The Montréal Canadiens had some rare competition on Monday night at the Bell Center as they played out their schedule over the last 18 nights.
The Canadiens faced the club they beat in four straight games in the second round of the playoffs last season. However, as things have changed, both clubs are likely to be out this year.
The Winnipeg Jets still have little hope of making the playoffs, so they are still giving it their all, leading them to a 4-2 win.
Last September, if you thought that the goalkeeper with the most appearances for the Canadiens this season was going to be Samuel Montembeault, you would not have believed it. However, it seems that this is how it will end after another injury to Jake Allen.
It doesn’t look like Allen will be back anytime soon. Right now, he’s just one ahead of Montembeault in total games played at 35-34. Carey Price can get a couple this season. Cayden Primeau may also have a pair.
However, it looks like Montembeault will get the majority of the remaining games, and that means he will have played the most on April 29.
Montembeault has had some stellar games. Allen’s save percentage is .905, and Montembeault’s is not far behind at .896. They’re also not the kind of numbers that carry a team to a playoff spot in today’s NHL. Generally speaking, .915 to .920 is the required number, and if there’s any kind of recovery for this organization, that’s what they’ll need next year from whoever takes the net.
This was one of Montembeault’s best games as he held off the desperate Jets in the first period. He made some impressive saves in the second, before succumbing in the third.
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When a team finishes 31st out of 32 teams in the league, there are clearly some gaps. The biggest holes this season start with the goal, with the team not even hitting .900 for the year. That’s actually the biggest hole of the season. Playoff spots cannot be earned at .900.
The second-biggest hole of the year is special teams, with the Canadiens having been worst or second-worst all season on the power play and penalties. Right now, the kill is 28 and the extra man is 31. That has to change. There is enough talent not to be at the bottom of the power play, and there is no reason for the club to be so passive when killing penalties.
The next hole to fill is a few defenders who move pucks all season at the blue line. That help is on the way and it is happening now. Jordan Harris looks strong. Justin Barron is off to a good start in his career. Alexander Romanov is getting better. Kaiden Guhle is coming next season and should get the club out of camp. Sure, they’ll make rookie mistakes next year, but this blue line can turn into a good one.
The final hole is not much talked about, but it matters.
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The club has to have a second top six in the central position. Nick Suzuki is one. He has been scoring at a points per game rate since the arrival of Martin St. Louis with 28 points in 28 games. However, they need Christian Dvorak to be the player he was in the juniors when he was a scoring star.
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The entry into the zone and the movement he made heading into the Jets’ zone on Montreal’s first goal was outstanding. He led Joel Armia to score on the rebound off an excellent shot from Dvorak. Dvorak must play better. He’s good in matchups, and that helps, but he needs to find a way to look more like Phillip Danualt if he can’t be more offensive.
Dvorak has struggled to win half the ice against other centers he faces. He has chased the game often. That has to change. Dvorak shows some moments and had some strong games, but he is not consistent enough. If Dvorak can be one of the top six at center, that would be huge for the team’s fortunes.
You can see the holes. You can see how they can be filled. It doesn’t look like Mount Everest. This is a mountain that the organization can climb.
Here’s the plan for next season’s playoff spot: .920 shooting, special teams in the middle of the pack, a more mobile defense emerges and a second top six that can hold its own against better centers.
They get that and they can be in the top 16. They don’t and they’re destined to be 24th.
Certainly, I am not going to tell you that a loss is like a goat. It’s exactly what the NHL draft pick ordered.
Montreal remains in 31st place and has passed another game.
If you thought things were tenuous in the NHL in the last two years due to COVID-19, the cord was completely severed in the American Hockey League. The league was unable to have a Calder Cup competition in 2021 due to difficulties with the virus.
It was a shame for Laval Rocket, who were one of the best teams in the league in the abbreviated regular season that simply concluded without any fan fees.
This year, the playoffs will return, as will the Rocket’s win totals. The club will reach the playoffs barring absolute collapse. In fact, a second place can be expected, if the current form is maintained.
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The playoffs should be exciting as The Rock has strengthened his lineup. Emil Heineman and Lucas Condotta are eligible to play in the AHL postseason after recently signing with the organization.
The club will also enter the playoffs bolstered by NHL players, as the likes of Corey Scheuneman and Jesse Ylonen will return to the minor league team after their NHL duties have concluded.
It could be a fun ride for the Rockets, who have a fantastic setting to watch a game with outstanding sightlines and atmosphere.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sportswriter, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after every Canadiens game.
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