It’s the home stretch for the Montreal Canadiens as the club welcomed the Washington Capitals to the Bell Centre for Pride Night.
The Canadiens had one of the their best games in the last two months as they handled the Caps 6-2.
Despite it all, Nick Suzuki has turned in the best season of his career. Suzuki grabbed the 62nd point of his season with a gorgeous move on a breakaway. He later added an assist for his first 63 point season.
One-on-one, Suzuki is as good as they get. He can do the Datsyukian Delay as well as anyone in the game. He has big success in shootouts, and somehow finds a way to show us something creative each time he is one-on-one. He’s an intelligent player in all facets of the game.
Suzuki’s total of 63 might not seem like much to Connor McDavid, but with Suzuki’s linemates changing every week, his early pace of 90 points fell off a cliff. When Cole Caufield and Kirby Dach were on the line early in the season with Suzuki, it looked like one of the best lines in the league.
Injuries changed everything. Suzuki could be a point-per-game player when everything goes right. The future will have Caufield back with Suzuki, and a much better power play with Lane Hutson and Logan Mailloux on it. There will also be more goals available overall for the team when they win more games.
Many factors go into lofty seasons. It’s a team game. When a player hits 82 points, he gets a lot of help from other talented players as well. As they say in baseball, to lead the league in RBI, someone has to get on base first.
Suzuki has more to give. It’s a matter of consistent linemates, a better power play, and a better run-rate overall. It says here that he is a point-per-game player in the NHL.
The Canadiens hadn’t scored a goal in two and a half games, so they enjoyed finally finding a little offensive success against the Capitals. Besides Suzuki’s goal, Brendan Gallagher counted on an absolutely divine behind-the-back pass from Jonathan Drouin.
Joel Armia showed his better self by counting a hat trick as Montreal was much better than a shockingly flat Washington club. Armia had the final goal into an empty net as Montreal fans rose to their feet. Mike Hoffman finished the scoring in the last minute.
It was a fun night. Well timed as the city needed a little joy after suffering the myriad of issues that makes up an ice storm. Half of Montreal is without power. It appears Hydro Quebec transferred it to the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
A journalist made the point Thursday that he thought the Canadiens weren’t playing with any pride. Honestly, this is an embarrassing comment.
What they’re not playing with is about a dozen NHL players. Pride is not an issue whatsoever. In fact, the pride the club has shown in this difficult season has been one of the most impressive aspects the players have shown.
Martin St. Louis has had his players trying to learn the modern game, but as St. Louis noted on Tuesday night it’s hard to become cohesive when the roster changes from night to night like it is training camp.
All credit to these players. Definitely, they are not winning many nights, but it sure has nothing to do with pride.
A lack of pride is easy to see. It isn’t Rafael Harvey-Pinard blocking four shots in the same shift until he hobbled off with a foot injury. It isn’t Mike Matheson celebrating an overtime winner like he’s won the Stanley Cup. It isn’t David Savard diving face-first to get in front of a puck.
It isn’t Josh Anderson charging the net so hard he crashed into it for a season-ending high ankle sprain. It isn’t Michael Pezzetta taking on Tom Wilson in an ill advised fight between and middleweight and a heavyweight. There are hundreds of examples of the Canadiens struggling this season. Not one moment of struggle was due to a lack of pride.
Take the pulse of what’s going on here, Sir. Ma parole!
The Montreal Canadiens held a thoughtful Pride Night on Thursday. The goal of the organization was to send a message that everyone is welcome to the arena, including the LGBTQ2 community.
They released a statement late Thursday morning reiterating their support for Pride Nights around the NHL: “We continue to strive to promote diversity and inclusion both within our organization, in our community, and at the rink, among fans, players, and staff alike.”
“Wearing Pride colors and jerseys is a message to groups lacking representation that hockey is for everyone and that everyone is welcome to enjoy and engage with our sport at the Bell Centre regardless of how they identify.”
“They are our family, our friends, and our neighbours. Every human being is deserving of dignity and respect, the fundamental underpinnings to this evening’s events.”
There was a blemish to the evening, though, in that message of inclusivity, because one of the Canadiens players, Russian Denis Gurianov, refused to wear the Pride colours, so did not take part in the pre-game skate.
The Canadiens explained it as such: “While we understand the decision, we also hope the focus of attention remains where it belongs: on evolving as a society to be more accepting and welcoming of all, without exception.”
Martin St. Louis then offered support for Gurianov when the head coach met the media in the morning: “I haven’t walked a day in his shoes. I know one thing is I think anybody can say that you’d always try to protect your family. So I have a tough time judging that. Guri’s a great kid … great kid. It’s tough, but it is what it is.”
Gurianov did not meet the media on Thursday and will not speak on the matter. A handful of players from Russia have not participated in the Pride Nights around the league, citing dangers in their country because of anti-gay laws recently passed. For its part, the NHL said that they have not been made aware of any direct danger in any capacity for the Russian players.
However, this was before the death this week of top draft pick Matvei Michkov’s father. Fifty-one-year-old Andrei Michkov was found in a pond after having gone missing for two days. There is no way to know at all under what circumstances he died, but it does seem from sources as if it was nefarious.
Whether Gurianov had Michkov and his father on his mind, we cannot know. That the possibility exists that this type of result is even possible should make one contemplate how much effort they want to put into any criticism.
At first blush, it has seemed only one side has deserved our understanding, but there are times in the world when everyone deserves our compassion. It may just be that we have it in us to give our love to everyone.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after each Canadiens game.
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