Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens’ win streak hits 3 with home ice victory over Flyers

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The Call of the Wilde
WATCH: It was an impressive win for the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night and a gift to coach Martin St. Louis who made his return behind the bench after leaving the team temporarily to take care of his injured son. Global News Hockey analyst Brian Wilde joins Global News Morning’s host Laura Casella to talk about their stellar win against the Avalanche and look ahead to the tail end of the season – Mar 28, 2024

After a successful five-game road trip scoring five of a possible 10 points, the Montreal Canadiens are back home for a five-game home stand.

The first opponent was the Philadelphia Flyers who are fighting for a playoff spot. Every game is important to the Flyers, so they needed the points desperately, but Montreal was better with a 4-1 win.

Wilde Horses

The top line can compete against any top line in the NHL. They may not have the huge points numbers just yet, but they are getting there.

Nick Suzuki is leading the way. In the first period, Suzuki scored his 30th goal of the season to hit the watermark for the first time in his career.

Suzuki’s goal was on the power play. He received a tremendous pass from Juraj Slafkovsky who one-timed a difficult cross-crease pass from Mike Matheson. It was tic-tac-toe and it was beautiful. Slafkovsky notched a point for his ninth straight game.

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What a magnificent sophomore season for Slafkovsky. He notched his 41st point of the year. He adds to the record of most points in a season for a teenager in the 115-year history of the Canadiens. The previous mark was Mario Tremblay with 39 points.

Slafkovsky finishes his teenage season with 41. His birthday is on Saturday.

The point totals will continue, but as a 20-year-old for the final 10 games. What a point total it is, as Slafkovsky has 23 points in his last 25 games. That’s the second-highest on the club in that time frame. Only Suzuki is higher with 27 points in his last 25.

The future looks so bright for that number one line as they are all still so young, and their ceilings are unknown and much higher still. Only Suzuki may be close to his top level, but even he is still making significant improvements to his game.

Slafkovsky is just getting started in discovering what he can do at the NHL level. Recently, he has stood in front of the net, and realized that no one can move him. Screens for goals off of point shots and deflections for goals will be the result.

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In the second period, he drove the net with great force. The defender, who was a forward, had no chance whatsoever to stop Slafkovsky from muscling past him for a quality shot. When Slafkovksy realizes that he is unstoppable on that play, it will open up many chances for shots, and rebounds for his line mates who will follow him to the net.

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Suzuki, Slafkovsky and Cole Caufield are just getting started.

Another who is just getting started is Cayden Primeau.  He has had some growing pains as all goaltenders do. However, he is now showing some significant gains in his game at age 24. His save percentage is up to .913, which is outstanding in this year where the shooters are winning more battles than previously.

Primeau made 81 straight saves at home before finally allowing a goal late in the third. The last time Primeau shone at the Bell Centre when asked about his performance, he ended the on-ice interview with, “It’s just the beginning.”

He seems serious about that statement.

Wilde Goats 

It has seemed that drafting fifth to seventh was a lock for a long time for the Canadiens. Any one of those spots, and Montreal will get a top-notch forward. There are many terrific forwards and the ranking of those forwards is so fluid that any of them could be the star of the lot.

The thinking then is there is no need for consternation about fifth versus seventh. No one knows who will shine brightest in 2026; they are all interchangeable in that tier. Some may think Ivan Demidov is the best, and others favour Cayden Lindstrom. Another lot love Cole Eiserman, or Berkly Catton. The goal is to simply get one in this tremendous tier of talent.

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However, the Canadiens certainly don’t want to keep playing like this. If they run a strong winning streak to conclude the season, they could drop down to drafting 10th. That would be a problem. The Canadiens want to make sure that they get one of the five forwards in the tier just below Macklin Celebrini.

It’s a long shot, certainly, but the Canadiens are playing extremely well as the season concludes. They need to stop that and begin playing better in October, so they can draft fifth to seventh to land one of the outstanding forwards in this draft.

Wilde Cards

The Canadiens would love to have Lane Hutson sign to play this season, so they have him locked in on his entry-level contract, but it appears that may be difficult. Hutson’s Boston University is only one win shy of advancing to the Frozen Four in Saint Paul, Minn., starting April 13th.

The regionals are in action now and the Terriers have already played their opening game. As the number-two team in the country, Boston University had a supposedly easy draw with RIT as their opponent. Hutson scored the opening goal and added an assist as the Terriers won 6-3.

Boston University will take on the winner of Minnesota-Omaha in the regional final. The winner of that game plays in two weeks; the loser is done for the season. Should Hutson lose the Saturday contest, he would be free to sign with the Canadiens.

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He would be able to play the final eight or nine games of the season, much like Sean Farrell did last season when Harvard was eliminated at the regionals. If Hutson goes to the nationals, then he would be available for only one or two games before Montreal concludes its season.

Canadiens management would love to get that sorted before this season concludes. Both parties have expressed an interest in signing right away, but it is not done until it is done. The Calgary Flames didn’t think they were going to have an issue with Adam Fox, either, and he eventually did not sign with the club that drafted him. American collegians have the right to opt out three years after being drafted.

The other high-profile Canadiens draft pick to play this weekend is Jacob Fowler. The goalie for the number one-ranked Boston College Eagles plays on Friday against Michigan Tech in the afternoon. There is every expectation that Fowler plays another season at the college level, if not two more years. The development curve of a goalie is a longer one than a forward or a defender.

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


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