The Montréal Canadiens are into the last dozen games of this bizarre season. Some of the worst hockey in franchise history and the depths of despair has been replaced by a rapid rebuild and young talent performing all through the line up.
Montreal hosted Ottawa Tuesday night, with the Senators skating to a 6-3 win.
Youth is served.
The fortunes of the club are changing so quickly, especially on the blue line. The cumbersome blue line that Marc Bergevin loved so much is already turning over into something completely different. Three new players of a different variety showed their modern games in this one.
Firstly, to the shockingly fast development from game one to game five for Justin Barron for the Canadiens.
In game five, it was Barron with his first NHL goal. Barron is in the offensive zone with the puck at the blue line. He starts on the right side and basically walks the line across the sheet. He looks so smooth while he is doing it. He then beats a Senators player. After moving through him, while walking the line, he drags it and shoots far side, bar down.
It was beautiful.
Barron is looking so comfortable already as this looks like a terrific trade with Colorado. Here’s the thing, though. Barron isn’t even the best-looking rookie defenceman on the club right now.
If Barron looks like he’s growing into a great defender from game to game, Jordan Harris looked great from the first shift on night one. Harris has the look of a bonafide NHL defender. He is cool with the puck. He doesn’t seem to feel the pressure of any decision he is making already. The pace is fine for him already.
That’s not all. Corey Schueneman has upped his game about three levels higher this season at the age of 26. He’s carrying it up ice and to the net, creating danger just about every shift. The first thought you have watching Schueneman right now is what the heck was he doing in the minors so long, but the truth is his game is growing like a bean stalk.
Is this all coaching? Where did all this good suddenly come from?
It was written here that the Canadiens have a long way to go before they can compete because the blue line is average at best. However, looking at the last two weeks, they may actually have a blue line for the future.
Imagine a blue line with Alexander Romanov, David Savard, Joel Edmundson, Justin Barron, Jordan Harris, Corey Schueneman and Kaiden Guhle. Everyone says Guhle is ready to play in the NHL next October, and you won’t get an argument here on that.
Sure, that blue line will have to grow into its best self. Growth spurts are always mixed in with growing pains. However, let those seven grow together with the base that they have, and there is a lot of talent in there.
Here’s the thing, too: It’s different talent from what has been favoured in Montreal for the last decade. This talent can join the rush. This talent can walk the blue line. This talent can head man a stretch pass as soon as they look up ice.
This blue line is a modern blue line. Sure, they’ll make mistakes. Next season may be too soon to soar because when you look at history, it is extremely rare to have rookies lead teams to playoff spots, but let them grow, and a much more exciting future finally comes into view.
Get your shades.
Justin Barron seemed to have gotten his right ankle caught underneath a Senators player, and it looked like it turned on him pretty hard. That would be a serious ankle injury.
Barron stayed on the bench at the end of the game, and did not go to the room. He did not take a shift in the last four minutes. We will know more on Wednesday.
Call of the Wilde!
It has often felt in Montreal as if the Molson Cup was designed in such a way that only a goalie could win it every month. It’s 2022, and we have finally discovered this truth: The Canadiens relied a lot on Carey Price.
It wasn’t that goalies are always recognized as stars. It was that Price was stealing a lot of games.
These days, the award for most three stars selections seems to be a Cole Caufield thing. Caufield won in February, and in March he shared the award with Nick Suzuki. How could it be anything else? These two have dominated the scoreboard pretty much every game. Without these two, the Canadiens wouldn’t have been in the game many nights.
Their numbers are about as good as any offensive numbers have been in Montreal in a decade. It’s not often that any Canadiens player has produced at a better than a point-per-game clip for a full 30 days.
In 15 games, Suzuki had seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points. Caufield had seven goals and eight assists for 15 points. Both are excellent totals. If they could keep that up for a season, and get a winger to join them in the scoring parade, the Canadiens could say that they have a legitimate offensive first line.
Last year, they had a legitimate first line, but defensively as Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher didn’t score that much, but they defended beautifully.
This year’s top line provides offensive excitement, and they are just getting started.
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