Call of the Wilde: Columbus Blue Jackets drop Montreal Canadiens 5-1 as season enters final weeks

There’s only two weeks left in the Montreal Canadiens rollercoaster season.

It’s a busy time, with the club playing four games in six nights. They’ll do it without Jake Allen who has been shut down for the season with a groin injury. That means it’s back to Samuel Montembeault for the lion’s share of the work.

The Canadiens were in Columbus Wednesday to face the Blue Jackets, with both teams out of the playoff hunt.

Columbus skated to an easy 5-1 win.

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With nothing to enjoy in the standings, and nothing on the line, really, all you can hope for from a Canadiens game these days is that it is exciting. You hope that it has a lot of events — some two-on-ones, some breakaways, some big hits and a lot of goals, especially from the young guns, so you can feel that hope on the horizon.

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This one had pretty much none of those things. This was a low-event game. It was simply one to miss. In an 82-game season, bad games happen. This happened.

In a search for positives, we find Ryan Poehling, who provided the top two moments in the entire contest. He scored a goal on a deflection for his sixth of the season. That wasn’t his best play, though. His best moment was skating 170 feet to stop a breakaway. He showed terrific speed to pass his opponent so thoroughly, he angled his body to stop the play completely.

Poehling has the wheels. He has the size. It is just a matter of feeling his way around the ice better, so he is more impactful in the game. His biggest issue is how little he is actually holding that little black disc during the game. He should be doing more. There’s nothing in his skill set that is above him at the NHL level.

This is a player with whom the organization should be patient. He’s still young. There’s plenty of time still for him to find his way around the ice.

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They lost, but let’s look at the bright side.

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Eight games remain for the Canadiens, and they have not jeopardized their draft placement. Sure, they would like to win, but it’s not going to make a real difference in the long run how this ends this year.

Nick Suzuki has played well. Cole Caufield has exploded onto the scene. Young defenders have shown that they have an NHL skill set. The new head coach, Martin St. Louis, is well loved. None of that changes if the club finishes with a bushel of losses.

There is not much more to prove in the last two weeks, so sure, a win is nice, but a loss is nice, too. The Canadiens remain in 31st ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes. The club’s chances of drafting top five look very good.

In fact, here is the math: The Flyers and Canadiens have six points between them, with each having eight games to play. If the Canadiens finish five and three, then the Flyers, with the tie-breaker over Montreal, would have to earn only a win and an overtime loss in their last eight for the Canadiens to pass them.

The Canadiens are in extremely good mathematical shape to have, at least, the third most balls in the drum for the lottery.

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This section is usually full of information about prospects of the club, draft choices rankings and general off-ice concerns of the Montreal Canadiens.

For this one, instead, a suggestion for you all and also the Canadiens brass of Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes.

Alexis Lafreniere was a healthy scratch for the New York Rangers against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night. He had not scored a single point in the last eight games. They view his defence as a liability, so it may not be the only time that he is watching the Rangers from the player’s lounge on a couch.

Lafreniere was drafted number one overall, and was expected to leap right into the NHL and begin starring. The only issue is that he is 20 years of age, and that doesn’t always happen so fast. In fact, more times than not, it doesn’t happen at all to a player just out of his teens. Time is needed to mature and develop.

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Overall, Lafreniere has 15 goals and 12 assists this season in 72 games, and is actually at a lower point-per-game pace than his rookie season. He has not developed from one year to the next statistically.

The Rangers won the draft lottery when they took Lafreniere. Right now, the Canadiens are ranked at perhaps a number one pick. They have a chance to win the lottery and draft first. It’s a number one for number one swap.

Imagine the excitement if the Canadiens were able to acquire Lafreniere. He is a Quebec native, of course, and has been a hero in this province for about five years already. He’s 20 and would be on the team already in the fall. The Rangers would get an 18-year-old, and considering their NHL standing at nearly the top, they can wait a couple years for the maturation of their new top pick.

Fans tend to hyper-love the player that they already know, and not value too much something called the number two pick, so there’ll be a segment of people who won’t be able to grasp the value of the two pick. What if the New York Rangers scouts right now like Juraj Slafkovsky or Shane Wright more than they like Lafreniere? What if the Canadiens like Lafreniere more than they like Wright or Slafkovsky? What would make this trade not palatable to the two parties then?

The Rangers are already showing that they don’t like aspects of Lafreniere. He’s not in the press box because they love his game after two NHL seasons.

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If you were the Rangers, would you do it? Slafkovsky for Lafreniere? If you were the Canadiens, would you do it? Lafreniere for Wright?

It would be a blockbuster, no doubt about it. It would also be a trade that the locals in Montreal would absolutely love, and that might get the wheels turning on it.

Which player would you rather have? Lafreniere or Wright? Lafreniere or Slafkovsky? Keep these thoughts in mind this summer. It wouldn’t surprise me if it this trade happened.

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

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