In their 25th game of the season, the Montreal Canadiens have yet to win two games in a row.
They had a chance Monday night, but they put in a lousy effort against the Vancouver Canucks. On Thursday, they faced a tough opponent at the Colorado Avalanche.
Colorado was in control, handling the Canadiens 4-1 as this nightmare season continues.
There certainly aren’t many horses in any Canadiens game this season, but if one player is going to stand out, he might as well be the right one in Ben Chiarot. It’s the right one because Chiarot is an unrestricted free agent and will almost certainly be traded before the deadline.
Chiarot is only behind Josh Anderson for the team lead in goals with five. Anderson has seven. Chiarot counted on a point shot in the power play in the second half that went just under the bar.
Chiarot has been the Canadiens’ best defender this season so far. It is said throughout the NHL that Chiarot will seek a first-round draft pick in a trade.
We hope Jeff Gorton doesn’t wait too long to make that deal. If he were injured, it would be a terrible waste of a pickaxe. The logic is that when a team is out of the playoff chase, the free agent trade and aging can begin. Let the negotiation begin.
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Two other players stood out. One was Ryan Poehling. He’s already been dismissed by the impatient as a first-round flop, but the 22-year-old Poehling is starting to really find his game. It wasn’t like Poehling had done anything extraordinary, but he was around the record and caused a stir while making the right decisions many times over.
One of the reasons Trevor Timmins liked Poehling was that he played a smart game downtown. It may be that he will find that center role again, although with his physical strength, the wing would also be appropriate, as long as he continues to play as hard as he is and is around the pu a lot.
The other player who stood out was Alexander Romanov, who was trying to wake up his teammates with a pair of crushing blows. With one hit, he actually took out Cale Makar and his own teammate, Poehling. When Romanov is on the ice, the opposition must pay attention whatever the score. And you will also improve by choosing your moments.
Romanov still makes the mistakes that most sophomores do, but he will be a solid professional. You will discover a number of little things and have a good NHL career. That is one of the reasons to be hopeful for the future.
It’s puzzling why the coaching staff is playing both the veterans and the rookies letting themselves languish. There is no season left. The Canadiens are not making the playoffs. They are not finishing season 42 and 15 to reach 98 points. Everything the Canadiens are preparing for is next season, so please tell the head coach.
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Cole Caufield is fighting. It cannot be denied. A lot was expected for this season, and it just isn’t happening. It’s also not likely to happen when Caufield plays only 10 minutes. Nor is Caufield likely to find his game playing with Mathieu Perreault and Michael Pezzetta.
If Jeff Gorton can’t convince Dominique Ducharme to play more against Caufield and with front-line teammates in preparation for the future, then Caufield should move on to Laval. At least there, you can play 20 minutes, do some power, and be on the ice late in the game, as well as other big moments. That way you can improve.
This is a perfect example of what the critics are talking about when they detail the horrible development of the Habs players over the years.
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There is really only one scenario to ruin a player, and that is not playing with him much or putting him on the fourth line, or in the wrong league. Usually when you give a talented player a chance, they will solve it. It’s especially ridiculous when one of the worst teams in the league has nothing to play for other than player development.
Continuing the theme of poor training, the Canadiens had two power plays in the first period and didn’t even get a single shot. On the third power play, they didn’t get a shot either, but the Avs did as they scored with an understaffing. Of course, execution is up to the players, but one area of the game that coaches can dictate because it has more structure than other aspects of the game is the special teams.
The Canadiens rank 31st in the league in power play with only the New York Islanders worse. They rank 31st on the death penalty with only the worst Vancouver Canucks. One can understand that the power play is not surprising. It’s often about talent. The Edmonton Oilers are the best at 36 percent. Canadians are 12 percent. However, the death penalty has to do with structure and work ethic. Habs should be better; not just 68 percent this season. An abysmal brand. Last season, Canadians were 79 percent. In the playoffs, they were 92 percent.
The Canadiens were left without two players who had to go through COVID-19 protocols on Thursday. Brendan Gallagher and Sami Niku cannot play again until they present two negative tests. The two are expected to miss 10 days of action before they can return. There will be four games on the schedule, if it’s a full 10 days before his return.
Head coach Dominique Ducharme says the two have no symptoms. The club is also stepping up COVID-19 protocols, which means that, in the short term, players will not be allowed to gather outside of the court environment.
COVID-19 has become a problem in the league with the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders outbreaks so widespread that games had to be canceled. There have been many breakthrough cases in North America with the efficacy of vaccines declining at six months. One wonders if the league will soon encourage booster shots to combat the difficulties.
If the cases start to become a big problem in the league, there is a good chance that the players’ participation in the Beijing Winter Olympics will be canceled.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after every Canadiens game.
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