The Montreal Canadiens have not won two games in a row this season as they approach the quarter mark of the campaign. They had a chance for that on Saturday night as they looked for their third win of the year over the Detroit Red Wings.
Montreal is playing better hockey of late but was unable to consolidate that with a 3-2 loss in Motown.
The present-day establishment is far too impatient with prospects now. It’s a new and disturbing trend. Part of the trend is the player is brought up and asked to perform at the NHL level far too soon. The other part of the trend is that the player has used up all of his chances with an organization at far too young an age.
Enter Ryan Poehling. This is a player who was taken late in the first round and scored a hat trick in his first pro game. Everyone thought he was already ready because he caught lightning in a bottle one night. He wasn’t even close to ready.
Very few are ready as soon as they enter the NHL. If you are Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, then yes, you are special and special things can happen very quickly. However, just about everyone is not in that category, and organizations need to stop having these lofty expectations for players who need seasoning.
Poehling in his first season as a pro split duties between Laval and Montreal. He struggled in both places. In his second season, Poehling counted at quite close to a point-per-game pace. This is only his third season, and so many are calling him a bust. This is unwarranted.
His third season is just beginning. He got six points in his first seven games in Laval before being called up to Montreal. In this, just his second game, he already has his first goal. It was a clever shot far side to open the scoring in the first period.
Poehling is 22. His first season, he should not have been in Montreal. He completely wasn’t ready. His second season was barely half a season because of COVID-19. He has barely played pro hockey. He has played only 101 pro games. Give him some time to figure this out — 101 games is a ridiculously small number to write off a first-round draft pick.
An example of a player who took his time to come to North America and made a career for himself is Artturi Lehkonen. He’s gotten all that he could with the skills that he has to find a lot of years in the NHL. It was a terrific Lehkonen play that set up the tying goal. Lehkonen got rocked into the boards in the corner and was on his back when he made a terrific pass to Chris Wideman, who went far side to make it 2-2 in the third.
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Samuel Montembeault is 25 years of age and has played only 25 games as an NHLer. He has a sub-.900 save percentage in the NHL. He had a sub-.900 save percentage in the American Hockey League. He was .900 in the Quebec Junior League in Blainville.
Let’s call it an interesting choice for GM Marc Bergevin to have made when he needed a goalie to fill in for Carey Price. Perhaps Bergevin should not have picked an inexperienced goalie to fill this role. After allowing two goals on his first two shots, Montembeault was strong, stopping the next 22 to help the Habs get the game to overtime — something to build on, perhaps. People certainly know it is not easy to step in at a moment’s notice, but that is the job of a backup. His save percentage is .889 this season. He is ranked 58th in the league.
When Jake Allen left the game for concussion protocols after getting steamrolled by Dylan Larkin, his Canadiens teammates also seemed to have left the game for the next 10 minutes before recovering. Allen looked fine after the contact. He was skating around the ice smoothly and fluently without any issue at all. He was even shaking out his hair so he could put his helmet back on properly. His entire demeanour said that he was completely fine. Not groggy. Not dizzy. Not glassy-eyed. He looked normal.
However, in the second period, it was announced that Allen would not return. It’s difficult to know if Allen failed the SCAT concussion tests, or the Canadiens were just being careful and holding him out for the night. It should be noted though that it was approximately a half-hour after the test began that he was ruled out. That is the time it takes to complete the testing.
For now, we will just have to wait to see how Allen is feeling. Everyone hopes it won’t take long, because the club definitely needs him.
Cole Caufield has finally scored a goal after the biggest drought of his entire hockey life. It took 15 games for Caufield to score this season. He did not score in Montreal for the Canadiens in 10 games, gathering only one assist in that time. He then went to Laval, where it took him another five games to finally count one.
What a remarkable goal it was, though, for Caufield to finally break through. Caufield was skating down the right side and had crossed into the corner and was behind the goal line when he fired the wrist shot off the back of the shoulder of the goaltender, who had left his spot tight to the post.
It was not a mistake that Caufield shot it there. He has done that before on many occasions, and though it is a low-percentage shot, Caufield does it on purpose for a surprising success rate.
Caufield now has one goal and three assists for four points in five games. It’s not what he expected, but it does seem like he is starting to find his way again after this shocking slump.
Caufield isn’t the hottest Rocket player by any means. That honour goes to Jesse Ylonen, who may be showing NHL potential in his second year of American Hockey League action. In his last four games, Ylonen has two goals and three assists.
The Rocket lost to the Utica Comets 5-3 Saturday.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after each Canadiens game.