The influence that Martin St-Louis has had on a few prominent players has been well documented, perhaps even overplayed. What has not been talked about as much is the recent resurgence of a few players who haven’t been quite as popular, at least not this season, for a variety of reasons.
But because media and blogs don’t pay as much attention to them, it doesn’t change the fact that some guys are starting to show signs of life lately and even while they might not be under the popularity spotlight, rest assured that the Canadiens’ organization is taking notice. For this exercise, I did include the usual fan favourites like Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. But you will see that there are others who are making a case as useful players as well.
Christian Dvorak – since March 24th
In his last ten games, the Canadiens’ center is tied for first in points with Suzuki. His play is much better and his production (3G-6A-9Pts) during that time span has returned to what Marc Bergevin expected it to be when he traded for him. He also has a surprising +4 differential while logging 17:29 of time on the ice per game, while being his efficient self in the faceoffs’ dot with a 57.2% success rate. He seems to have found chemistry with Brendan Gallagher and Mike Hoffman as that line has done a good job lately.
Chris Wideman – since March 5th
Whether he’s nursing an injury, or he’s the victim of the number of defensemen, or if he’s not part of the plan for the Canadiens next season is unknown. But he can’t seem to find a regular spot in the line-up lately. It’s certainly not because of his offensive contribution as since March 5th, he has been the most productive defenseman offensively (13GP: 2G-10A-12Pts). This places him third only behind Suzuki and Caufield during that time span, during which he also only averages 14:45 of time on the ice per game.
Nick Suzuki – since February 20th
Not because he doesn’t deserve it, but as mentioned, he and Caufield are well documented so we won’t spent too much time explaining his production. But it’s impressive. First on the team since February 20th in points. 24GP: 10G-17A-27Pts with 21:13 of time on the ice per game.
Cole Caufield – since February 10th
Like Suzuki, let’s just skim over it and yes, this coincides with St-Louis’ first game as the Habs’ coach. Under the new coach, he’s slightly ahead of Suzuki in points. 28GP: 17G-13A-30Pts with 18:22 of time on the ice per game played.
Rem Pitlick – since March 9th
The “other rookie” has been an amazing waiver pick up for sure. But in his last 17 games, his production (3G-9A-12Pts) has been rather impressive, good for third most on the team! St-Louis clearly trusts him in different situation as shown by his 19:03 minutes of time on the ice per game.
Brendan Gallagher – since April 5th
Fans have been all over Gally as his production this season certainly doesn’t match his new contract, which raises serious questions. But since returning to the line-up from injuries on April 5th, he has five points in four games (1G-4A), which ties him with linemate Dvorak for the team lead during that time. He’s only playing an average of 14:29 minutes per game but if his production and his play continue to improve, he certainly will see more.
Post trade deadline
One way to tell what the coaching staff and management are trying to do is to look at the players’ utilization since trade deadline has come and gone. Without players like Chiarot and Lehkonen to take major ice time, who are the players the Canadiens are counting on, or testing to see if they have what the team needs? Here’s how the ice time has been distributed since March 21st:
As we can see, the coaching staff is really testing Romanov to see if he has it in him to be a regular top-4 defenseman that they can count on in the future. And prior to his injury, they were also testing Justin Barron, the 20 year-old defenseman Kent Hughes got in the Lehkonen trade from Colorado.
At forward, there isn’t much surprise, aside perhaps for Pitlick who is second amongst forwards in ice time. In spite of a spotty production, St-Louis has said a couple of times this week that he likes what he sees from Anderson and the two are working together (and with Gallagher) to change his game a bit. The coach also said that he’s not worried about him as it will make him a better player down the road.
So while this doesn’t paint a complete picture, far from there, or reveal any huge secret on what the organization is planning to do this off-season, it does give us a bit of an idea of what they’re trying to look at. Including tonight’s game in Columbus, there are nine games remaining and the trend will likely continue. With Barron out, they will keep testing newly signed defenseman Jordan Harris instead.