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Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens pull off upset, defeat New Jersey Devils 3-2

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Night one of a three game road trip for the Montreal Canadiens began in New Jersey. The Canadiens continue to stay in the wild card hunt despite little faith in their game anywhere in the NHL, except their own locker room.

Perhaps that is why they’ve performed so well against top teams this season. This time, another tough foe, New Jersey, was rested and ready.

But again, it was the Canadiens who pulled off the upset 3-2 in Newark.

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Wilde Horses 

Every game the last six weeks has the same heroes, essentially. The top line continues to provide an exciting look into the future. They’re doing most of the team’s scoring. In the first period, it was an outstanding combination with all three playing their part.

It was Nick Suzuki who came in hard as the first forechecker. He forced an uncomfortable Devils pass to behind the net. It kicked up off the dasher mid-air, about waist height, where Cole Caufield was able to turn his stick over and bat it to the front of the net.

That’s where Juraj Slafkovsky was slashing through bodies untouched to pounce on it for his his sixth goal of the season. What a run it is is for the former first pick overall in 2022. Slafkovsky had his sixth goal of the season, but more than that, it’s 10 points in the last 15 games for Slafkovsky on his second goal in two games.

In the third period, it was Caufield who scored the game winner. Sean Monahan and Caufield were both in the crease to tip a deflection. The final tip was Caufield’s, whose goal total is getting a bit more respectable at 14. It’s impressive how often Caufield is around the crease for a small player.

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The top line is also putting together strong analytics. They have fallen from the top 10 when they were at a 61-per cent share of expected goals at 5-on-5. However, at 56 per cent overall, they are still strong, and by far, the best line on the club.

Though there is only one line showing top-six talent, when the club returns to health they may have the workings of something resembling strength. Imagine a healthy Kirby Dach, Alex Newhook, joined perhaps by Joshua Roy.

It was as if a light bulb went off in the head of Roy in his third game as an NHL player. His first two he was a bit tentative, but in this one, he was outstanding. Roy pushed hard on the forecheck. He showed outstanding vision. He made strong passes.

In the second period, he one-upped that effort by scoring his first NHL goal. It was a beauty as Roy fed Monahan with a breakout pass. Monahan seemed to wait too long as he carried the puck behind the goal line, but he had the angle to feed Roy streaking in. Roy parked it far side. There aren’t many first goals more beautiful than that one.

Roy looked like he did for two seasons for the Sherbrooke Phoenix, for Canada at the World Juniors, and for the Laval Rocket. It looks like he can repeat this effort. It wasn’t as if the puck was tracking him, but he was tracking the puck. If Roy can carry this game forward in any capacity, he becomes an excellent hope for the future.

The club also has two other forwards in the juniors who are shining in Filip Mesar and Owen Beck. Both are absolutely lighting up the scoreboard in the Ontario Hockey League.

There is so much talk about the lack of a star scorer, and a lack of a second line. It’s fair. However, what never gets spoken of is how deep the Canadiens are going to be from forward one to forward 12. It’s difficult to know where each player’s ceiling will settle out, but there are nine forwards as a group that will scare any team’s defence overall when everyone matures.

In the goal against New Jersey, it was Samuel Montembeault excelling again. Montembeault has one of the best save percentages in hockey in January at .930. Listening to comments around the league, it’s remarkable how difficult it is to gain respect when a goalie gets a late start to his NHL career.

Montembeault is not a back-up goalie just because he was three years ago. He has arrived. He is top five in the league in stolen victories this year. He was top five last year, too. You can’t ask for more than a goalie stealing a game and giving a club two points in the standings they didn’t deserve. Montembeault deserves so much more respect than he gets.

This one was one of his best. Saves on breakaways, on shots from five feet, rebounds controlled — he was simply outstanding. It may be time to change from saying he’s playing great to saying he is great.

Wilde Goats 

It’s back-to-back wins over Colorado and New Jersey for the Canadiens this week. It’s Jan. 17, and the Canadiens are only four points out of a wild card spot. With two vital centres, Kirby Dach and Christian Dvorak, out for the season, and a key winger out for four months in Alex Newhook, this was not supposed to be possible.

No goats for these stunning results, and this club that stays in the fight.

Wilde Cards

The optimistic are still entertaining hopes that the Canadiens can be a part of a playoff race in March. The pessimistic have their eyes on a high draft pick and are hoping for losses. It is still too early to definitively say which path the Canadiens are on, but by one measure a high draft pick is more likely.

When half a season remains, it becomes important which teams have difficult opponents in front of them, and which teams still have the bottom dwellers to go. It’s commonly known as ‘strength of schedule’ and it’s not a pretty tale for the local heroes.

The Canadiens have the fourth most difficult schedule in the entire league in front of them with their opponents having a collective record of a .577 winning percentage. Montreal has a lot of teams like Boston, Carolina and Vancouver yet to face. However, they do play well against great teams, so perhaps they can keep it up.

Also not in the Canadiens’ favour is most of the clubs that they would compete with for that playoff spot have easy schedules. For the pessimistic looking for a high draft pick, that is possibly good news to pass on to you.

Every single team but two in the bottom third of the league standings has an easy schedule. Only the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets are in the top half in strength of schedule. Buffalo, San Jose, Anaheim, Chicago, Calgary, St. Louis, and Minnesota are among the teams with the easiest schedules.

What this means is for those who want the Canadiens to fall lower in the standings, they have a good chance of this happening considering when Calgary plays Minnesota, someone has to win. When all the bad teams play each other, someone has to take the points.

Imagine a Tuesday night in March — Montreal plays Boston, while Buffalo is playing Ottawa. That will happen a lot the rest of the year, and that means the road to the playoffs is a lot harder than the road to a high draft pick.

Let’s play the games to see what happens. Perhaps that fighting spirit in the Canadiens locker room doesn’t care one bit about strength of schedule. They’ve certainly not laid down for teams like the Rangers, Jets, Stars, Oilers, and the Avalanche this season. It might just continue.

However, there is the math for you.

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Auston Matthews scores again, Max Domi has 2 goals as Maple Leafs beat Golden Knights – Toronto Sun

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Auston Matthews scored again to continue his sizzling surge, Max Domi had two goals, and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Vegas Golden Knights 7-3 on Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

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“We’ve played good hockey over the course of the season, but we haven’t put together a stretch like this,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said.

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Jake McCabe, David Kampf, John Tavares and Pontus Holmberg also scored for Toronto. Martin Jones had 23 saves.

“Obviously, our stars are confident in their game, but confidence can be fleeting in this league,” McCabe said. “But when everyone’s been confident like we are currently, it’s a scary thing. You just have to keep it going.”

Matthews stretched his goal streak to five games with 10 goals and 13 points over that stretch. On Wednesday at Arizona, Matthews set a new record for the fastest U.S.-born player to reach 50 goals in a season, reaching that mark in 54 games. He has an NHL-best 52 goals this season.

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Mitch Marner had two assists to extend his point streak to five games, giving him 13 over that stretch. William Nylander extended his point streak to six games. Domi’s two goals brought him with a point of 400 for his career.

“We have everyone going right now,” Domi said. “Everyone’s involved and everyone’s playing and everyone’s taking short shifts. Those are the things that are winning hockey, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

Jonathan Marchessault had a goal and assist for the Golden Knights, and William Karlsson and Michael Amadio each scored a goal. Shea Theodore picked up two assists. Vegas has lost four of five games, with each defeat coming at home.

Toronto took charge early, going up 4-0 in a wide-open first period in which both teams combined for 37 shots on goal, including 23 by the Maple Leafs.

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Four different skaters scored for Toronto, chasing Golden Knights goalie Adin Hill with 5:40 left in the period after he surrendered three goals on 19 shots. Hill, whose play in net was critical in Vegas’ run to the Stanley Cup last season, has lost four starts in a row.

But it wasn’t just on Hill. Less than two minutes after Logan Thompson took Hill’s place, he allowed a rebound goal to Domi.

“We need to do better in front of our home crowd,” Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “When you get down by four goals, it’s tough to come back from that. We did claw back.”

Karlsson puts the Knights on the scoreboard 51 seconds into the second period, giving him a season-high three game goal streak. But the Leafs struck back twice on goals from Domi and Holmberg to snuff out any chance of a comeback.

Not that Vegas didn’t try. Marchessault and Amadio scored 1:25 into the third period to bring the Knights to 6-3. It was Amadio third game in a row with a goal.

Matthews, however, scored on a redirect midway through the period for a four-goal advantage.

This was the Knights’ first game since captain and leading scorer Mark Stone suffered an upper-body injury. Coach Bruce Cassidy said Stone is week to week.

UP NEXT

Maple Leafs: At Colorado on Saturday.

Golden Knights: At Ottawa on Saturday.

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Red-hot Leafs look even better with Morgan Rielly back in lineup in Vegas. It wasn't even close – Toronto Star

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The Maple Leafs probably didn’t need him to, but Auston Matthews scored again Thursday night, the seventh goal of a 7-3 thrashing of the Vegas Golden Knights

But as remarkable a run as Matthews is on, the game wasn’t really about him.



Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly shoots the puck during the first period against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on February 22, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada.




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Leafs forward David Kampf scores against Golden Knights goaltender Adin Hill during the first period at T-Mobile Arena on February 22, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada.




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Talbot dies at 91, won Cup in 5 consecutive seasons with Canadiens – NHL.com

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Eight players on the 1960 Canadiens were bound for the Hall of Fame: forwards Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Dickie Moore, and brothers Maurice and Henri Richard, defensemen Doug Harvey and Tom Johnson, and goalie Jacques Plante.

Add former player Ken Reardon, who was Canadiens vice-president that season, as well as Selke and team president Hartland Molson, each in the Builder category, and Blake (as a player) as others enshrined.

Harvey would win the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 1959-60, his fifth in six seasons, while Plante was awarded his fifth straight Vezina Trophy as the goalie whose team allowed the fewest goals (178, two fewer than Glenn Hall of Chicago).

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The championship would be the crowning achievement for a remarkable dynasty that before puck drop the following season would see the retirement of captain Maurice Richard, who had won eight titles and scored a then-NHL record 544 goals during his 18-season, injury-riddled career.

Harvey would succeed Richard for one year, to be followed by Beliveau for a decade when Harvey was traded to the Rangers.

No matter how dominant those five-straight Canadiens were, Talbot remembered them being driven by a constant fear of failure, in their own eyes and those of their fans who didn’t merely hope for a championship, they fully expected one.

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