Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens fall to the Minnesota Wild in 4-1 road loss – Montreal
There have been two wins in two starts on the Montreal Canadiens road trip. Even more shocking is 10 goals in those two games in Buffalo and St. Louis.
Game three was in Minnesota as the Canadiens looked to continue their move up the standings.
However, the Wild were able to slow Montreal down with a 4-1 win.
Christian Dvorak is one of the hardest players on the Canadiens to get a good read on. There are times when he is simply invisible and does not seem to possess a lot of offensive skill. There are other times that he looks like an outstanding hockey player.
On Saturday night, Dvorak scored his first NHL hat trick counting the final goal into an empty net. For such a historic moment for a player, you would think he would have celebrated excitedly. He barely lifted his arms.
Maybe that is one of the reasons that it is hard to read him. You must remind yourself that a player’s enthusiasm and work ethic is not measured in how much he smiles about his achievements.
On Tuesday, Dvorak continued to turn his season around. In the first period, he made an absolutely sublime pass from the corner to Brendan Gallagher. It was a sensational pass, and it looked like a tap-in, but Marc Andre Fleury made an outstanding save.
Dvorak might be a 2C. He might be a 3C. He might be on another team soon. Who knows with this player? He’s an enigma.
It’s a good thing that the brass of the Canadiens Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes don’t have to make a decision on Dvorak until the trading deadline. They’re going to need every minute to figure out how good he can actually be.
Cole Caufield has seven goals in 10 games this season. There is no reason to think that his pace is going to slow down drastically. A 40-goal season is a possibility. The reason he should maintain a strong pace is how often he shoots.
Caufield averaged eight shots per game in his second season at Wisconsin when he won the Hobey Baker award as the nation’s top college player. That’s an unheard of shot total and it had no chance of continuing at the NHL level.
Just the math alone at eight shots per game with a conservative 10-per cent shot success rate would mean about 66 goals during the season. It may sound simple, but if you’re shooting, then you’re scoring. Obviously, a defender’s shot success rate is much lower considering where they are shooting from.
In the first period against Minnesota, Caufield had five of the 15 shots that the Canadiens fired. He finished with eight shots in the contest. It means he is around the net all of the time, and finding opportunities all of the time. When you shoot like Caufield, opportunity eventually equals goals.
Caufield is turning into a force at creating offence in the NHL. Continue to watch his shot total. On the nights that he doesn’t count a goal, simply check the shot total, and you will know that the goals will come.
Martin St. Louis is an outstanding coach. He has the Canadiens playing with freedom and high intensity. They are achieving at a much higher success rate this season than anyone expected. Last season, he turned around a club that was completely in the doldrums, not enjoying coming to the rink at all.
However, one mystery remains. The Canadiens cannot figure it out year after year on special teams, even though their goal in this one was with the extra man on a nice pass from Kirby Dach to Nick Suzuki.
The power play is 27th in the league at only 11 per cent. Last week, Martin St. Louis spoke about the concept of not just passing it around for a long time, but to make sure that the power play is getting quality shots. The theories sound good. St. Louis, himself, was outstanding on the power play in his own career. Surely, he knows exactly what needs to be done.
That brings us to the true heart of the matter, and it’s manpower. The team needs a quarterback on the power play. They still have not replaced Andrei Markov who would change the angle, find seams, and try the odd back door play to create danger all over the power play. They miss Markov. There’s never been another Markov.
The club needs Lane Hutson to be like Markov. If Hutson can handle the physical challenges in the NHL of being small, then he will be a star. He is what the power play needs.
Hutson will find Caufield. That’s the most important element of the power play for the Montreal Canadiens. Everything revolves around Caufield equalling what he can do 5-on-5 at 5-on-4. That he can score seven without the extra man but none with it has to be solved.
No one is finding Caufield on the left side where, with his shot, he should be sniping at will there. To be successful on the power play, you must have so many weapons that the one clear weapon you have can’t be the only one that the opposition cares about.
If the Canadiens had a hard shot at the point, if they had a net front presence, and most importantly if they had a Lane Hutson to create space, change angles, and thread passes, then Caufield would not be keyed on so significantly.
When Molson Breweries headed by Geoff Molson purchased the Montreal Canadiens and the Bell Centre for $575 million in 2009, it seemed like a steep price to pay. However, it sure is working out as an investment in 13 years.
Sportico released the expected value of NHL franchises at this moment and the Canadiens came in behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers.
The Canadiens franchise has been valued at $1.7 billion. And you thought your vegetables were getting expensive.
The Leafs came in at $2.1 billion and the Rangers at $2.0 billion. The lowest-valued franchise was the Arizona Coyotes at $465 million.
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