships in Sweden. Hutson led the tournament in ice time powering the USA to an easily won gold medal over the hosts.

Since returning to Boston University, Hutson has played in three games amassing seven points. On Friday night, he put in a dominating performance in Burlington as the Terriers trounced the Vermont Catamounts 5-1. Hutson controlled the game notching four assists.

Last season, Hutson broke the college defencemen record of Brian Leetch all the way back to the 1980s. This season, Hutson is well ahead of that tremendous pace.

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Hutson had 48 points in his freshman year. In his sophomore season, he is on pace to reach 56. These are unheard of numbers for a blue liner. In fact, they’re quite impressive even if he were a forward.

Hutson is averaging 1.5 points-per-game. There are only a small number of players higher than that, including his teammate Macklin Celebrini who is expected to go first in the draft. Hutson is on 27 points in 18 games.

The ability for Hutson to dominate at the college level is stunning. If he brings even only a portion of this to the pros, he will change the course of the Canadiens power play and 3-on-3 overtime, at least, with a hope that he can excel 5-on-5 as well.

It will be exciting to watch the progress of Hutson. He has zero issues with size against men in college play, but NHL players know how to use their size to their advantage better.

All parties suggest that Hutson will be an NHLer this late March. That is unless he is in the NCA national championships in April. Considering Boston University is top-ranked, that’s entirely possible.

Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on after each Canadiens game.


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