Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens edged by Chicago Blackhawks in 3-2 overtime nailbiter – Montreal


The Montreal Canadiens have gone from 12 days off to two games in two nights. The Canadiens were in Chicago Thursday night to face a Blackhawks team playing better than they did at the start of the season.

Montreal, with the worst record in the entire league, is just happy at this point to ice a full line-up as 24 players, one-by-one, continue to recover from COVID-19.

The Hawks beat the Canadiens in overtime 3-2.

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It’s hard to believe, but it was the moment that Jeff Petry had waited for since the first of May. Petry finally scored a goal.

It was his first in 54 games. No one knows what happened to Petry since last season’s playoffs, but a different player has been in a Canadiens uniform than the one that garnered all-star attention last season when he was one of the best defenders in the league.

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Petry pushed in from his right point position to catch a rebound from about 20 feet out to rip a shot into the top corner past Marc Andre Fleury. After a horrific first period, the Canadiens were tied at one.

They then took over the momentum thanks to a terrific hit by Alexander Romanov. It was perfectly clean. He drilled Sam Lafferty with his shoulder. There was no contact whatsoever with the head. Romanov’s shoulder didn’t even ride up into the face or head of Lafferty. It couldn’t have been cleaner.

However, in this dopey league that is the NHL, Romanov suddenly gets jumped by Ryan Carpenter. Now it would be right to single out Carpenter here as a complete bonehead for giving the Canadiens the power play and also taking a misconduct. However, Carpenter is like everyone in the league. It’s a league-wide practice to jump a player for a clean hit. This is so stupid.

The Canadiens put a ribbon on the Carpenter stupidity with a power play goal. It was Cole Caufield grabbing an assist on the wicked shot by Mike Hoffman upstairs for his first goal in 13 games.

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In the third period, the Canadiens played well again as only the first was a mess in this one. They forced overtime with a strong kill in the final three minutes. Artturi Lehkonen worked hard. Nick Suzuki showed he is worthy of his all-star nod. Ryan Poehling went to the front of the net like he has to do be successful. Alexander Romanov is going to be a valuable regular for many years in the league. There were some positives.

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However, the Canadiens did lose in the extra five minutes when the puck went in after the goal was off its moorings. That’s the rule. You don’t see it often, but for Montreal it has been that kind of season.

Still, it was a good effort by the Canadiens.

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The number one defensive pair of the Canadiens is David Savard and Ben Chiarot — at least, one assumes that’s the number one pair. It’s hard to tell.

Early first period, the Canadiens looked in control on a shift, until Jonathan Toews at his own blue line looked up. What he saw was a sea parted so wide at the Canadiens blue line it appeared Savard and Chiarot had been getting directions from Moses. Toews made a smooth pass to Dominik Kubalik. He scored on a clear breakaway on Sam Montembeault.

And off we went for another edition of Montreal plays catch-up hockey.

The Canadiens had a rough first period just not ready from the opening whistle again. Montreal didn’t get its first shot on goal until 14:30 had elapsed in the contest. It was a 55 footer from the blue line.

The Canadiens finished the first period with only two shots. That included a power play that they didn’t get a shot on to make it 25 straight power plays without a goal in the last 10 games.

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It’s hard to know what the point is right now for the Canadiens, organizationally. It has to be to give the kids some ice time who are expected to be NHL players next season. However, Cole Caufield and Ryan Poehling had four minutes of ice in the first period. That was lowest among forwards on the team.

Laurent Dauphin, who won’t be in the NHL next season, was tied for top spot with Nick Suzuki with six minutes. It’s a small sample size, but it’s completely without logic.

Yes, this season is over from a standings point of view, but you can prepare for next season a little bit.

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It’s been a disappointing season for just about every single Montréal Canadiens player, but the one that sticks out as most disappointing is Cole Caufield. He was the Vegas pick for rookie of the year in the NHL, but he won’t garner a single vote when the voting is all done.

Fans are no doubt discouraged overall, but there are so many mitigating factors, we really have not gotten a true representation of what Caufield can do at the NHL level yet.

It would be perfect if he could go back to Laval to find himself in the league he belongs, but with as many as 24 players in Covid protocols of the 48 contracted in the organization, there is no way a trip to Place Bell can happen. He was needed as a player in Montreal as much as he was needed as a body to put on the sweater.

So we have to let the organization off the hook from a development point of view. He has had to be an NHLer simply due to an impossible numbers game.

Caufield gets a free pass in two ways this season from a production point of view. The first pass he receives is because he is playing on a team that can not score goals. In goals per game this season, the Canadiens are dead last. One cannot expect a rookie to lead the club out of a goal scoring wilderness; rookies don’t do that. More than any other player, a rookie needs some help as he finds his way.

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If the club scores only two goals per game, it’s highly unlikely that the rookie gets one of them. However, the club does have 74 goals this season in 35 games, so he should have some share of them, so what’s going on here?

When Caufield won the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in college hockey, he scored a goal per game. He did that on the back of an unsustainable shooting percentage at any level. He shot 18 per cent in his final year, unheard of at the college level. It is not possible at the NHL level over a full season, so there was an expectation the shooting percentage was, of course, going to go down.

He has a terrific shot, but NHL goalies are far better than college ones. The NHL average of shot percentage is 9. He should, with his shot, at least be able to attain this number. He now has 65 shots in 27 games for only 2.5 shots per game. To show how it has deteriorated for him recently, earlier in the year, he was nearly four shots per game. His play is getting poorer from a shot point of view.

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However, even with 2.5 shots per game, Caufield should be scoring, at least sometimes. Not so fast. Not with a shooting percentage of 1.5. A defenceman from 50 feet like David Savard does 1.5. Not Cole Caufield. If Caufield was shooting at a normal NHL potential which considering the quality of his shot he should attain easily, then Caufield would score a goal every four games.

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He would be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL if he would simply refer to a mean average number. And that’s not a gift to him. He should be better than a mean average number with the accuracy and power of his shot that he has shown at every level.

No one wants to hear a final synopsis of Caufield’s on a team that can’t score, no one with any talent really sets him up with any great looks, and he’s extremely unlucky with nothing going in that he is firing. That sounds like excuses are being made for him, but that’s what is happening here.

That’s the reality. He’s on a low scoring team surrounded by low scoring line mates, and when he does get a shot, it’s gone cold. It all adds up to only one goal this season.

It’s the worst season for the Montréal Canadiens in their history. Might as well have one of your brightest prospects in years suffer ignominy as well.

Hey, it can only get better. It’s nearly impossible to do worse.

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

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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