The Montréal Canadiens continue to play outstanding hockey under Martin St. Louis with seven wins in their last eight games. The contests are exciting and offence-oriented. It’s been some of the most entertaining hockey played by the Canadiens in years.
A visit to Edmonton on Saturday was a thriller as Montreal won yet again 5-2.
What is immediately striking, watching the Canadiens in their eleventh game under Martin St. Louis is they aren’t trying to slow the game down. They are not immediately admitting the opposition is more talented, thereby taking the fun out of the contest.
It has been since forever, it seems, that the Canadiens didn’t try to play low-event hockey. What a stunning and joyful change this is!
Montreal was playing the most intimidating team they could play in this one. Up against Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, they did not seem at all intimidated. They went stride for stride.
“Throw everything you can at us, and we will match you” is the new mantra of the Canadiens. And it’s fabulous. Back and forth hockey with entertainment on every shift. It’s the hockey we grew up loving. It’s the hockey that brought us to the rink the very first time.
After so many years of drab, we are getting to see the best the sport can give us — not a coach trying to destroy the joy, flow and freedom of the game.
Players that were born to be exciting are flourishing under new head coach, Martin St. Louis. Nick Suzuki, who has a great two-way game, but was born to be Slick Nick is firing every night. Suzuki has 13 points in his last eight games under St. Louis.
Suzuki made a wicked shot into the top corner, in the second period, to give Montreal a 3-2 lead.
Cole Caufield wasn’t meant to be a servile winger answering to every little defensive whim from a head coach with that mindset. He came to the NHL to be an offensive giant. Let Cole equal Goal. He has 12 points in eight games since the CSA line was put together. He started the scoring with a tally in the first period.
Placing Josh Anderson on the line is a St. Louis stroke of genius. The power forward is flourishing, having recent scored his first career hat trick.
Brett Kulak who has been in and out of the line-up after being a waiver wire pick-up is suddenly playing the best hockey of his career. The transformation of some of these players is remarkable. Kulak on the rush, shorthanded no less, made a superb pass to Artturi Lehkonen for the 4-2 marker.
Speaking of Lehkonen, he’s another player who is on fire under St. Louis.
St. Louis believes he has talented players and he uses them in that capacity. Let them be the best that they are. The best aspects of their game is the focus. Everyone is playing with freedom.
This game was lightning fast against a team that can play it fast, but the faster team was Montreal.
The winner is the Montreal fan who loves hockey in its finest form. We are the winners right now.
It’s impossible to fill this Wilde Goats space. This is the most entertaining and enjoyable that watching a Habs game has been in ages. That includes a Stanley Cup playoff-run with a berth in the finals.
That was excellent to be sure. But last year’s team had a lot of rough patches. It was efficient when it needed to be in the playoffs, but it was not an entertaining club for most of the season.
This club is different. It goes up and down the ice with speed and joy.
The NHL Centre Ice package has as many as 16 games televised in a night. The choice of team to watch hasn’t been the Canadiens, until now. The Canadiens are a marquee game.
The Oilers and Canadiens were a thrill to watch. Winning or losing right now is irrelevant. It’s about building the talent up, and up they go right now.
READ MORE: Call of the Wilde – Habs drop one to Jets
The Canadiens are limited in what they can spend on players. They’re a rich team, but with a cap. As far as players go, they are allowed to spend the same amount as the Arizona Coyotes.
One area the Canadiens could always use the money is in scouting and development. There is no limit to how many scouts you can use for this whole wide world. Development coaches in Montreal can make sure the draft choices get a good education on how to get better.
It was quite disappointing to learn how far behind the Canadiens fell under Marc Bergevin in this area. The club did not even have a specialized skills development person, except in a limited role with occasional visits from certain individuals over the years.
Now they do, as new General Manager Kent Hughes continues to change how business is done in big and little ways.
Hughes has hired Adam Nicholas as director of hockey development. Nicholas joins the Canadiens after working with the Toronto Maple Leafs for three years. Nicholas also held a similar posting for the Chicago Steel for three years and before that he was at UMass-Lowell for five seasons.
Nicholas is best known for helping players to improve their skating techniques. Can we rewind the clock three years to see if we can get Jesperi Kotkaniemi to have a more efficient stride? Or is it too late now?
All kidding aside, it’s remarkable to see the ideas Hughes and Jeff Gorton bring to the franchise. They turned heads in the hockey world when they went with a completely inexperienced Martin St. Louis as coach. Now we are watching St. Louis turn the club around in ten games.
Now the Canadiens start the work of re-organizing off-ice efforts. My preference is for them to keep going. They should expand their scouting department. It should never happen that the scouts announce that they have not seen that player very much. They should be extremely familiar with every pick.
Montreal is a rich franchise. The scouting department, and development departments should be bigger than every other team. With Hughes and Gorton, we see that might finally be happening.