Game 82. It is finally done.
After the great excitement of a Stanley Cup Final berth to end last season, this season ended with Montreal as the 32nd team in a 32-team league.
As they say, it’s only up from here.
The final night was a visit from the Florida Panthers, with the Canadiens giving the fans a lot of joy to end the season with a 10-2 win.
The Panthers rested many of their stars for the playoffs after winning the President’s Trophy on Thursday night. The Canadiens had a chance to seize the day against a club that didn’t have a thing to play for.
And did they ever seize it. Montreal looked like the first place team and Florida the 32nd.
Early, it was a memorable moment for Jordan Harris as he scored the first goal of his career on a point shot. Harris has been strong in his short tryout this April. He will have to earn his spot next season, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. He looks like a sure fire third pair to start.
After Mike Hoffman tallied, it was back to Cole Caufield with his 21st goal of the season. That tied him for the team lead with Nick Suzuki. Caufield wasn’t even close to done. His prettiest of the night was his second as he split the defence beautifully. He kept the legs moving and the stick busy. He then fired it up high on the back hand.
In the third period, he counted another as he went skate to stick to net like lightning. The first hat trick of Caufield’s career moved to 23 on the season. That was only one off the rookie lead.
What an achievement for Caufield as he had only one goal in his first 30 games under Dominique Ducharme. In his next 37 games, he got 22 goals. It would seem that there is a good possibility that Caufield can be a 40-goal scorer for Montreal. They’re still looking for one this century.
It was another stellar performance from Jeff Petry who has found his skating legs and his passion for the game again after a hard winter without his family. Petry has 11 points in his last 11 games. He will be traded in the off-season, unless he withdraws his request, to move to an American club.
The improved play is important because if a would-be suitor had doubt that Petry perhaps had lost some of his game, it has come back. It makes the exchange easier when the player is actually performing well.
It wasn’t a good year, but on the final night, the Canadiens left them wanting more. You can’t do better than that. You can’t do better than the poetry of finishing the night with Guy Lafleur’s number 10.
On a night like this with the Canadiens playing so well, the only goat is the mystery that surrounds Carey Price. Not Price himself, but all of the questions that won’t end until Price makes a decision on his future. He hurt his knee against last week. This caused an emergency call-up of Cayden Primeau as Price was unavailable to even back-up just in case a second goalie was forced to enter the net.
After that, it was a visit to the doctor in New York City to see if there was damage to the knee. That was the low point.
The next day the better scenario came into view as Price practiced in Brossard when his mates were still in New York City. Friday morning, Price took to the starter’s net and a lot of fear was put on the side for now.
However, Price was an .853 before the Florida game trying to find his game after almost a complete season of inactivity. He is such a man of class that when he contemplated his future last week, he said that he did not want to be a burden. Price is hinting that if he does not believe that he can play at a high level, then he will not play.
It would be interesting to see the Vegas odds on who will be in the net on opening night next season for Montreal: Carey Price, Jake Allen, Sam Montembeault, or even Cayden Primeau. It’s not money I would want to put down. It’s honestly a complete guess who will be in net.
With this being the final Call Of The Wilde for the season, it’s a good time to look ahead to the NHL draft this July that will be so important for the rebuild of the club. Montreal will draft first, second or third depending on the lottery on May 10. They will get a high quality player.
Montreal also has the pick of the Calgary Flames in the first round, so that will be around the 26 mark. They also will draft first in the second round so a pick to come at 33 as well. That’s a lot of potential talent in the first 33 picks, considering this draft looks strong heading into the second round.
It’s extremely difficult to predict who might go to the Canadiens considering the U18 World Championships have not even wrapped up yet in Germany. However, if the Canadiens draft first, the consensus pick is Shane Wright. He has been touted at number one for about 18 months already. He didn’t have an outstanding season this year in the Ontario Hockey League, but the hope is that is more from boredom than laziness.
If the Canadiens draft second, it gets a little more dicey, but the public lists have Logan Cooley as the choice there. Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton have been watching the worlds and Cooley has been strong. However, it can easily be argued that everyone on the American team is strong as they have been steamrolling their opposition. Cooley scored the lacrosse goal in the quarter-finals as an example of his stick skills.
If the Canadiens lose the draft lottery twice, which they do have a 55 per cent chance of doing, there are a number of choices at three.
Juraj Slafkovsky wowed everyone at the Olympics when he was the best player in the entire hockey event. Simon Nemec is a possibility. He has been scoring at a point-per-game pace as a defenceman in the last half of the season. Czech defender David Jiricek has returned from injury and has immediately impressed.
There are actually many who could be the two or three choice. The draft this year is as wide open as it has been in a decade.
One other idea that may be possible is the Canadiens trying to trade up for a pick. The draft starts to get a little weaker at around 20 to 25. If they were able to trade two or three picks to get a higher first round pick, in this draft that would be a wise maneuver. This idea is excellent in concept though, but much harder to actually find someone who wants to drop down for more picks.