December 10, 2023

The Tampa Bay Lightning were playing their third game in four nights, including an overtime loss in Toronto on Monday, but it was the Montreal Canadiens who started with a distinct lack of fire in their contest at the Bell Centre.

Tampa scored four goals in the first period on their way to a 5-3 win.

Wilde Horses 

One week ago, the Canadiens played so well in Las Vegas against the defending Stanley Cup champions that head coach Martin St. Louis said that they found a ‘higher standard’. Montreal was a better team than a club that had not lost this entire season at the time, the Golden Knights. What happened to that club that matched up so well against the champions in their own arena?

They have played three sub-par games since that lofty praise.

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It was difficult to find horses in this one, but Josh Anderson skated miles looking for his first goal of the year. He had chances as well. He was flying through the neutral zone. With a commitment as solid as this, surely a goal is coming soon for a player who got 21 last season, before injury ended his season.

The Canadiens managed to wake up in the third period. Nick Suzuki opened the scoring on a 40-foot slap shot on a nice cross-ice feed from Cole Caufield. It was a power play goal. A short time later, it was Michael Pezzetta counting. He has been a tireless worker and deserved a reward for his efforts.

The Canadiens scoring finished with a wicked shot into the top corner from Christian Dvorak with 18 seconds remaining.

With 11 minutes left, the fans were loudly chanting, “Go Habs, go!” to show how much they have bought in this season. They believe in the club, but Tampa’s game was a bit too mature, and they were superior.

Wilde Goats 

Jake Allen has been outstanding so far this season. He was top 10 in the league in goals saved above expected before facing the Lightning Tuesday. But it all came crashing down hard for Allen about a half hour after receiving the Molson Cup as the club’s best player for the month of October.

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Allen let in four goals in nine shots before he was pulled. It wasn’t as if he was awful on all the goals, but he didn’t help himself, either. Nikita Kucherov scored on a wrist shot from 35 feet before the game was even a minute old. Allen simply missed it with his glove.

It didn’t get any better. In the span of nine shots, Allen’s save percentage dropped from .927 to .904. An amazing start to the season turned average, just like that.

The first game back after a road trip is the hardest game, and this was, indeed, the hardest game. Assignments were missed. Odd man rushes were allowed. Net fronts weren’t cleared. Chances were squandered. Penalties were plenty. You name a negative and it happened.

Here’s the good news, though: It’s just one game, and redemption comes as soon as Thursday night in Detroit. The club is still .500 on the season after a dozen games.

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Call of the Wilde!

Wilde Cards

With Jack Campbell sporting an .873 save percentage and his partner Stuart Skinner an .856, the Edmonton Oilers entire season is slipping away shockingly quickly.

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The Oilers need to finish with a 45 and 26 record the rest of the season to achieve 95 points which historically is a playoff spot. That’s a tall order, and the order needs a helping of good goaltending.


This Oilers fresh hell has Montreal fans dreaming of the Canadiens overstocked situation being tended to with a trade of Jake Allen for a first-round draft pick.  Management in Montreal needs to resolve its “three doesn’t go into two” issue, and soon.

There isn’t enough net for Allen, Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau. Allen is near the top of the league’s goaltenders stat column in goals saved above expected and save percentage.

The Oilers would love to have Allen, but it is so much more complex than that. The bottom line is the Oilers have no money to spend. They are against the cap. They cannot add a contract.

The Oilers have to sweeten the pot enough that the receiving team would be alright with taking on an abysmal Campbell contract that has him earning $5 million each year through 2027.  GM Ken Holland must make this trade with Campbell leaving, or he cannot keep his salary cap in line.

The Chicago Blackhawks are also in a position to exchange goalies. However, if the Oilers want Petr Mrazek, the Hawks have to take Campbell as well, or, again, the Oilers are over the cap by a significant amount.

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The truth is the trade only works with a team that is early enough in its rebuild to hold Campbell a couple years, then buy him out in likely 2025.

Who knows? Campbell may even find his game again. But he will have to do that in the AHL as the Oilers have put Campbell on waivers where he will not be claimed.

Both of their AHL goalies, Calvin Pickard and Olivier Rodrigue, are playing well.  If they fail at the NHL level, it’s already likely too late for the Oilers. One imagines that Pickard is first to be called up as soon as Campbell clears waivers Wednesday afternoon.

When fans clamour for a first-rounder for Allen, thinking that’s the total deal, they’re not understanding the salary cap issue Edmonton has.

The truth is that Holland is in such a horrible place, he may not even find a suitor. Ask yourself, is it worth taking that Campbell contract to get a first-rounder and lose your own best goalie, too?

A lot of GMs will say no. There’s a lot of balls still up in the air, but one thing is certain — the Edmonton Oilers are in trouble.

Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on after each Canadiens game.

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