The third leg of the Canadiens’ road trip from Montreal to Anaheim didn’t go well. The Ducks are one of the worst teams in the league, if not the worst, but Montreal allowed two goals in the third to lose 3-2.
Jonathan Drouin scored his first goal of the season, and his first since January 2022. It was a 15-month wait for Drouin.
A Mike Matheson shot went through John Gibson and trailed into the crease behind him for Drouin to just tap it home. After 18 assists, Drouin scored a goal. A huge smile appeared on his face and he shook his arms in delight.
His teammates were also happy for him. Smiles on the ice and all along the bench. It’s a close-knit group that you don’t often see on a losing team, but head coach Martin St. Louis makes them care about each other. He also has veterans on the final year of their contracts who are also looking after, and that too is a challenge.
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Nick Suzuki added a late score with the goalie fired to make it 3-2. Suzuki with a career-high 61 points is now on pace to 65 points with his 21st goal of the season.
This is the year of shoulder injuries for Canadians. Cole Caufield, Arber Xhekaj and Justin Barron have all suffered shoulder injuries this season. Caufield and Xhekaj required surgery and are out for the season.
Barron, who recently suffered a shoulder injury, could also be out for a while. Add to the list Kaiden Guhle who injured his shoulder in the first period on a strike from Maxime Comtois. Guhle immediately grabbed her shoulder and stared in considerable pain.
Guhle continued in the second half, but his movement was limited due to the injury. In the third period, it looked like Guhle was doing well, but let’s see what Saturday brings when the adrenaline stops. It could be the fourth shoulder problem in less than two months. It’s unusual, but this season it feels like everyone is getting injured, so maybe that’s not unusual at all.
The call of the wild!
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It was a disappointing delay day for the Montreal Canadiens. Granted, there were many mitigating factors and no attempt to establish any blame here, but there’s no denying that it was a disappointing day.
Several teams have improved their chances of success in the future, but the Canadians have failed to do so. This is the cold hard truth of the matter. The goal is to become a stronger roster by managing older assets to get better younger assets when the Canadiens are ready to compete for a playoff spot.
It just didn’t happen.
Sean Monahan got off to a great start for the Canadiens. We were hoping he could go for a high draft pick, maybe even a first, but he hurt his foot and then suffered a different injury while rehabbing his foot. The word now is that Monahan is unlikely to play this season.
Joel Edmundson was also on the trading block for Montreal. It was hoped he could also go for a high draft pick, but he was injured day-to-day for 35 days, missing 11 games. He finally returned to the lineup on Thursday night, but the contenders weren’t confident enough that he could compete effectively in a long playoff series. Edmundson also remained with the team.
Josh Anderson was also on the block, but he too didn’t get a return that suited general manager Kent Hughes. Hughes is said to have turned down a first-round pick believing Anderson was worth more than that.
Anderson’s history remains very much intact with his contract remaining for many years. Anderson turns 29 next season and Hughes is counting on Anderson continuing to serve the team well. The goal is always to trade an aging veteran for a rebuild to the best run the player can be on.
Anderson has 18 goals this season. It’s a solid first 60 games for him. He really can’t do much better than that, so it’s hard to imagine Anderson will be worth more than he was worth on March 3. We will see.
Although Monahan’s trade history is over, given that his contract is up, Edmundson’s trade history still has a year left on his contract, so maybe the GM can still salvage some value eventually.
Overall, Hughes has indicated he’s eager to earn a third first-round draft pick this summer. At this stage, this objective has not been achieved. However, time is still running out and hope remains on Anderson at least.
The goal is to recruit the best players because they are the ones who win the Stanley Cup. The best players are at the top of the draft. The statistics are crystal clear on this. 50% of league stars are chosen from the top five, then 20% from the top six to ten.
Having stars doesn’t necessarily mean a team will win the cup, but having no stars means you won’t win the cup. For the past 30 years, only the St. Louis Blues have won the cup without a star host. Get stars or hope your team can be an exception out of 30. Those are the choices.
The objective in sport must be to acquire the best players. Without Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Hedman, Kucherov, Stamkos, Kane, Toews, Seabrook or Keith, he’s back in the middle of the standings when this rebuild is complete.
Life in the Middle is the movie Habs hockey fans have been watching since 1993. It’s the hard truth.
Hughes talks about building lasting success when this rebuild is complete. There are plenty of solid pieces in place and plenty of other good prospects ahead for many good nights at the Bell Centre. However, the Canadians are going to need an Ovechkin and a Backstrom for a save.
That’s the simple math of the matter. Greatness wins championships. It is as it should be. What kind of sport would it be if the fair-mid won the titles while the most talented players watched everything from the couch?
There is work to do. Montreal still has to find its Makar and its MacKinnon before millions of people can celebrate on Sainte-Catherine Street.
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