Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens finish road trip, swept away by Hurricanes 4-1

The Montreal Canadiens‘ four-game road trip ended Thursday night in North Carolina.

The Canadiens managed points in the first three games, but in the final contest, they fell 4-1 to the Hurricanes.

Wilde Horses 

It was a second straight game with a goal for Joshua Roy as he continues to find his form at the NHL level. The Canadiens have struck again, it appears, with a fifth-rounder as Roy joins Brendan Gallagher as huge surprises late in the draft.

Success in the fifth round runs at two per cent that an NHL regular is found and one per cent that a star is found. Roy was chosen 150th and Gallagher went 147th. With two fifth-round success stories, Montreal could miss on their next 98 selections there to drop to the league average.

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Roy’s goal was a beauty again as he fired his deceptively quick shot. It’s a quick release that is leaving goalie’s slow to react. On his first-period goal, Roy also deftly looked pass while he was shooting. It was a beautiful feint. It’s the difference at the NHL level. Any form of deception is absolutely vital to success.

Roy is also a strong defensive player so far as an NHL pro, which is surprising considering he was so poor in the American Hockey League. Which calls into question yet again: what are they doing down there?

Not to pick on the Laval Rocket and their teaching skills, but it is shocking how much better a player can be after some Martin St. Louis and Adam Nicholas teaching sessions.

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Another player whose game is coming together is Alex Newhook. He may be a second top-six that the Canadiens are discovering this season. The criticism of Newhook was that he was a perimeter player, but that simply is not the case.

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In the second period, he cut across the net right through a defender. It was a brave play and a dangerous one, but he went through it with great skill and didn’t score due to just a little bit of puck luck as it rolled off his stick.

The Canadiens have the worst goal scoring from lines two, three and four in the entire league. It’s why they are low in the standings: Roy continuing to improve, and Newhook on the verge of being a top-six, back with a healthy Kirby Dach could change the entire complexion of the club next season.

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It’s a more mature and growing first line continuing their excellent work, and then Newhook and Roy the wingers for Dach could add 60 goals to the totals next season. That’s the number that moves the club from 232 to 285 in total goals and that’s the number that means success.

Wilde Goats

It was another competitive game from the Canadiens against one of the league’s best. The results weren’t exactly strong on the four-game road trip with two shootout losses and one overtime win, but the play was impressive overall.

Every team they played of the four are playing strong hockey and are in need of wins, and the club near the bottom of the standings stayed right with all of them in their own arenas.

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On the surface, with the surface being the standings, it may not look like the building blocks are coming together, but if they can stay healthy next season, they will find success.

Wilde Cards

The Canadiens have been quiet this week as the trading deadline approaches on Friday afternoon. That has some quite concerned, but no one should be.

General Manager Kent Hughes has already significantly improved his chances in the next two years of obtaining high quality in the draft. Hughes has four first round choices coming in the next two drafts. He did it with mastery of the contract and talent awareness of Sean Monahan.

Four first-round choices in two years is a total any franchise would be thrilled with, and Montreal hockey fans need to look at the big picture to realize the significance of the excellent work already done.

Significant as well is that in no cases has an opportunity to obtain more first round choices been lost yet. If the contracts of Joel Armia, David Savard, Josh Anderson, and Jake Allen were expiring at the end of this season, and Hughes was going to let them all slide, then that would be an issue.

However, Hughes knows that he can wait on every asset that he has to get the best deal, except Tanner Pearson who would not fetch a high-level return anyway. At the next trading deadline, Hughes will likely be quite a lot busier than this one.

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Savard is the perfect example to note Hughes’ acumen. Hughes is getting many calls about Savard, but he will not move from his asking price. It is likely that Hughes is asking for a first-rounder, but teams are only willing to part with a second-rounder.

There is absolutely no reason for Hughes to give up on that wish for a first. He can hold Savard all the way to the trading deadline next year and get a second then, or a second now. There’s no difference, except the added advantage of the services of the player for 82 more games.

Hughes has shown he absolutely does not lack patience, and in the game that is trading, it is absolutely necessary to wait for the best return, understanding the marketplace and your timeline. Hughes is tracking a timeline that concludes in March of 2025, not on Friday.

This has been a buyer’s market, and Hughes has all of 2024 and three months of 2025 to let the scales tip in his direction. It’s time to be calm no matter what happens as the deadline passes. Even if nothing happens, it’s better than doing something just for the sake of it.

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

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