Call of the Wilde: Colorado Avalanche rout the Montreal Canadiens, coast to 8-4 win – Montreal | Canadian

The Montreal Canadiens competed well, but the final result of their four-game home stand was only two overtime points.

The Colorado Avalanche, meanwhile, played like the Stanley Cup champions they are on Monday night, coasting to an 8-4 win.

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Josh Anderson continues to write an outstanding story this year for the Canadiens, while driving up his trade value for his general manager, Kent Hughes.

For only the second time in Anderson’s career, he has his the 20-goal mark. Anderson, with a deflection on a point shot, put the Canadiens on the board late in the first period. Anderson’s career high is 27 goals.

Anderson also hit two goal posts on the night, and was a wrecking ball of pace and power. He also made a terrific back pass in the high slot to Mike Matheson to give him a clean look that he capitalized on with a powerful shot into the top corner.

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Anderson is a much smarter player this year than at any time in his career. He is finding open space better than he ever has. Many times in previous seasons, Anderson would charge the net as if it were his only option on every rush.

Read more:

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Anderson now looks for opportunities all over the ice, using his teammates well. He also is learning how to float around the offensive zone to find dead space. He is a valuable member of the Canadiens, and if not for the fact that he is 28, he would be a mainstay for Montreal when the rebuild is done.

As it is, he may fetch a first-round draft pick and then some this summer for Montreal. Every goal will help to make Hughes decision on Anderson a little clearer.

Hughes took a gamble not trading him at the deadline. So far, the gamble looks like a smart one as Anderson has never looked better.

Click to play video: 'Pointe-Claire’s Mike Matheson honoured with Molson Cup'

Pointe-Claire’s Mike Matheson honoured with Molson Cup

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As much as the Canadiens are prepared to be engaged in the fight, every now and then, there is just too much talent on the other bench.

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It’s worth talking about what the Avalanche have versus what the Canadiens are trying to build. Certainly, the scoring talent is obvious, so let’s leap over that and get right to the true giant hole for a decade in the Canadiens’ roster-building landscape.

General Manager Marc Bergevin loved one type of defender through his years at the helm. Basically, he built a team in his own image. The history speaks for itself. Free agent signings like Karl Alzner, Joel Edmundson, and David Savard are all stay-at-home defencemen.

He also didn’t seem to have a lot of respect for the puck-moving defender over the years. PK Subban was dealt out of town and replaced with one of the best in hockey Shea Weber — a stay-at-home type though, again.

He also thought Andrei Markov was not worth the money that he sought, even uttering the sentence that summer, “If you want loyalty, get a dog.” Bergevin didn’t favour that type of defender. He showed it time and time again.

Enter the present owners of the Stanley Cup, the Colorado Avalanche. They showed the value of total defence in last year’s playoffs.

Cale Makar is the best blue-liner in hockey, and if you had to build a roster around one player, it might just be this one who can give you 30 minutes per night. Makar doesn’t just make sure that the Avs defend well. He makes sure that the Avs aren’t defending at all.

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The Avs also have Devon Toews who has historically always had an outstanding shot share. He is a carbon copy of Makar in style with less overall talent.

Add Bowen Byram who scored the second goal of the game for Colorado when he skated around the ‘Bergevin types’ straight to the net, then made a world-class move to beat Jake Allen.

Read more:

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This type of defender has been so sorely lacking for over a decade in Montreal. When they had Subban and Markov at the same time, it wasn’t just successful hockey, it was exciting hockey.

The seeds of future excitement are being planted now in Montreal. Already arrived is smooth-skating Mike Matheson. It’s easy to see the value he brings with his gorgeous rushes up ice, and ability to weave his way through traffic in the offensive zone.

In the future, the Canadiens will grow more with Logan Mailloux who has a massive shot and plays an exciting offensive game. Two years from now, Lane Hutson will arrive. Hutson is the first defender to ever win the scoring title in Hockey East in NCAA. He accomplished this as a freshman for Boston University.

Also, add the acquisition of Justin Barron who can bring the offence as well when he continues to develop his game.

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It’s easy to see why the Avs are tremendous with that blue line corps. It’s also easy to see that the new general manager, Kent Hughes, wants a version of that blue line, too.

It’s coming. A new philosophy is coming. The problem with the stay-at-home defenceman is actually written right in the title. If you spend all your time staying at home defending, you’re not in the other end scoring goals.

The modern game is push the puck up ice with defenders who define their talent by winning pucks in their own zone, then ensuring that is it for the action there.

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While the Canadiens are showing an outstanding attitude with a lot of fight in their game, the ‘strength of schedule’ against them is finally leading to some difficulty.

Montreal has had the most difficult strength of schedule against them since the all-star break, but they have been able to play .500 hockey through it.

March, though, has been difficult with nothing but strong teams for Montreal on the docket. In fact, through March all the way to the end of the season in mid-April, Montreal was scheduled to play only two clubs with sub-.500 records.

Only the Blue Jackets and Flyers offer any reprieve for Montreal. The Canadiens still have two against the Lightning, two against the Bruins, two against the Panthers, one against the Hurricanes, and one against the Maple Leafs.

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The likelihood that the Canadiens draft in the top five has increased greatly in the last two weeks. Not only because of Montreal’s difficult opposition, but clubs near them in the standings mostly have easy opposition.

The Vancouver Canucks have recently passed Montreal in the overall standings. They have the fourth easiest schedule in the final month. The Arizona Coyotes moved ahead of Montreal on the weekend. They have the eighth easiest schedule.

The next team for Montreal to pass to get the fourth overall spot in the standings is Anaheim. They have the seventh easiest schedule. Philadelphia has the 12th easiest schedule as well, which is vital, considering they are playing with an epic lack of interest at the moment.

What is also beneficial for Montreal is how often these weak western clubs are playing each other in the final month. Arizona has one against Chicago, San Jose, and Anaheim, and two against Vancouver. Anaheim has two against Vancouver, and one against San Jose and Chicago.

When all of these teams face each other, someone has to win. That’s a guaranteed two points when logically this season both would lose.

There’s a lot of information being thrown out here, but it all adds up to favour the Canadiens lottery odds when the draw is made in the first week of the NHL playoffs.

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They still have to play the games, of course, but if they play them according to standing, there’s a much better chance for Connor Bedard now than there was two weeks ago.

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

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