Call of the Wilde: Columbus Blue Jackets outscore Montreal Canadiens 6-4

The Montreal Canadiens took on one of the worst teams in the league this season in Columbus on Thursday night.

The mark of a good team isn’t only that they compete well against the great teams, it’s also that they take care of business against the bad clubs.

That meant the Blue Jackets were a good marker for Montreal to show that they can get the job done against weakness.

It did not go as planned as the Blue Jackets won 6-4.

Wilde Horses 

While overall this one was a tough watch, there were many players that did stand out. Josh Anderson was playing back at his old stomping grounds and he seemed to want to impress Ohio in this one. Anderson had three quality looks in the first period, but could not convert.

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In the second period, with only two seconds remaining in the period, Anderson got off a 20-foot wrist shot, and finally did get the goal that he deserved. It tied the contest at two.

Another player who seems to be waking up this season finally is Evgenii Dadonov. He got his first goal the other night, and it seems to have ignited him. Dadonov was flying. He’s a good player with electric skills when he’s motivated. It was nice to see some motivation.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens beat Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime

While Shane Wright sat on Thursday night again for the eighth time in the last 10 games, Juraj Slafkovsky continues to make strides. Late in the second period, Slafkovsky had an excellent shift and it led to him getting an assist on a Jordan Harris goal.

Slafkovsky belongs in the NHL for sure at the moment. He is implicated in the play a lot. Eventually, he needs to dominate at a lower level and get more ice time in all circumstances, but as long as his NHL experience still has learning in it, this is fine.

Slafkovsky had a quality look for a goal in the second period as well. Remember this is an 18 year old. The life that Wright is leading is more common than the life of Slavkovsky early in the first season.

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Slafkovsky seems to also have an outstanding attitude to keep learning. He seems open to criticism and advice. This was a problem with Jesperi Kotkaniemi who did not take to advice on how to improve his game very well. This is from the Canadiens organization themselves as a criticism; not an Internet rumour.

Slafkovsky is impressive. He was not the top choice at the Call of the Wilde as Logan Cooley was and then Shane Wright, so, at the moment, bring the crow and put some salt and pepper on it for taste because the very early winner is the Slovak.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens shade Detroit Red Wings with 3-2 shootout win

The line of Hoffman-Dvorak-Gallagher continues to impress. All three players are improving as the season progresses. The line tied the game at three on a gorgeous play by all three members. Brendan Gallagher finished it on a sweet pass from Christian Dvorak.

One has to also be impressed with the talent evaluation of the new braintrust of the Canadiens.

Firstly, there’s the NHL draft of last summer where they possibly have found four NHL players which is a fantastic number. Second is of all of the players available on the waiver wire — when the Canadiens had first crack at every single player, they took Jonathan Kovasevic.

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Kovasevic was a total dark horse among many big names that the Canadiens passed on. When they took Kovasevic, the feeling was they may take more, at least a couple more. They took only the rookie rear guard.

Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton know what they are doing. Kovasevic is improving every game, and suddenly, he is showing off some offensive skills to go with his steady game.

Nick Suzuki continues to put up huge numbers this season. In 17 games, Suzuki now has 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points. The longer a season goes, the less impossible an ‘on pace’ mention becomes. Suzuki is on pace for 101 points this season.

No one suggests that total is going to be reached, but 61 is his top career total and that may be eclipsed by the all-star break the way Suzuki is playing. His goal in this contest was so clever. Suzuki was behind the net and saw the keeper Joonas Korpisalo was not hugging his post well, so he banked it in off his pads. That’s simply a cerebral player doing cerebral things.

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Wilde Goats 

The Canadiens were without focus for large parts of the contest.  A good way to find proof of that is Montreal allowed four breakaways in the first period alone. They’ve gone through an entire game without allowing a breakaway on many nights this season.

This was the first time this season that the Canadiens felt like last year’s Canadiens. It’s been written here many times that the club is not getting a top five pick. They are simply too good. However, this one created a pause on that thought for the first time. It simply did not feel like a very talent-filled game.

Columbus may just be the worst team in the entire league, and Montreal did not look any better than the Blue Jackets.

There are stinkers in every season. It’s important over 82 games to not make a big deal out of every single action, and every single game.

Intensity, whether it be mental or physical, isn’t always easy to call up. Throw this one out, regardless of the result, as just one of those nights, and move on.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens return to Bell Centre, defeat Vancouver Canucks 5-2

Wilde Cards

It was supposed to be Mike Matheson’s first game in a Montreal Canadiens uniform, but the defenceman did not get clearance by the medical staff to start in Columbus.

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Matheson was wearing a contact jersey for the first time at practice Wednesday and it looked like he would finally play after suffering an abdominal strain in training camp, but he is still not ready.

That leaves Canadiens management with another day to decide what they will do with their roster when Matheson returns. Speculation is that Arber Xhekaj will be the defender to be sent down to Laval because of his age and experience. Xhekaj needs to play, not be in the press box watching.

Chris Wideman is another option to move to Laval but he would have to clear waivers, and eventually, you have to have capable defenders because injuries to blueliners always come. Either way, Xhekaj isn’t playing in the NHL when Matheson returns.

It’s a good problem to have, and here’s a thought that will ruffle some feathers, but perhaps all these kids are ready to take over, and Joel Edmundson or David Savard can be traded. Edmundson would likely fetch a first rounder; perhaps not now with every viable trading partner tight to the salary cap, but later in the season, this seems a probably scenario, if the Canadiens are not fighting for a playoff spot.

Other thoughts are perhaps either Jordan Harris or Jonathan Kovacevic could go down, but they have actually been the best pair on the blue line this season analytically. Their Goals Expected is clearly net positive as the two play under the radar with Kaiden Guhle getting most of the attention for his excellence.

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Guhle’s underlying numbers are not as good as Harris, but it must be noted that Guhle’s match-ups are much harder facing the opposition’s best players already at the age of 21 in his rookie season.

It’s surprising to think on Nov.17 that solutions to overcrowding on the blue line mostly revolve around letting veterans go so four rookies can play.

Who had that on their scorecard in August?

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

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