It’s the house stretch for the Montreal Canadiens, with solely two weeks left within the season. A busy week began with street video games in Buffalo and tomorrow night time in Philadelphia.
The Sabres want each win they’ll get as they’re nonetheless within the hunt for a playoff spot, but their further starvation didn’t translate into a simple night time.
It went to a shootout, with Montreal profitable 4-3 in spherical six.
Whereas there have been extra losses than wins this season, it nonetheless has been gratifying to comply with the Canadiens this season on most nights. The reason being that organizationally it’s thrilling to observe this group learn to play the trendy recreation.
They’ve the final supervisor in Kent Hughes who desires to see the trendy recreation and a head coach in Martin St. Louis who can train it. For therefore many irritating years, the membership acquired stay-at-home defencemen after which espoused the virtues of this pedestrian fashion.
Now, the Canadiens are pressuring the puck all around the ice. Defenders are attacking the offensive zone, together with main the push, as if they’re forwards. There isn’t a first forechecker designated anymore. It’s merely who’s the primary one into the zone to steer the forecheck, then the opposite forwards assume their roles in keeping with the order of their arrival.
The tasks of every participant can change on every assault into the offensive zone. A defenceman may even be the primary forechecker below Martin St. Louis. The aim is assault the puck with pace, and take away time all around the ice and at each alternative.
It’s so partaking to observe these gamers learn to play on this method this season. Half of the group is from Laval, but the system is so superior that these gamers of lesser expertise look, at occasions, like stars taking part in greater than their station.
Take the primary Montreal aim as a robust instance of St. Louis’ ‘fashionable hockey’. Defender Mike Matheson is the primary on the push, so he takes the puck with none worry to the online, then he’s pushed huge and takes it behind the online.
Behind the online? A defender? What decade is that this?
It’s the 2020s and it’s lovely.
Matheson comes out the opposite facet after he’s pushed huge. He dishes the puck off to Jonathan Drouin who appears for an attacker on the opposite facet to finish the play.
He finds there one other defenceman speeding up, and uncovered. The hockey is shifting so rapidly, it’s so tough to defend. Jordan Harris takes the Drouin go and scores on his personal rebound from two ft out. Harris’ test is a Buffalo winger nonetheless on the blue line getting an excellent view of recent hockey from 40 ft away.
The Canadiens opened the scoring with a defender main the push and the opposite defender additionally speeding towards the aim. It’s lovely. All 5 gamers are forwards, and all 5 gamers are defenders. The aim is take time and area away, and are available numbers. At all times are available numbers.
The Canadiens will end the season with the fifth-worst document in hockey. Contemplating Montreal’s accidents this season, usually going with half a group from Laval, they need to have completed within the basement.
In addition they ought to have entertained us about as a lot as Dominique Ducharme entertained us within the first half of the season final yr. It ought to have been a fully dreadful and boring yr.
What we bought as an alternative was leisure most nights watching this band of brothers give us way more. Thank Martin St. Louis. He’s the trendy day coach for the trendy period of hockey.
Mike Matheson isn’t taking part in one of the best hockey of his life in a vacuum. Kirby Dach isn’t having a breakout yr by chance. Denis Gurianov isn’t awake out of the blue simply because. 4 forwards from Laval aren’t wanting like NHLers, all on the similar time, as a result of there’s something within the water. Justin Barron isn’t figuring it out all by himself.
They’re a part of a system that enables them to be their finest selves. Think about what Martin St. Louis can do along with his gamers when the rebuild is full. Think about how he can train a budding celebrity in his midst.
With slightly bit of excellent fortune, this may very well be sensational.
Name of the Wilde!
It’s simply not been the sample this season to lament right here. This season has been about growth — the event of gamers, and the event of recent hockey high down within the group.
There merely is nothing to complain about. That is precisely what was hoped for.
Wilde Playing cards
Logan Mailloux accomplished his common season for the London Knights on Sunday along with his twenty fifth aim of the season. That ultimate aim made Mailloux the very best aim scoring defennceman within the Ontario Hockey League.
Mailloux wasn’t the highest aim scorer per recreation, although, as that honour belongs to Brandt Clarke. Clarke was in a league of his personal this yr, averaging nearly two factors per recreation within the brief time that he performed within the OHL. Mailloux’s season, although, was formidable.
There’s a variety of conjecture how good Mailloux could be with the opinions wide-ranging. Nonetheless, the Canadiens group is just not hesitant in any respect to proclaim him as a particular NHL participant. Francis Bouillon believes that he has all of the instruments to be a robust defender. The group believes that he is without doubt one of the finest prospects, if not one of the best Canadiens prospect not within the NHL.
Mailloux will have to be taught defend higher than he has proven to date, and that’s the place Martin St. Louis is available in. He’s a educating genius, and gamers are saying that they’re studying features of hockey that they’d not even considered earlier than listening to the Canadiens head coach.
For hockey expertise alone, Mailloux has huge quantities. He has a bomb of a slap shot that has been clocked at 102 miles per hour. He additionally has a wickedly correct wrist shot. He skates effectively, and has a nostril for offence. He can rush the puck up the ice on his personal, and he can feed it rapidly up ice as effectively. He might be a robust level producer from the blue line. He’s the trendy defender.
Mailloux can also be a giant participant who is aware of use his dimension to degree huge hits, and win puck battles. Bodily, he’s precisely what’s required from a blue liner. He’s an ominous presence with a imply streak as effectively.
The place he tops out as an NHLer might be about his choice making. If he performs higher defence, it’s straightforward to see him with Mike Matheson on the primary pair. The membership wants proper facet assist, and he could be one of the best proper facet participant on the group, if he develops his mind for the sport.
The membership is skinny on the fitting facet sooner or later. They seemingly have to draft one other proper facet defender that has top-four potential. Justin Barron is his high competitors now, and Mailloux tasks with the next upside at this level. Kaiden Guhle can be transfer to the fitting facet, however that’s sub-optimal for Guhle to be his finest self.
If Mailloux learns solely at a median degree defend, he’ll nonetheless be a second pair defender, and provided that he cannot determine it out in any respect defensively will he be a 3rd pair participant. He might be an NHL defender, although. He’s that good on the offensive facet of the puck.
Mailloux is already signed by the Canadiens and subsequent yr will activate the primary yr of his entry degree contract. He’ll end his time at London within the playoffs beginning this week in Ontario, then within the autumn, he’ll start his try to make the NHL.
Anticipate him to be on the roster on opening night time, if GM Kent Hughes has moved a veteran within the low season. If Joel Edmundson and David Savard are nonetheless on the membership, it’s 50-50 whether or not it’s Montreal or Laval to start out for Mailloux. He may fall sufferer to a numbers recreation till some veterans are moved to make approach for the following technology.
With none adjustments to the roster, 9 defenders will struggle for six spots. It’s going to be fascinating.