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Call Of The Wilde: Montreal Canadiens shock the Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s the best Saturday night match-up in all of hockey: the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. Toronto, one of the best teams in the league, and Montreal, struggling at 32nd overall. However, the Canadiens are better than that record, and they wanted to show it.

Montreal skated to a 4-2 win over Toronto.

Wilde Horses 

If it weren’t for the stellar work of Jake Allen keeping the game close for the first half, there wouldn’t have been much to praise after that. Allen has been stronger since returning from injury than he was before his injury. Allen was .901 before he was injured in January, but since his return, he is .924. He has one more year on his contract after this season. He will be needed.

Allen made a save with the score tied at two and the Leafs on a power play that might have been the best save of his career with Montreal. He got his blocker on a cross-crease one-timer from Mitch Marner. The shots on goal were 51-18 for the Leafs. The Canadiens were in the game because of Allen’s excellence.

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Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens lose to Boston Bruins 3-2 in overtime squeaker

Allen’s work allowed the Canadiens to get back into the game in the second half. That’s where we find yet another player who is better under Martin St. Louis. David Savard will never be mistaken for an offensive defenceman, but he too seems to be using his instincts more and restraints less.

In the second period, Savard joined the rush to take a backdoor pass from Laurent Dauphin to tie the contest at one. It was a gorgeous play and one that Savard would not have even been there for before. It’s remarkable how many players have woken up and found a better self under this head coach.

The best example is, of course, Cole Caufield. After a quarter of a season under St. Louis, Caufield’s numbers are approaching lofty heights. He has 20 games under the new head coach with 13 goals and 24 points. If you push that out to a full season, that’s a 50 goal campaign flirting with 100 points. No one has managed totals even close to this in this century wearing red, white and blue.

It is still not a full season’s sample, though, and maintaining a pace such as this is not expected. However, if Caufield can get even close to this pace, the Canadiens have an exciting star.

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One who is even farther along than Caufield in calling him a star is Nick Suzuki. He had another two points in this one. In the last 17 games, Suzuki has 21 points. The club has a dynamic duo putting up huge numbers and are basically the only reliable weapon for the Canadiens. They are facing the other team’s best defenders, and best line every night, and it does not matter one bit. In a best-on-best, they are the best.

In the third frame, the Leafs pressed hard again and controlled the territorial play, but it was Montreal who got the game-winner. Paul Byron played an odd-man rush perfectly. He delayed a long time waiting for everyone to clear while pretending to be thinking pass. The shot went in easily. Add a Christian Dvorak empty netter and the Canadiens beat the Leafs yet again. The Bell Centre was absolutely rocking. A Montreal hockey fan loves nothing more than beating the Leafs on a Saturday night.

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More awful news for Jonathan Drouin. He tried to make a go of it the last week fighting off a wrist injury that will not heal. He played some games hoping, but it turns out that he cannot continue. Word is that Drouin will undergo surgery on his wrist.

This is the same wrist that was operated on before. This is chronic and it is bad. Wrist injuries are extremely tricky. They take a long time, and sometimes they never heal right. For any hockey player, this is serious. For a hockey player who needs to use his shot to be effective, this could be tragic. Hopefully, whatever reason why the surgery did not take will be found if they go back in again.

It does not have to mean that it will not heal properly after another surgery. All that we know is that the first surgery did not correct the problem that plagued him. Second surgeries can be positive. It doesn’t have to be limiting from here on, but the doctor will have to find a reason that it wouldn’t recover, and then they have to find a way to correct it.

He is seeking a second opinion. If he accepts the first one, the road is long, but it doesn’t have to be a dead end.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens lose in OT to Dallas Stars

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No one will ever know for sure, but it was looking grim that the Montreal Canadiens would sign Jordan Harris when GM Marc Bergevin said that there’s nothing that can be done if he wants to go somewhere else. Not exactly a lot of optimism in that sentence.

Whether it was a change of management or that Harris was always going to honour whoever drafted him, we don’t know for sure, but we can celebrate that Harris signed his entry-level contract on Saturday afternoon with the Canadiens.

It’s a two-year contract, instead of the traditional three-year entry-level deal because of the age of Harris. He turns 22 before September, so the CBA rule stipulates that he must sign for two years for his entry-level then revert to his restricted free agent status four years after that.

This was negotiated by the NHL Players Association to ensure that the players weren’t in their late twenties before they finally get to be an unrestricted free agent.

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For Harris, the first year of his contract will be burnt shortly in Montreal in the coming days. Harris is not allowed to play in Laval for the Rocket in the playoffs, so this will be a baptism by fire in the NHL. He could make his debut mid-week.

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The club is short defenders with the trading of Brett Kulak and Ben Chiarot and the long-term injury to Jeff Petry. That means it will not only be Harris who gets a chance, but also Justin Barron, who was acquired last week from the Colorado Avalanche.

Barron is a first-round draft choice in 2020. He and Harris could eventually be first pair defenders, but will likely settle in at second pair after they get some experience.

It’s going to be quite exciting watching the development of this much more mobile blue line in the years to come. It’s already been exciting watching the maturity of Alexander Romanov in the two short seasons that he has been in the NHL.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens dropped by the Arizona Coyotes 6-3

If you add up the entirety of the future blue liners, it sure looks promising. Harris, Romanov, Barron, Kaiden Guhle, Logan Mailloux, Jayden Struble, Mattias Norlinder and even Corey Schueneman will battle the veterans for spots and it will be fascinating to watch it through the years.

One would have to think that they’ll have a very strong group of six. The only question mark is who will step up to be the first pair and can anyone quarterback that power play? That’s the only concern. There’s an ample amount of bodies, but two blue liners have to have the ability to go up against the game’s best players and handle the responsibilities effectively. Another one has to step in to be the next generation’s Andrei Markov whose profile has still not been filled.

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If two can step up to be an effective first pair, then the blue line will be outstanding for many years to come.

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

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