Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens’ road trip stalls with 4-1 loss to St. Louis
The Montreal Canadiens had a date in St. Louis on Thursday night, stop two of a short, mid-week road trip. The Habs won the first game in Detroit when they gutted it out against a hungry Red Wings team.
With a 4-1 loss to the Blues, though, any hopes of repeating that win were dashed.
After a game like this, it’s clearly charitable to fill this section with much.
It was difficult to find anyone who deserved praise, but if you had to name any, name the fourth line. They worked hard and created chances. Nicolas Deslauriers had a breakaway in the first period, but could not convert. Kenny Agostino and Michael Chaput also worked hard for their space and had some offensive zone pressure. It was likely Deslauriers’ best game of the season.
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Brendan Gallagher was intending to pass to Paul Byron, but took a deflection for a fluke. Every player is just happy to have one of those added to the total, and that total for Gallagher is impressive. That’s a team-leading 17 goals on the season for Gallagher.
He led the team with 31 last season, and he is on his way to the milestone mark again this year.
Victor Mete continues to play well since returning from Laval. He’s joining the rush much more and it looks good on him. He has the speed, so of course he should join the rush. The entire point of the game is to use your own advantages to be the best player that you can be.
The advantage that Mete has is that he’s probably the second-fastest player on the team behind Byron. In fact, it would be enjoyable to see how a 100-foot race between the two would go. Mete joined the rush in the third period on a two-on-one with Max Domi. The young centre did everything right, delaying his speed to change the angle on the defender to ensure that Mete got a great pass. Mete, looking for his first NHL goal, almost counted — he took the shot quickly, as he is supposed to, but he didn’t get the shot off the ice.
These are the little things that a player learns as he gets more experienced and he changes frustration into joy.
It’s a long journey to be your best in this league, and Mete will keep improving. He has so much more to contribute than he is now, and he’s doing well in his second season already.
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I’m not sure if there’s some amazing night life on a Wednesday night in Missouri, but the Habs certainly played like it.
Right from the opening moments, the Habs were horrible against a team that had won only two of their last seven games at home, giving up an embarrassing amount of odd man rushes. Not only were there many two-on-one rushes allowed, the Blues didn’t have to worry that any Habs player was going to catch them. All the Habs were doing was coasting and enjoying the view.
The first period ended with the Habs trailing 2-0, but it was the worst period for Montreal since they were crushed in Minnesota. If it were a better team they were against, it would have been a five-spot on the board against Montreal. The face-off spot was also a mess for Montreal, as led by Ryan O’Reilly being 11 for 12, the Blues won 19 of 23 faceoffs in the first period.
In the second period, the Blues scored on yet another two-on-one. The Habs love to engage their defence and they have the speed to do it, but when the legs are tired and the forwards aren’t interested in helping out, the strategy can obviously look very bad. You must have attentive players who are ready to cover for the pinching defenders.
The Habs’ forwards, though, weren’t attentive at all when the blue liners pinched.
The Habs have what it takes for a good power play. They have a player who has good vision in Jesperi Kotkaniemi. They have a player who doesn’t mind putting his body in front of the net to get punished in Brendan Gallagher. They have a shooter in Jonathan Drouin. They have the best slap shot in the entire NHL in Shea Weber. They have a great skater and a solid setup man in Jeff Petry.
It’s not like this team is without talent. Max Domi has some vision, too; Tomas Tatar can set up and score. So with all that in mind, why are the Habs 31st and last in the NHL on the power play?
Well, there are many reasons. They don’t work hard; they don’t set up Weber; they don’t enter the zone well. They’re static when they do finally enter the zone, and then they don’t shoot enough. When they have a draw, they don’t win. They have their best players at the power play split up on the two units.
Is there anything left? Is there anything that they do well?
Karl Alzner was back in the lineup for the first time in a couple of months after a stint in Laval. His name wasn’t called much, which is as exactly as Alzner should like it. However, then his name was called as he and Jeff Petry let Sammy Blais skate right between them. Alzner was beaten for speed so badly, he didn’t even have time to get turnstiled. He didn’t even turn.
It’s stunning how slow he was on the play, but Petry didn’t look much better. That was the 4-1 goal — the one to guarantee there was going to be no comeback in one of the dullest games in hockey memory.
The battle is on for the Ontario Hockey League title and a chance for the Memorial Cup, and it impacts one of the Habs’ best prospects.
Nick Suzuki was traded from the Owen Sound Attack to the Guelph Storm this week. He is now expected to make a big difference as the Storm tries to win the title, but what’s interesting is there are two teams loading up this year in hopes of winning it all.
One team in the west and one team in the east will likely collide in the OHL finals. The Niagara Ice Dogs and the Storm have made a ton of moves that make them a powerhouse now, but likely horrible in the coming years. The Storm have traded 19 draft picks and three players to load up. The Ice Dogs have traded 17 draft picks and three players to also load up. The pattern of loading up often repeats in junior hockey, but this season it is bordering on ridiculous. As fate would have it, the two clubs faced each other in Suzuki’s first game with his new team. It went to overtime, with the Storm tying it at 5 in the last minute.
In the three-on-three extra session, it was Suzuki who went on an end to end rush, took it around the net, still held on to it, then wired a shot upstairs for the winner. That’s a pretty good first game. It should be fun to watch Suzuki play in a lot of big games this spring, perhaps looking for a national title.
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