The New York Islanders were at the Bell Centre on a night Patrick Roy returned as head coach of the visitors. Roy received a huge ovation before the contest. It was excellent to see, considering Montreal wouldn’t have won two Stanley Cups without Roy’s outstanding goaltending.
After the ovation, it was time for hockey. The Montreal Canadiens were comfortable until a brutal major penalty to Brendan Gallagher allowed the Islanders back into the game.
The Canadiens fought back for a 4-3 win.
After some quite sluggish hockey recently, the Canadiens finally had their legs back for the Islanders visit. Montreal was all over New York in the first period. The Canadiens built a three-goal lead only 12 minutes in.
They scored some beauties. The opening tally was on the power play where all five players on the ice connected passes before Nick Suzuki finished it for his 13th of the year. Juraj Slafkovsky made a terrific pass to the front of the net for Suzuki’s tap-in.
Right after, an even prettier goal. Suzuki stole the puck from the Isles inside their own zone on a 4-on-4. He fed Cole Caufield who made an outstanding move for his 17th goal of the season.
Less than a minute later, it was Mike Matheson charging down the ice on the power play. He took it down the right side and fed it back to the middle for Sean Monahan to get his second point of the period. Patrick Roy had to call a time-out. It was all Montreal.
Monahan made it a three-point night when he scored the game winner with two minutes left in regulation time. It was beautiful passing from Caufield to Josh Anderson to Monahan for 13 on the season.
After the outstanding first period, the Islanders took over in the second. They outshot Montreal 17-9. The analytics were ugly for the line of Suzuki with Caufield and Josh Anderson. They had only a two-per cent share in Goals Expected after 40 minutes. Monahan had a 93-per cent share with Joel Armia and Slafkovsky.
Time and time again, Anderson is tried with the top forwards on the club, and it just does not seem as if it works with the three together. Monahan is going to make the club that trades for him happy as he always plays solid, and lifts the wingers that accompany him.
The positive result was attained thanks to Samuel Montembeault who, once again, stole a game. The Canadiens deserved all the good fortune they got in the first, but the final 40 was preserved thanks to a goalie who doesn’t gain a lot of respect, but deserves it with almost all quality starts. Montembeault has 44 saves on 47 shots.
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Late in the contest, there was an unfortunate and ugly incident involving Adam Pelech. He was skating through the neutral zone when Brendan Gallagher put a shoulder into his head during a fly-by. Pelech fell to the ice and was clearly concussed. He could not get his bearings, and his eyes were glassy. He was lost. Deservedly so, Gallagher was given a five-minute major and a match penalty. Gallagher should expect a suspension.
There’s no place for hits to the head, and that includes those also dangerous ones where the Department of Player Safety tries to parse language around ‘principal point of contact’. It’s all got to be taken out of the league whether it starts at the chest and finishes at the head, or starts at the head.
Proper rebuilds take time. They take a lot of time.
The Canadiens are only in year three of their rebuild, and so far, it is going well. They have a general manager who knows how to build a roster, and has a patient mindset. They have a head coach who is respected by his players, and has a vision of how the game needs to be played that is forward-thinking.
If anything is not going well in the rebuild, it is that Montreal has been too successful. If they could have finished bottom three last season, they could have had one of the three can’t miss offensive prospects. This season, they have the same issue as they’re not in the mix at the bottom of the standings again.
If Montreal finishes fifth- to seventh-worst this April, they reduce their odds of winning the lottery. They then again run the risk of missing one of the best offensive prospects. The more they miss the best offensive prospects, the longer they remain near the bottom of the standings, but not bottom enough.
Fans are impatient for results this week. They are already pointing fingers at a head coach who is working with only two top-ranked forwards, and even those two forwards are not in the realm of Nathan MacKinnon. As far as the defence, they need experience to become better at their craft. The Canadiens are not there yet, but the head coach is teaching them the right way.
If Martin St. Louis was not doing an amazing job with this talent level, the Canadiens would be in the same spot in the standings as the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks actually have more young talent than Montreal, but they’re set to draft third. St. Louis is doing very well with this roster.
People need to pick a lane. Losing all the time to get a high draft pick, but also looking exciting with the prospects shining every game is actually not a possible lane to take. It doesn’t exist. You can’t look awesome every game, yet lose enough.
There are going to be ugly losses, and ugly weeks, too. Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, and Juraj Slafkovsky can’t each get two points each night while the young defence also looks good, but the team loses. The needle you want to thread does not exist.
Proper rebuilds take at least five years. If you want another lousy one, boo and complain to your heart’s content, because all that is going to do is tell owner Geoff Molson to hurry this thing up, so Montreal can move right back into the middle of the standings — again.
Let David Reinbacher, Logan Mailloux, Lane Hutson, Owen Beck, Filip Mesar, and Joshua Roy arrive. After that, let them learn how to play the NHL game properly under an intelligent head coach. Allow the GM to make some trades to balance the roster. Allow the scouting staff to make a high draft pick in the first round this year with two more first rounders next year.
A rebuild takes five years to get the players needed, then it takes three years for those players to hit their primes. In no world, does a team in a rebuild get all the players they need in three years, and they immediately enter the league playing the best hockey of their careers. They need to arrive, and then they need to grow their games.
Patience is required for a rebuild that is successful. Be the voice of reason, so the organization feels they will be given the time to do this correctly.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after each Canadiens game.