- You can’t tell me that Phil Danault wasn’t inspired by being tasked to check the Bergeron line last night. Tatar and Gallagher are getting a lot of the accolades today, but that was one of the better all-around performances by a Montreal center in a long time. He made plenty of smart plays with the puck, and even showed decent hands on a number of occasions. There has been steady improvement from Danault throughout his NHL career, and a player I once thought to be no better than a third-line center on a contending team is proving me wrong with his play in the past 40+ games. If he can produce 20 goals and 60 points while checking the other team’s top centers…that is a second-line center all day in today’s NHL, and arguably one of the better ones.
- Ryan Poehling has no intention of being sent back down to the minors given his intensity level last night. That was the type of effort we saw from Poehling for the most part the past couple of weeks in Laval after he stopped moping about being sent down. That is not a bad thing – you want prospects who think they should be in the NHL from day one…confidence is not a bad thing for an NHL player – it is the best league in the world; they should expect to be the best.
As noted in previous Grant’s Slants in early October…the main issue with Poehling’s game at this point is his faceoffs, and last night, while the effort was there, the results were not good…winning just 17 per cent of his draws. Poehling has to improve in the circle or he will find himself on the wing in a hurry, or back in Laval. Hopefully, he can turn that around quickly, as the club really could use his size and two-way game. Poehling made a bunch of smart decisions with the puck last night in his own end; little things that will endear him to the coaching staff.
Faceoffs are going to have to improve, however. The only center on the Habs who is averaging better than 50 percent on draws so far this season is Nate Thompson, and he just so happens to be the fourth-line center. Can the club afford to have a centerman winning just a quarter of his draws? Knowing Claude Julien; that is unlikely.
- When Max Domi was reunited with Jo Drouin a few games into the season, it was noted by some pundits that one of the main reasons why the duo was split apart last season was because they had a tendency to ignore the third member of the line and only passed the puck to each other. I’m not sure if Max Domi heard or read this and is trying not to pass to Drouin, but there have been several instances in the past couple of games when Domi looked to have blinders on when Drouin joined him on a rush and was Domi’s best option.
Drouin is playing at another level right now and is shooting the puck with more frequency than at any other time as a pro – feed him the puck, pile up the points.
- Nate Thompson may well be the sturdiest forward on the club since Alex Radulov. When opponents run into him along the board he rarely budges and usually just bulls his way right through.
I noted in the preseason that Thompson appeared to be quicker and had obviously worked hard in the offseason. In the past couple of weeks both Chris Nialn and Pierre McGuire echoed that comment on TSN 690, and Thompson himself recently admitted to reporters that he did have a productive offseason in the gym. Thompsons work ethic sets a great example for the kids on the team….they see a proven veteran not taking anything for granted.
What a terrific acquisition by Marc Bergevin; easily one of his most underrated deals. Getting Thompson for a fourth rounder alone would have been a coup given how important he has become as the team’s top faceoff guy and penalty killer, but to also get back a fifth-round pick? Outstanding work by Bergevin.
- The biggest cheer for Drouin last night came from a solid hit he laid on Zac Senyshyn. Do you think he noticed? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’, as a few seconds later Drouin skated even harder to reach the next puck carrier and staple him along the boards as well, and the crowd erupted once again. No homegrown NHLer dislikes the hometown cheers – this can only be a good thing for the further development of Drouin as it is finally dawning on him that fans will cheer him as loudly for busting his ass as getting a point. This is the city that adored Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau, and it wasn’t because they were 40-goal scorers. Montreal fans get it, and now it appears that Drouin does as well.
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