Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens’ playoff hopes hit snag with 5-2 loss to Maple Leafs

With yet another three-game-in-four-night set, the Montreal Canadiens tried to match the energy of the Maple Leafs in Toronto. The Leafs have been waiting for this contest since Monday, so they would have the upper hand in rest and recovery, but the Canadiens have been able to rise above that mitigating performance factor before this season.

A tie for the Canadiens and they would eliminate the Calgary Flames, all but locking up a playoff spot, but they were without energy and got dumped 5-2.

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There was only one thing that stood out in a positive manner and that was the third goal of Cole Caufield’s young career in the NHL. And it wasn’t even the goal that’s worth the notation. The goal itself was a superb pass from Corey Perry for an easy tap in from two feet.

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It was the celebration — or the lack thereof — that is worth the attention.

In two seasons at Wisconsin, there has been a lot of big celebrations after a goal from Caufield. Caufield always with big smiles and arms spread wide apart like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Every goal he scored seemed to be a big goal.

When he started in the NHL, he had massive celebrations as well, and why not? The two goals were overtime winners. Once again, they were huge goals.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens’ tank runs dry with 5-1 loss to Ottawa Senators

This one was his first goal in a lopsided game, and Caufield understood the moment perfectly. He didn’t smile. He didn’t raise his arms. He understood the correct etiquette of equating the score of the game with the level of his joy. It’s a team game, and this was not a positive team night, and he knew it.

The kid gets it. Reports are that he is a terrific teammate, absorbing all of the lessons that there are to give a young man entering the league. He’s going to be a good pro, and that’s important too.

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They should have taken Cayden Primeau out of this contest as soon as he let in the third goal. Montreal was not in this fight. They abandoned the kid. Thankfully, they saw at the first intermission that he was looking shellshocked and needed to get out of there.

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Jake Allen with all of his experience knows that he is an NHL goalie, so he could absorb the bullets that were coming from all directions.

Yes, they wanted to rest Allen for Saturday night, but the determination here was Allen’s extra rest was not as important as Primeau’s psyche in the long term. That was the right decision from the organization.

Primeau simply did not have any rebound control at all. It has shown at times to be a struggle in that area, but not to the point that it was in this one. The rebounds were right back to dangerous areas, and he suffered for it. However, it also has to be noted that he received no support whatsoever.

It’s been surprising, in fact, that the Canadiens have not had more of these blowouts against them considering the schedule that they have played. In this one, the Leafs were waiting since Monday to play, while the Canadiens travelled from Ottawa Wednesday night.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens come from behind once again, beat Maple Leafs 3-2

The tale of the tape as far as playing tired versus a rested team is an embarrassing one for the integrity of the competition for the NHL due to the COVID-19 scare. The Canadiens have never been the more rested team since the second game after the forcibly-induced COVID-19 break, due to Joel Armia testing positive for the virus.

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When you are facing an opponent who has been sitting around half a week and you just flew into town, good luck with that. The Canadiens have played 22 games in 37 after COVID changed their schedule.

That’s not something that has been asked of a player in the history of the league, but all the teams who have suffered COVID scares have suffered through incredible scheduling adversity. Teams like Boston, New Jersey, Buffalo, Vancouver and Montreal.

The recent horrific run is the Canadiens with five games in seven days. Gassed? Of course.

The Canucks with 19 games in 31 days is an indictment practically, but at the same time, the league had to get this schedule in for its own viability, so it is understood. The fans will take what they can get. The league will give what it can give. And we all just hope that the playoffs can be played straight through without a COVID incident.

This type of game was expected. It’s sad that a young goalie had to go through that though. That’s the only possible damage here. The rest of the players know when they are gassed and they don’t have the legs to compete. They all know they can be better, and they won’t be impacted in any way. Their confidence won’t be shot. They won’t think that they’re inferior.

All they will want is to face the Leafs in the playoffs when they are not exhausted. One more point in the standings and they get their wish.

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Terrible news for strong prospect Ryan Poehling as he needs wrist surgery and is done for the season. Poehling was the best player on the Laval Rocket this year showing why he was drafted in the first round. 

It’s easy to say it’s just wrist surgery and he will be fine, but this is one of the most difficult injuries in hockey for full recovery. 

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Toronto Maple Leafs complicate Montreal Canadiens’ playoff goals with 4-1 win

Many times, a player after wrist surgery has less speed on his shot after he returns. Often a player will say that they needed two full seasons before it felt like the wrist had fully recovered and they felt normal. 

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Poehling is only 22 and he still has plenty of time to keep improving his game. The first round draft choice was likely a lock to start next season in Montreal. 

Now, it will be more about whether he can be ready and right in time by September when the club opens camp. 

Poehling was leading the Rocket in points at the time of his injury with 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points in 28 games. 

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

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