On the last night of their 2021-22 season, it was one final outing before the focus turned in earnest towards the future of the Montreal Canadiens organization.
It was easy for fans to disconnect or even want losses. For the coaching staff and the players, they needed to stay in the present even when at times it would have been easier to check out as well.
By the end of the team’s 10-2 win over the Florida Panthers, it was a glimpse into the future, with a wink towards the past and it gave everyone a nice present.
There have already been major changes to the Canadiens organization this year, and there are bound to be many more throughout the off-season. It was easy to look ahead, especially when the team was assured to be in last place after Wednesday night. Those who did missed a heck of a final act.
Not many teams win the last game of their season. In fact, only one team that makes the playoff is assured of that fact. The Canadiens are not going to make the playoffs this year, obviously.
When last year’s Stanley Cup final ended, there was a feeling of it being the opening act of a young core that was going to continue to grow. What followed was a series of growing pains. Now there is a new management group, with a focus on the future and a top-three pick at minimum in the upcoming draft.
There will be a time to discuss all of that. For now, we can talk about Carey Price winning his 700th career start, and ending a turbulent season with a win, avoiding a zero in the win column. We can talk about Cole Caufield’s first career NHL hat trick, getting him to 23 goals on the season — a mark no one expected as recently as February. We can talk about a 10 goal outburst allowing the Bell Centre crowd to chant Guy Lafleur’s name one more time.
If this was the last game of this era of the Canadiens before things surely change on and off the ice, it certainly was an enjoyable one.
This season was one that would test even the most hardened fan. Most of the 82 games the team played this season were ugly. Friday night was one that reminded people how fun this could be. It also showed why there is so much hope in the organization’s future.