Call of the Wilde: New York Rangers handle Montreal Canadiens, coast to 4-1 win

After a seven-game road trip during which the Montreal Canadiens won only a single time, the club was happy to be back at home facing the New York Rangers.

On Thursday night, however, it was more of the same, as the Rangers coasted to a 4-1 win.

Wilde Horses 

The NHL picks one representative from each team for the All-Star Game. They chose Nick Suzuki as the Canadiens player. It’s the second time that Suzuki will attend the weekend event set this season for Sunrise, Fla., on Feb. 3 and 4.

Suzuki leads the club in points with 32 in 39 games. If fans thought that Cole Caufield deserved a chance considering he is on pace for 45 goals this season, they still have a chance to get him to Florida as the roster will be filled out through fan balloting at

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In the game itself, there was only one highlight, but what a highlight. Joel Armia finally scored his first goal of the season. There were only five minutes left in the third when he was parked in front of the net and batted a rebound out of the air. The look of relief was obvious; you could see the 1,000-pound weight get off his back.

Armia’s last goal was in April of 2022.

Read more: Montreal Canadiens rocked by Nashville Predators 6-3 (Jan. 3, 2023)

Wilde Goats 

After allowing 49 goals in 10 games, it was clear that the Canadiens wanted to play a lot tighter back at the Bell Centre. For a long while, they did.  The Rangers amassed only six shots in the first period and halfway through the game it was anyone’s contest.

However, a poor pass from Juraj Slafkovsky that he telegraphed to Arber Xhekaj was read perfectly by Chris Kreider. He had a breakaway from his own blue line. It was a shorthanded goal as the Canadiens became the final team in the league to allow a goal while on the power play.

It’s the one thing that the Canadiens have been best at this season, but now they have allowed one.

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After that, the club slumped with a feeling of inevitability, and the inevitable happened in rapid succession in the second period.

The Rangers counted two goals in less than a minute late in the second period. Jake Allen would like the second one back, but with the third, he had no chance on a Nick Suzuki deflection for a soccer style own goal.

There was a three-goal deficit with only 11 shots on the board for Montreal after two periods, so it was all over but the time running off the clock. That’s a seven-game losing skid for Montreal and only one win in the last 10.

These are the tough times that grind rookies down in a long season. Montreal will also likely be without Kaiden Guhle for four to six weeks as reported by Francois Gagnon of RDS. Guhle has a brace on his left knee.

Read more: Tampa Bay Lightning take easy 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens (Dec. 28, 2022)

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Wilde Cards

It was a magnificent tournament for Montreal Canadiens draft picks at the World Junior Championships. While all seven of the prospects gave a good account of themselves, four performances stood out.

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Firstly, it has to be said that a short tournament is a sample size that doesn’t necessarily translate to greatness at the NHL level, but it can also be argued that a best-on-best event amongst a player’s age peers is a great test as well.

With that caveat out of the way, how about the unbelievably good play of Joshua Roy? He’s a fifth-round pick that has suddenly blossomed into a potential top-of-the-Canadiens lineup player when he matures in two or three years.

Roy has shown everything for Canada as their second-best forward in the event, behind only Connor Bedard. Roy had four points in the absolutely vital semi-final game against the United States. Roy has killed penalties for the first time in his career in the tourney and he might just be the best penalty killer in the Habs’ organization since Artturi Lehkonen left.

Roy has an intelligence to his game that is difficult to match. He is always sniffing out the best place to be on the ice and the puck seems to track him. In fact, Bedard described Roy as one of the most intelligent players that he has ever played with.

In the gold medal final, it was Roy who played the winning overtime goal so smartly. On a two-on-one, he held the puck waiting for the lone defender to commit and slide beyond him. Roy then laid out a perfect pass to Dylan Guenther who had a tap-in for the gold medal.

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Roy was there in this tournament every time Canada needed a big moment. One of the best performances in a world junior by a Canadian seen in a long time. He was a fifth round draft choice. Unbelievable pick.

His weakness is supposedly skating and that is why he fell to the fifth round, but it’s difficult to find a single moment where he is struggling for speed or has difficulty winning battles due to poor edges. In short, his skating is not an issue.

Read more: Washington Capitals rout the Montreal Canadiens (Dec. 31, 2022)

Another Canadian has also shone late in the event for Montreal. Owen Beck got a chance to play due to injury and he has been outstanding. Beck got an assist on a key goal for Canada against the U.S. He also drew a penalty in the final round robin game after an excellent forecheck. All Beck has done is shown that he should have been on the roster from the get-go.

Two other prospects are worth noting as well. Filip Mesar was one of the best players for Slovakia. He showed a great instinct for the game and has terrific wheels.  In the quarterfinal game that Canada needed overtime to survive, Mesar was excellent against top quality competition. He set up the tying marker with a terrific pass. Mesar looks like an NHL player with his wheels, shot, and playmaking.

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The final prospect to play well and answer a lot of questions about his ability to defend because of his size is Lane Hutson. Hutson played the best players in the world and he shone.

In the bronze medal game, it was Hutson who took it to the net in overtime to force the issue on the winning goal. Hutson got an assist on the play. He was the catalyst on the goal.

It was on defence, though, that there were question marks for Hutson. Hutson said that he had no difficulty defending great players, and it’s easy to agree with him.

Hutson didn’t lose puck battles, and he didn’t struggle on zone exits at all. He seemed to always have enough time to do exactly what he wanted leading the Americans out of their own zone. He even looks taller than in the summer when he shone for the Americans in the U18s.

In fact, Hutson was underused by the American head coach. There was no question about Hutson’s offence before the tourney, but for Hutson to be so solid defensively, it is a big revelation at what his NHL upside can be.

The answer is the upside is high for Lane Hutson.

Four players in this tournament look destined for the NHL and there’s a chance that all of them can be top-six and top-four and that’s extremely exciting for the Montreal Canadiens’ future.

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

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