The Canadiens’ five-game road trip through the western United States concluded on Monday night in Saint Paul, Minn.
Montreal has gathered points in their last three games against difficult opposition in Dallas, Vegas and Denver. Montreal’s only horrible game was in Glendale, Ariz., where the fellow basement-dweller Coyotes won easily over the Canadiens.
The worst game of the Habs’ swing through the west was the last one, as Minnesota rolled over the Canadiens to an 8-2 victory.
There’s essentially nothing to put here. The Canadiens were outshot 29-8 at the halfway point of the game. The final shots were 39-21. You could suggest that the goalie Cayden Primeau deserves to be a horse. You could also suggest he deserves a medal of valour. But it’s hard to credit someone as the hero of the night when he let in five — that’s how awful this one was.
Primeau faced so much rubber after two periods that the head coach decided to give him a rest for the third, allowing Michael McNiven to make his NHL debut in the final frame. McNiven faced seven shots letting in three.
It felt like the Wild were playing keep-away. Montreal had done well for three straight before this one, but the Canadiens also might have been exhausted after living out of a suitcase for almost a month.
Rebuilds are not fun. Fans have to understand that a big dose of patience is required and nights like this will be common. The reward is high draft picks, and hopefully for the fans, the Canadiens will pick well.
All around the United States in arenas where sports are played, it doesn’t even look like COVID-19 continues. It’s a full house everywhere and not a mask is to be found as people sit right beside each other.
There is no political will in the U.S. to limit attendance or behaviour. That hasn’t mattered much to a hockey fan from Canada for a month as, for the most part, all of the home games in Canada got postponed. For example, the Canadiens played 10 straight contests on the road.
The plan by the NHL was to delay home games for Canadian teams in hopes that the governments would allow fans into the arenas when the surge of cases was contained.
Cases in Quebec are down 70 per cent from the peak, but the Legault government has not eased up on restrictions at the Bell Centre.
When the Canadiens return to their home building for the first of eight straight on Thursday night, there will be no fans in the arena.
This may bother fans a little who want to support the club in person, but it certainly must bother Geoff Molson much more. Between ticket sales, beer sales and parking fees, each game is around a $2.5-million windfall for Molson and the organization.
Molson graciously took a hit already at the last minute in December when only two hours before game time against the Flyers, the provincial government asked him to not allow fans into the building. That’s $2.5 million gone already. That gate was taken away while the fans were on their way to the game.
It’s easy to say that Molson has the money, but it is not about whether or not he has it. It’s about the uneven playing field between Canadian and American teams.
The salary cap is supposed to equal the spending capacity of each team, but if you take a team like Ottawa who are already not prone to spend under Eugene Melnyk, now you tell him he can’t make any money on home games. That’s a big concern.
It’s a difficult discussion and opinions won’t be made here whether the restrictions should be loosened. Hospitals are full, but restaurants are empty. The sick are everywhere and so are the bankruptcies. Physical health is suffering, and so is mental health. It is always a decision between two bad choices these days, it seems.
The point made here isn’t about what Quebec Premier Legault should or should not do, only that if Canadian teams make no money for a half of year of home games and American teams make full money, this will cause issues down the line for Canadian teams and a salary cap that will be extremely difficult to maintain.
League revenues are going to be down so much that players are going to feel like they lose more in escrow than they make in salary. And Canadian teams’ owners will be in no mood to spend when they perhaps lost $30 million during the season.
We will see how long the attendance restrictions will be in place. Perhaps if cases continue to drop as they have, then the Legault government will revisit their policy.
It seems that the IIHF accidentally released the Canadian Men’s Hockey team roster for the Beijing Olympics a day early. There was supposed to be a big ceremony to announce the squad, but the IIHF accidentally tweeted it out before deleting it.
As speculated here on Saturday night, there is a strong Canadiens connection on the team with Mark Barbeiro, Eric Staal, David Desharnais and Daniel Carr all on the squad.
However, the rumour that Kaiden Guhle, Montreal’s first-round draft pick two years ago, was also on the team was unfounded. He was nowhere to be found on the accidentally-released tweet.
It appears Guhle will continue on in the Western Hockey league leading the powerhouse Edmonton Oil Kings toward a Memorial Cup run in junior hockey.