Call of the Wilde: Carolina Hurricanes blank the Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens put their first three-game winning streak of the season on the line at the Bell Centre on Saturday night. They were shut out by one of the hottest teams in the NHL, falling 3-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes.

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The Canadiens are holding their own against some of the best teams in hockey in the last month. Add Carolina to the list of teams that presumed an easy night against a bottom-feeder, but found a difficult contest instead.

Juraj Slafkovsky had three outstanding looks for goals but did not get great shots away. The puck seemed to roll off his stick each time he was about to fire.

Not to worry, though, because Slafkovsky’s fingerprints are all over every single shift he is playing. He is starting to dominate. The best opportunity was a gorgeous pass from Cole Caufield into the slot. He tried a one-timer but did not get great contact.

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Another strong forward was Alex Newhook. The complaint about Newhook in Colorado was that he was a perimeter player who would not head into the dirty areas to create offence. That has not been the case in Montreal. He is hungry for goals and sacrificing his body fearlessly to get them. In the second period, Newhook cut hard to the goal between defenders in a courageous attempt to score. Newhook has played much of this season out of position taking over a role at centre because of injuries.

Next year, Kirby Dach will return, and Newhook is likely to be his line-mate. It could be a breakout season for Newhook on the wing playing with a play-driver such as Dach starting in October. He has that look of a breakout season waiting to happen.

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The Canadiens have improved a lot this season over last. It shows in the overall point totals as they have the same total as last year with nine games still to play.

However, there is one category where the Canadiens are simply abysmal, and they need to clean it up next season. Montreal has allowed a league worst 12 shorthanded goals this season. The power play is where you’re supposed to gain advantage. For Montreal, it’s often the turning point ofa game against them.

In this one, scoreless halfway through the second period, Montreal had a power play when Mike Matheson lost it at Carolina’s blue line. Jordan Staal scored on a clear cut breakaway. The Hurricanes had the all-important first goal.

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The defencemen need to take more care at the blue line to not allow odd-man rushes, and the forwards need to work harder on both ends of the ice as if it were five-on-five hockey.

A player can’t take a break defensively at any time in today’s NHL, or they’ll get burnt.

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The Canadiens will have to wait a couple more weeks for Lane Hutson. If he were eliminated this weekend at the regionals, Hutson would have been available to the Canadiens for their final eight games of the season.

However, Hutson and the Boston University Terriers won their regional final over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday night 6-3 to advance to the Frozen Four in two weeks. Boston University spotted Minnesota a two-goal lead, then scored five of the next six.

Hutson scored the game winner for Boston University and it was an absolute beauty. He had it at the blue line, then beat three players taking it to the goal and sliding it home. Hutson now has 49 points on the season as he eclipsed last year’s total of 48. He has accomplished the feat in two fewer games. He will try to add to the lead in the national semi-final against Denver.

The Canadiens will have only two games remaining on their schedule when Hutson concludes the nationals. It is unlikely that they will rush him into the line-up for those games, so he can start his entry-level contract. It is not impossible, though. It is just unlikely.

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It is often an incentive that general managers give collegians to ensure that they don’t start their third season without being signed. Both sides have indicated a willingness and an exuberance to begin Hutson’s days in Montreal. With the Terriers success, that will have to wait.

One other high-profile Canadiens prospect is also still alive. Boston College is the number one team in the USA and they have had no difficulty at all since losing their last game in the Beanpot Tournament in early February. They are backstopped by Jacob Fowler who has put in a sensational freshman season in net for the Eagles.

Boston College can advance to the nationals with a win over Quinnipiac on Sunday afternoon. Fowler has an outstanding .925 save percentage this season.

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


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