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Call Of The Wilde: Montreal Canadiens fall hard in Los Angeles to the Kings

Two wins for the Canadiens against one win for the Kings. Not exactly a battle of giants in Los Angeles in a rare matinee for Montreal. The Canadiens making some inroads to better hockey, though the argument can also be made that’s on the back of Jake Allen who had a 45 save shutout in San Jose.

Montreal needed a win at the Staples Centre, but they put in a dismal performance and were outclassed throughout, losing 5-2.

READ MORE: Montreal Canadiens crushed by the Seattle Kraken (Oct. 26, 2021)

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Let’s try some glass half full here for Cole Caufield. The favourite in Las Vegas for rookie of the year is still without a goal in nine games. However, he is around the puck a lot more and getting some quality looks. The unusual aspect though is his shot does not seem to have as much on it, so perhaps he is nursing a wrist injury or shoulder soreness. That shot is an absolute sniping weapon as seen last year in Montreal and for two award-winning seasons in Wisconsin. However, it does not have the same profile this season. It’s not going to the top corners as he can, and it doesn’t have the same speed either. That’s the bad news. The good news is Caufield looks more comfortable. He seems to have stopped passing so often, seemingly deferring to teammates as rookies often do.

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Other than that, apart from the nice pass from Christian Dvorak to Josh Anderson for his second of the season, there was not a lot to admire. Jake Allen was forced to make many difficult saves as the Canadiens were outplayed, but even he would admit that the first goal inside the seven-hole, he would like to have back.

Defensively, no one else stood out. Offensively, no one else stood out. Just another day of low-event hockey from Montreal who can’t create much and can’t defend much.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens shutout the San Jose Sharks

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All fans can hope for at this point is the return of Joel Edmundson to give the Canadiens a bona fide first pair of defensemen. As it stands now, there simply is no one that the head coach can put out there that can neutralize the opposition’s best, or attack consistently in the offensive zone.

Every pairing is a second pairing on a third pairing. There is no top pairing. If Head Coach Dominique Ducharme could rely on a top pair that he could put out there 25 minutes per game in the ones that his team is in, that would make a massive difference.

As it is now, shift after shift after shift, the Canadiens are the second-best team. The Kings, as bad as they are, sustained 50 seconds of pressure on some shifts. There was one shift that Alexander Romanov and David Savard were on the ice for over two minutes and could not get off. They were exhausted. This only happens when all of the players can’t get even close to the bench.

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READ MORE: Montreal Canadiens dominate the Detroit Red Wings (Oct. 23, 2021)

The forwards were supposed to be the strength of the team, but there is no linkage between forwards and defence, so there is hardly ever anything coming from the rush. That should be a strength of a team supposedly built on speed. However, when the club does get it into the offensive zone for a sustained time, often nothing comes out of it. Either the play stays in the perimeter leading to nothing, or a puck battle is lost leading to nothing.

With two wins in nine games, there is going to come a time soon when everyone will have to admit that it is what it is. That you are your record, and there is no seven-game winning streak here for the club to get back into a playoff position. Sadly, the club already needs a big winning run here to get back to even. Win one and then lose one is not good enough already, though that would be an improvement overall from how this feels.

It’s disappointing because the club worked 20 years to be strong down the middle, and that lasted for one season with the loss of two key players at centre. Christian Dvorak has come in to be the one centre or the two centre, but he does not seem to be able to impact play positively. He feels like an uninspiring player who is capable enough but changes nothing. Just like his days with a longtime loser in Arizona.

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Not sure at all how this changes? Can’t see in that looking glass any remarkable event that turns the tide? The only possibility is that Edmundson’s return gives the team a much better first pair that can dominate shifts; instead of what we are seeing now night after night.

We shall see. So far, it’s a well earned two and seven. It feels like most of the season is going to be talking about a high draft pick.

READ MORE: Carolina Hurricanes hand Montreal Canadiens their 5th straight loss of season (Oct. 21, 2021)

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Interesting to see how former Montreal Canadiens are doing this season. It’s always a challenge for a General Manager to know whether he should continue to employ players that have an opportunity to leave. So far, no massive mistakes for Marc Bergevin.

The highest profile of the exits was Jesperi Kotkaniemi who signed for $6.1 million to play in Carolina this season. Kotkaniemi is getting ample opportunity in Raleigh to shine. The Finnish first rounder has played in seven games for the Hurricanes who have a perfect record so far this season. Kotkaniemi has two goals and one assist which would put him on pace for about 16 goals. That would be his best NHL season. The only negative is that Carolina has 31 goals this season which is second best in the entire league and he has been involved in only three. Season four is often the breakout year for a player. So far, there is no breakout here, but then again, Kotkaniemi is so young still that the breakout year may come later.

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Bergevin also let walk Philip Danault who wanted $500,000 more than the offer he apparently received. It’s not a big money difference, but Danault will be 34 when the deal with LA finishes. It is hard to believe that he will be an effective player at that age. Such a difficult moment to contemplate the back end of a deal when you need wins now. The player the Canadiens miss most so far this season is Danault. He matched up against the best centres in the league and was outstanding along with Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar on a line that was top-five in analytics every year. The loss of that line has made life difficult for Nick Suzuki, who is now forced to play against the other club’s best players. Danault though has not shone at all for a Kings team among the worst in the entire league. In seven games, Danault has a goal and a helper.

READ MORE: Montreal Canadiens shade Calgary Flames as Caulfield makes NHL debut (From last season, April 26, 2021)

The final player no one speaks of that Bergevin let go is Tomáš Tatar. He signed with the New Jersey Devils for money there was no way Bergevin was going to pay. Two years for $9 million was a high price to pay even if he was used in the playoffs, which he wasn’t. Tatar is missed though because the line was as a sum better than its parts for Montreal. Tatar has only three assists for the Devils so far this year.

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All in all, Bergevin has not made any mistakes letting the players go, except for the fact that the replacements aren’t winning many games. That also has to do with the players not mentioned here like Carey Price, Shea Weber, Paul Byron and Joel Edmundson. Their absence Bergevin can do nothing about.

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

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