Call of the Wilde: New York Rangers drop the Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens travelled to New York City to meet the best team in the league, falling 5-2 this evening to the Rangers.

Wilde Horses 

Cole Caufield now has 24 goals this season. Caufield has scored in four straight games, with one in the first period. He was standing beside the net, and banked a shot off the inside of the goalie’s legs and in.

Caufield has had a lot of tough luck as evidenced by his shooting percentage being significantly lower than his career average. It will be more likely that he ups his goal total considering he will play the full season on a top-line that is gaining in stature and confidence. Nick Suzuki has never played better. Juraj Slafkovsky seems to be learning an important new skill just about every shift.

However, the Canadiens haven’t had a 100-goal line since 1993 when Kirk Muller, Vincent Damphousse, and Brian Bellows keyed a Stanley Cup run. Suzuki is close to 35 goals this season. No one will argue that Caufield can turn in 35 goals. It’s on Slafkovsky to get the remaining 30. Not many in hockey will dispute that this could be the line that finally hits some milestones for Montreal.

Story continues below advertisement

There isn’t a match-up that has been too much for the cerebral Suzuki who carries the lion’s share of the responsibilities defensively on the line.

Another positive in the last half of the season has been the arrival of Cayden Primeau. He is backstopping some massive games recently. He has statistically vaulted over Samuel Montembeault. Primeau’s save percentage continues to rocket higher. The Rangers had control of the first period, but trailed after one thanks to a 17 save performance from Primeau. The Rangers shot 47 overall. Primeau was in the net for four.

The younger of two goalies has a .912 this year, while the veteran Montembeault has struggled a bit lately dropping to a .904. The league high is .920. After Jake Allen was traded, Primeau embraced the opportunity to become the clear number two. He is anticipating the play. There are times when he has to make a cross-crease move on a lateral pass, and expectation is that surely it will be a goal, but he’s already standing square to the player who received the pass.

The final positive for the Canadiens was seen on the second Montreal goal. Mike Matheson continues to be an offensive force on the blue line. He threaded a pass 100 feet to free Alex Newhook for a breakaway. Matheson has a career high 57 points. On the finish, Newhook went bar-down with pace for his 13th of the year. If he managed to stay healthy all year, his pace was a 21-goal season. Newhook could have a breakout year next season.

Story continues below advertisement

Wilde Goats 

The compete level remains high, so no goats for this group of players who continue to give it their best until the final whistle of the season. They lack talent in the back of the roster, but they don’t lack effort.  No goats to find on a night they stayed close against the best team in the league.

Wilde Cards

Ranking a team’s prospects is an ever-changing exercise. The list can fluctuate greatly. For the Canadiens, the one strong constant is they are all still playing as we approach mid-April.

Some believe that Lane Hutson is at the top of the prospect list. He’s heading to the national Frozen Four in Minnesota. His Boston University Terriers are taking on the University of Denver in the semi-final this coming weekend. Hutson has had another outstanding college season. He eclipsed his 48 point season with 49 so far.

Also at the nationals is freshman goaltender Jacob Fowler. Just like Hutson was a steal at 62nd overall, it certainly appears Fowler was a steal at 69 overall. Fowler is one of the top goalies in college hockey. He’s favoured to lead the Boston College Eagles to the national title.  Fowler carries a .924 save percentage into his semi-final against Michigan.

Two prospects from juniors are still shining in the playoffs. Owen Beck getting traded to Saginaw has been a boon to his season. Beck registered 51 points in just 32 regular season games in the Michigan city. In the first round of the playoffs, Beck got seven points in a four game sweep of Owen Sound. The Spirit start their second round against Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday.

Story continues below advertisement

Filip Mesar is also off to a strong start in the playoffs. The late first round pick in 2022 has eight points in the first five games. His Kitchener Rangers can wrap up their series against Erie in game six on Tuesday night.

The rest of the top prospects are trying to crack the Montreal line-up as soon as next season are in Laval. David Reinbacher has been strong in his first action in North America. He has two goals, but more than that, he plays smart hockey.

Logan Mailloux is completing an outstanding first pro season. He’s one of the top scoring defenders in the AHL. He’s also tightened up his defensive game considerably. He can still make the occasional high risk decision, but his defence is trending positively, while there are zero doubts what he can bring offensively.

Justin Barron has also been strong in Laval. He will return there as soon as Kaiden Guhle and Arber Xhekaj are healthy.

Barron will try to help the Rocket grab the final playoff spot in the North. As it stands, Laval is tied with Belleville with only four games to play. It will all come down to the final weekend when they play each other twice in a home and home starting April 19th.

There should be some exciting moments to come in the next two weeks for fans of the Canadiens prospects.

Story continues below advertisement

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

Sponsored content