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Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens fall 4-3 in shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes

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The Montreal Canadiens finally returned home, but had to face the Carolina Hurricanes right away as the schedule gave Montreal no respite.

Montreal has the most difficult strength of schedule in the NHL in the last quarter of the season, but they’re fine with it. The Canadiens took the top-ranked Hurricanes to overtime before falling 4-3 in a shootout.

Wilde Horses 

It’s enjoyable to figure out the Canadiens these days. They have about a dozen players from the Montreal roster replaced by players from the Laval roster, yet these Rocket players are so hungry and energetic, they’re actually adding to the club many nights; instead of causing a talent vacuum.

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On the first tally, it was Michael Pezzetta with a gorgeous pass to Alex Belzile who finished it for his third NHL goal. Chris Tierney got the other assist as the all-AHL trio scored on the mighty Hurricanes. Their goal celebration said everything about what energy and excitement means in comparison to talent. It’s the great leveller of the playing field.

Second period, they hooked up again. It was Tierney this time with the gorgeous pass to a streaking Pezzetta. He fought off his check to count from one foot out. Amazing outcomes for the fourth line on the team playing like they’re the top line.

Knowing that there are many prospects coming, and the ability of the Laval players to compete, it’s a serious question to ask how many of the aging underachieving NHL regulars are actually required in Montreal next season.

Perhaps it is time for the prospects waiting in the wings next season to get ice time, and if players like Roy, Beck, Kidney, and Mesar are injured, the Laval players can step in for them. Perhaps it is time to forget what veteran has a big contract for a lot of seasons, and award the jobs entirely on merit instead of money in.

It might be surprising who actually wins the work in 2023-24 on merit alone. Take the numbers off everyone’s jersey in September and decide it without dollar signs.  That would be a revealing exercise.

Some veterans, it is expected, will be gone next season, like Jonathan Drouin. It is worth wondering though whether Drouin might be interested in a one year contract in Montreal where he can continue to find his better game as he has in the last half of the season.

Drouin has moved to the middle with all of the injuries. He is more implicated in the play at centre, and is a better version of himself. It’s hard to believe with all the negative copy written about him, but Drouin is actually third on the team in assists this season.  He’s one of the best on the team.

Drouin pulled off a sublime assist as the Canadiens made it 2-0 against the Hurricanes. He pushed toward goal, then got to the crease, where he brought the goalie with him to the other side of the net, but he deftly left the puck behind.

That’s where Mike Hoffman showed up to tap it home with absolutely no one with knowledge of where the puck was, except him. Antti Raanta was tracking Drouin. The defender was tracking Drouin.  Drouin was playing some chess on the way to the other side. Hoffman with an easy one.

Bizarre these days how much the Canadiens are competing with this roster. It is true they are not winning many, but they are also not getting ripped with a lineup that no one would blame them if they were losing badly.

It’s all guts until the end of the season for this group. Credit to them. Credit to the head coach.

Wilde Goats 

Criticize this band of plucky overachievers? No, Sir. No, Ma’am.

Wilde Cards

It’s fascinating to see the predictions change for the amateur draft throughout the hockey year. Everyone always feels as if there is a set order to it in February, but by June it has changed significantly. It happens every single year.

Last season, the moves were so drastic that they even hit the top of the draft as Shane Wright lost his standing to Juraj Slafkovsky. In fact, Wright fell all the way to four taken by the Seattle Kraken while Slafkovsky rose from underdog to number one.

This season, surely, the top of the draft stays the same with Connor Bedard having one of the best junior seasons in history, and Adam Fantilli having one of the best college draft seasons in history. They are set at one and two, but after that, all bets are off.

The spot where the Canadiens are likely to draft is changing rapidly as March begins. It was thought that the Canadiens would choose Zach Benson at five overall, if they had the opportunity.

However, it has become apparent that the list is changing. Benson is falling out of the top 10 simply because he is a small player, even though he is putting up impressive point totals.

The head scout for the Canadiens, Nick Bobrov, favours bigger players, so if fans are expecting that Benson will be the Canadiens’ choice, they are going to be disappointed. However, it’s not just Bobrov dropping Benson down the list. It’s a growing sentiment.

It is vital to reiterate here that it is only March and the list will change many times until draft day. It will especially be altered according to who shines or does not shine at the U18 tournament in April. There can be a player who is excelling now but does not do well against his peers at the U18, and his expected spot could change massively.

Right now, there are players who are leaping up the charts considering how they are handling their season. One such player is David Reinbacher who was moved to number seven overall by The Athletic. Reinbacher is a right-handed defenceman who will be coveted by the Canadiens.

Montreal has a lot of volume on the blue line with about seven young players set to fight for jobs, but they are short on the right side a first pair defender. Reinbacher could be that blue liner. He is moving up many lists. Reinbacher with Mike Matheson allows Kaiden Guhle to be a top-four on his preferred left side. That would make the Canadiens a much stronger team.

Will Smith is another player that has been speculated at number five or six to put him right in Canadiens territory. On this player, it could be interesting how the discussions go within the organization. General Manager Kent Hughes has coached Smith at the Boston Junior Eagles, so he knows him well.

Montreal has two picks likely in the top 15, and so much can happen between now and June, but if Smith puts up a big number at the U18s, he would be a favourite in that spot. Watch closely to see who excels at the U18s.

There are many forwards who have amazing talent in this draft. The Canadiens are going to get an outstanding one. If you want to speculate who that might be, guess someone bigger over someone smaller. They are not going to take Andrew Cristall, for example, who is on many top-10 lists.

What is important is to remember that it is March. Reinbacher wasn’t even in the top-20 that long ago, but he was so strong at the World Juniors and has been so solid in the top men’s league in Switzerland that he has moved up the charts. That Swiss league is very competitive. That’s where Auston Matthews played his draft year and it worked out extremely well for the Maple Leafs.

Defencemen always move up the charts late. Jake Sanderson is a perfect example. He was barely known in November and he moved to top-five overall.

Looking historically at the draft, one of the most important factors is to be continuing an upward progression as the year continues. Be a Seth Jarvis or a Moritz Seider. Don’t be a Filip Zadina or Angelo Esposito. The trajectory is vital. Be a Reinbacher.

It’s a long process. It changes often and it changes rapidly. The best news for Canadiens fans is this draft year is incredibly strong, and the Canadiens have two opportunities in the top-15. They’ll get two top-end hockey players whoever they favour.

They may even win the lottery and get Connor Bedard. However it shakes down, the Canadiens are about to get a lot stronger with two elite players coming into the organization whoever they take and wherever they pick.

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Hab posts video showing frustration with punishment for Bruin – CTV News Montreal

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Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Hoffman took to social media Friday to vent his frustration with a decision by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

“So I’ve gotten a two-game suspension for cross-checking a guy in the back of the helmet. A full-blown intentional cross-check to the face? One game. Hmm,” a bloody-chinned Hoffman says in a video shared online.

Hoffman is referring to the one-game suspension given to Boston Bruins winger A.J. Greer, who cross-checked Hoffman in the face during the first period of the Bruins-Canadiens game Thursday night.

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The incident occurred after the players slashed each other’s sticks leading up to a faceoff.

Greer was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct. Hoffman was able to complete the game sporting a bloodied face and a mask covering the injured area.

In addition to the suspension, Greer will forfeit US$4,121.62 in salary.

The Canadiens lost the game 4-2.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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Senators' playoff push takes huge hit with Chychrun lower-body injury – CBC Sports

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Senators defenceman Jakob Chychrun will be sidelined multiple weeks due to a lower-body injury, head coach D.J. Smith told TSN 1200 in Ottawa on Saturday.

Smith also announced forward Ridly Greig will miss the remainder of the regular season due to a sternum injury.

Both players were injured during the Senators’ 7-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Chychrun did not participate in practice Friday, and Smith told reporters that the defenceman “tugged something there a little bit, we’ll see how he reacts to treatment here.”

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The Senators (35-32-5) have 10 games remaining in the regular season, which ends April 13 at Buffalo. Ottawa is five points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference entering play Saturday.

Chychrun, who turns 25 on Friday, has recorded five points in 12 games with the Senators since being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on March 1. He had seven goals and 28 points in 36 contests this season with the Coyotes.

Chychrun has 62 goals and 175 points in 385 career outings with Arizona and Ottawa since being selected by the Coyotes with the 16th overall pick of the 2016 NHL draft.

Greig, 20, has six points in 16 games this season, his first in the NHL. He was drafted by the Senators with the 28th overall pick in 2020.

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Canadiens Forward Mike Hoffman Calls Out Department Of Safety

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Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Hoffman is not a happy camper.

The 33-year-old forward took to Instagram to discuss the recent one-game suspension of Boston Bruins forward A.J. Greer.

Hoffman, freshly decorated with a gnarly battle scar after the ridiculous cross-check by Greer during Thursday night’s matchup between the Canadiens and the Bruins, expressed his concern with the lack of consistency from the NHL’s Department Of Player Safety.

“I’ve gotten a two-game suspension for cross-checking a guy in the back of the helmet,” said a wound-muffled Hoffman. “A full-blown, intentional cross-check to the face? One game. Hmmm.”

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Hoffman’s message was clear: the standard has dropped in recent years, especially if we compare the decision made on Friday to the decision made in 2016 when Hoffman was suspended for two games after his cross-check rode up Logan Couture’s back and hit him in the helmet.

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That’s not to say Hoffman did not deserve a suspension. If anything, the ruling at the time was a step toward erring on the side of caution when brain injuries were in play, putting an onus on player safety in a spot that oftentimes forgets about the well-being of its employees.

Greer’s cross-check, on the other hand, was about as blatant as it gets, leaving a trail of blood behind the Canadiens forward as he quickly exited the ice.

There was some tomfoolery prior to the faceoff, perhaps even a little kerfuffle, but there’s no justifying a blatant cross-check which resulted in an injury.

By handing down a one-game suspension, the Department of Player Safety deemed Greer’s attack three times less severe than accidentally spitting on an opponent, which carries a three-game suspension in the NHL.

Hoffman returned to the game in the third period sporting a full birdcage, and though he did not miss significant time, he clearly did not appreciate the lack of safety provided by the NHL’s Department Of Misnomers.

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