Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens dropped by Florida Panthers 9-5 in wild affair

Something was in the air in Sunrise, Fla., on Thursday night. It was bizarre.

The Florida Panthers routed the Montreal Canadiens 9-5.

Wilde Horses

The goalies are Wilde Horses simply for their courage to keep going.

This was one of the oddest games seen in the last decade. The Panthers scored seven goals on their first 16 shots. They had seven goals in the first 14 minutes.

The Canadiens also scored three goals in the first with the best being a gorgeous shot from Mike Matheson, who continues to improve his game at the age of 28. The others on the night were scored by Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Anthony Richard, Rem Pitlick and Michael Pezzetta as the Laval contingent shines so brightly that some of the Montreal players need to step it up.

Story continues below advertisement

Back to the goalies. First, Head Coach Martin St. Louis tried Samuel Montembeault. He lasted six minutes, allowing three goals on six shots. That’s a save percentage of .500 and a goals-against average of a lofty 30.00.

In came Jake Allen. He allowed four goals on 12 shots in the first period for a save percentage of .666 and a goals-against average of 16.00. It got worse in the second period, though. Allen let in two goals on five shots then left the game.

Back in came Montembeault again in this odd hockey version of musical chairs. There were nine Florida goals on the board already with 32 minutes still to play.

The math said it could be the worst total of goals allowed this century in a game, if Florida didn’t calm down a little. They were on pace for 18. Baseball has the 10-run mercy rule. Hockey usually doesn’t need one.

Why would the goalies be Wilde Horses with these numbers?

Because they could have filed for divorce for lack of support. If they didn’t come out for the second period, and left the rest of the game to the EBUG (emergency backup goalie) to come down from the press box to finish up the night,  no one would have blamed them.

Story continues below advertisement

The record for goals allowed in a game is 16. The salary cap record for goals allowed is 11. The record for the Canadiens allowed is 11, which is the fateful night that Patrick Roy and Mario Tremblay had a dispute that set the Canadiens back a generation. They all looked within reach at the halfway mark in the contest.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

Thankfully, none of that happened as Montembeault came back in and settled down as the Panthers stalled at nine.

On to the next game. This is a rebuild. There are nights like this.

Click to play video: 'Carson Briere, son of Flyers GM Danny Briere, seen shoving wheelchair down stairs'
Carson Briere, son of Flyers GM Danny Briere, seen shoving wheelchair down stairs

Wilde Goats 

It was guaranteed win night for Team Tank. Either the Canadiens lost, which helps the pick around the five spot, or the Panthers lost which helped the pick at the 15 spot. Either way, Team Tank was guaranteed that one of the two first rounders was going to conclude the night in better shape than it started the night.

Story continues below advertisement

However, one vital aspect of the Panthers pick that does not get mentioned is the possibility that Florida can make the playoffs. That doesn’t sound as if it is a serious issue. If the Panthers make the playoffs, then that pick Montreal owns moves from about a 15 to a 17 pick.

Or does it?

What if the Panthers don’t just make the playoffs, but go all the way to the conference finals? Suddenly, that pick is the 29th to 32nd choice. The level of talent in the draft drops significantly from around 15th overall to around 30th overall. It would be horrible for the Canadiens, if the Panthers advanced to the East Final.

Admittedly, the Panthers aren’t exactly looking like they can be one of the final four teams alive in June, but this is the National Hockey League. No playoffs are more unpredictable than the Stanley Cup playoffs.

So while you cheer for the Canadiens to lose against the Panthers to improve the Connor Bedard odds, don’t lose sight of the fact that it would be considerably more comfortable if Florida did some serious losing as well. Florida needs to finish behind both Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders for the wild card spots in the East. The gap is only three points behind the Islanders with Florida holding two games in hand.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'China Clipper: Remembering Larry Kwong’s barrier-breaking impact on the NHL'
China Clipper: Remembering Larry Kwong’s barrier-breaking impact on the NHL

Wilde Cards

The Canadiens signed Jayden Struble after his career concluded on the weekend for Northeastern. It was a stellar career for Struble. He stayed the distance for the Huskies, then signed with the club that drafted him.

Struble could have migrated, but chose the improved development that the Canadiens are becoming known for. It wasn’t always this way. However, the addition of players’ coach Martin St. Louis, and development coach Adam Nicholas, is making a massive difference to prospects.

The attitude that St. Louis has with is players and the brilliance of his vision and ability to teach it is a huge plus for players who are young and feel that a lot of learning the game is in front of them. Same for Nicholas, who is known as one of the best teachers in hockey.

Story continues below advertisement

Struble’s game translates well to the pros. While he did not break out offensively in Boston, he did become strong defensively. He makes smart plays and skates beautifully. He has the tools to be a good pro due to his strong decision making.

Struble also takes comfort in the fact that the blue line is so malleable right now in Montreal. It is not established in any capacity what the blue line will look like in the future. There are many spots waiting to be taken by the defenders who keep elevating their games.

For now, Struble will try to help the Laval Rocket to a playoff spot. They are languishing, naturally, considering half of their lineup plays in the NHL because of injuries to the Montreal regulars.

Next season, everyone starts fresh, proving that they belong on the 2023-24 blue line. It’s going to be fascinating to watch.

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

Sponsored content