The Montreal Canadiens were with the Ottawa Senators as the opposition for a second straight game. The Canadiens won the first one 4-1 with Jake Allen in net as he didn’t have to do much. Carey Price back in the cage for the Saturday night affair back at the Bell Centre trying to make it six points out of six since the forced COVID-19 break, but Montreal with a disappointing performance as they were doubled by the Senators 6-3.
The two young centres have come out of the 11-day break giving Canadiens fans high hopes that the future looks bright. It’s interesting to watch how what Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi both struggle with most is simply the gruelling scheduling – that playing every two nights is their biggest challenge over time. When they are fresh, they are high-quality NHL players, but when they are tired, they just melt into the ice and disappear.
So let’s see how long the pair can keep up their energy this time, because they are going to have to be resilient. The schedule is grueling and will definitely claim some victims. It’s simply a matter of predicting who will lose their legs. It’s easy to predict it will be Suzuki and Kotkaniemi as it has happened before.
Perhaps though, they are continuing their evolution. To see their play on Saturday night, we see excellence. Kotkaniemi particularly was effective. He laid a pass cross-ice to Josh Anderson that was outstanding. It was hard to know how he even saw him so quickly and found Anderson 80 feet away for his first tally on the night.
Nick Suzuki also set up Anderson for a goal in the second period with a smart pass. However, it was the first-period pass from Suzuki to set up the Tyler Toffoli one-timer that was his best moment. Suzuki is a heady player.
Everyone always likes to guess which one is going to be the first-line centre and which one will be the second liner? Here’s the truth on this question: it’s not going to matter. They’ll get opportunities equally. All that matters is they both keep improving and enjoy the ride fully. If they do, we have seen the last days of Montreal not winning the middle to win the game.
The biggest problem for the Canadiens in the coming years will be Shea Weber. Not necessarily with what Weber can bring to the sheet of ice, but management’s reluctance to admit it is less than it once was.
It’s easy to see a future where Weber is still a first-pair defender. It’s easy to see him getting on the first power-play unit. It’s easy to see Weber getting 30 minutes of ice time and playing on the top pair. This isn’t a segment to speak harshly of the game of Weber. It’s a segment to speak harshly of management’s inability to assess their captain.
Most can see that the regression has begun.
If management who just recently spoke of him again as if he were some sort of ‘hockey god’ were to see it as well, everything would be mostly fine. Weber would move to the third pair. He wouldn’t be on the power play. He would take somewhere in the neighbourhood of 14 minutes of ice time.
All of that would be excellent. Weber would be well-rested. His body would thank him. He would skate fast enough and cover the ice well enough.
However, we all know it’s not going to shake down that way. Marc Bergevin is going to see him as the ‘Man Mountain’, and Dominique Ducharme isn’t going to talk to the mighty captain and tell him the bad news that he is not world-class now.
The truth is what should happen no one is ready to hear, but let’s begin the conversation.
Weber should not be on the protected list for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. And that’s not about Weber. It is about making sure that the three defenders who are protected are not Weber. Seattle won’t take Weber at $7.8 million left on his cap hit, and if they won’t take him, then don’t protect him. What a colossal shame it would be if he were protected to not ruffle feathers or hurt feelings.
You need to protect the best players for your future; not the best players of your past. Weber is the past and the faster the Canadiens see that in their managerial decisions and their coaching utilization, the better the club will be long term.
Again, this isn’t to hammer Shea Weber. He was mostly fine in this contest. It is only to say that the changing of the guard is sometimes the hardest thing to successfully accomplish and the better it is done, the better the future looks.
After an excellent month of March, the first one of April was abysmal for Carey Price. He allowed five goals on 31 shots. The last month allows him some breathing room for this one. Same situation for Jeff Petry, who is likely to get some Norris Trophy consideration as best defenceman, but surely not for this one as he was on the ice for just short of all of them against.
Some games are odd. It’s easy to see it right from the get-go that the better players don’t have the excitement in them to be the better players. Montreal’s a better team than Ottawa. No one will argue this, but if you are not ready to bring passion to the rink and your best effort, you’ll lose.
This was the easy week with just three games. Next week, the real gruelling schedule begins with four games, starting with Edmonton Monday, who will be hungry to be far better than the last time the two clubs met.
One of the top prospects for the Canadiens in the last couple of years has had many people sour on him because of difficulty jumping right into the NHL. It is a longer journey for some with American Hockey League time, but just because you have not succeeded by 21 or 22, it does not mean that you will not succeed.
Ryan Poehling is playing his best hockey as a pro right now for the Laval Rocket. It seems as if he is understanding now that he must drive to the net hard to find success. He has a big frame, and he can use that frame with his strong skating, to create havoc.
Poehling is the second-leading scorer on the Laval Rocket with seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 21 games. He is a point per game in the last dozen after a slow start.
The timing for Poehling could be good overall to crack the line-up next season. There are three unrestricted free agent forwards that could either be or not be back next year. Joel Armia, Tomas Tatar, and Philip Danault all have uncertain status. Depending on who does not return, there are openings for Poehling via the UFA not signing.
He also could take a spot that opens up if Marc Bergevin needs to reduce his payroll next season on the fourth line to accommodate for more spending on the top lines. Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen could be victims of needing to clear out some salary for cheaper options. Poehling would be that option.
It would take a terrific crystal ball to know what the roster will look like next year, but for the first time, one can see the door opening for Poehling to walk through it.
Call of the Wilde!
Call of the Wilde!
Game highlights from the Habs match up against the Edmonton Oilers
Game highlights from the Habs match up against the Ottawa Senators
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has made some changes behind the bench
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