The math was so much in favour of the Montreal Canadiens over the Calgary Flames. The Canadiens really only needed one win in the three-game set to basically leave the Flames looking for a math miracle. After the 4-2 Calgary win Friday, it was off to game two Saturday to see if something better was in the offing. It was not. The Flames won again 5-2, meaning the Canadiens are doing their very best to make this as anxiety-inducing for their fans as possible.
It’s a shame this isn’t an 82 game season for Tyler Toffoli. It would have been interesting to see how many he could have notched, and how much of a career year it actually could have been. Toffoli’s greatest goal season was 31 over 82 games. With another one in this contest, Toffoli already has 24 goals. At present pace, and if they played 82, Toffoli would have had 47 if he maintained it. The Canadiens haven’t had a 40-goal scorer this century. The last 40-goal man was Vincent Damphousse in 1994. Shame. It would have been something to watch Toffoli attack that number.
Things were going well enough for the Canadiens through the first period and early second, but then, once again, it fell apart. Nick Suzuki lost a face-off cleanly, which led to Milan Lucic getting a seeing-eye shot through a bevy of bodies. Nothing to be done about that, except learn how to win face-offs more.
However, that’s where the kind assessment of the proceedings has to end. The third goal was simply horrendous. Out of nothing, the Flames counted on an absolutely brutal goal by five listless Canadiens. It was a dump-in, and it wasn’t even a dump-in with serious intentions. Jeff Petry had a one-on-one battle with Andrew Mangiapane, and he lost it so cleanly that he wasn’t even around anymore. Petry has gone from one of the best defenders in the league to unacceptable in a dozen games. What has happened to him? He isn’t even average. It’s bizarre. Such a revelation for the first half-season; such greatness, but now he is a liability.
The play continued with a free Mangiapane heading toward the goal. Ben Chiarot just stood there in front of the net passively. It was as if his legs had turned to cement. He didn’t charge at Mangiapane to meet him early before the Flames forward got into a more dangerous situation. He just stood in the same spot. Johnny Gaudreau began skating towards the back-door to receive the pass. All three Canadiens forwards were well positioned to watch Gaudreau skate right on by all of them. They had the best view in the house. Gaudreau zoomed on by to take the Mangiapane pass for an easy goal that Cayden Primeau had no chance.
It was 3-1 Calgary, and considering the Canadiens had two goals or fewer in eight of the last ten games, it was easy to think at that moment it was over.
The Canadiens insist on making this once easy playoff battle difficult. Calgary has won six of eight against Montreal with only one more to go. Monday night, the Canadiens can still make it easy by helping the Flames to run out of race track. However, why think that they can? When you are getting dominated six of eight, it’s easy to believe Monday ends with it being seven of nine. It’s another sorry finish to a season for a team that seems to act out the same script every year for almost a decade: get off to a strong start, then limp flaccidly to the finish line.
In a season because of COVID-19 that many leagues didn’t play at all and most leagues didn’t get much more than half a season in, it promised to be the first time hockey didn’t have a 100 point man somewhere since the 1960s.
Hold it now.
One man had a chance and that man is a Montreal Canadiens prospect.
Sean Farrell had one more game left this season for the Chicago Steel. After four assists last night, Farrell was at 98 points.
Farrell was a fourth-rounder for the Canadiens taken because he simply knows how to pile up points. He was supposed to be playing for Harvard this year but the Ivy League schools took the year off because of the pandemic.
Farrell had nowhere to go, so he stayed for a second season for the Steel upping his totals year-to-year by about 40 points.
The left-winger is only 5’9”, which is primarily why he fell so far down the draft list.
It will be interesting to see where Farrell finishes as a player. The USHL has produced NHL players in the past. Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets led the league in scoring five years ago. Joe Pavelski was also a USHL alumnus.
Farrell’s run for the 100-point plateau was late Saturday night against Muskegon in the last game of the season before the playoffs begin next weekend. Farrell did not need too much time getting those two points early in the contest.
He averaged just under two points-per-game this season. It is a remarkable achievement in that league, but what can he do the next step up? It’s going to be enjoyable to watch Harvard next season.
As you watch Jake Evans perform so well at the NHL level, remember he was a late draft pick as well. He went to Notre Dame and just kept getting better, and made it all the way. It’s possible. Some guys just know how to create. Perhaps he can keep creating as he makes his way up the ladder.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after each Canadiens game.