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Canadiens Christian Dvorak Quietly Living Up To The Hype

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Montreal Canadiens

Christian Dvorak’s game has quietly improved game after game under Martin St. Louis and looks like the player the Montreal Canadiens traded for before the start of the season.

Dvorak’s play has been studied under a microscope since coming over from the Arizona Coyotes in early September, as his acquisition by former general manager Marc Bergevin was in direct response to the Jesperi Kotkaniemi Offer Sheet. After losing Philip Danault to free agency and Kotkaniemi to the Carolina Hurricanes, former general manager Marc Bergevin moved to acquire Dvorak, sacrificing a 1st round pick in 2022 and a 2024 2nd round pick for Dvorak’s services. Due to a condition in the trade, Montreal was able to send over the 1st round pick they received in the Kotkaniemi Offer Sheet compensation from the Carolina Hurricanes, rather than their own 1st, due to their bottom-10 finish this season.

Dvorak had trouble living up to that hype early on, but he’s been able to find his game under Martin St. Louis, and that could only bode well for the future.

 

Early Season Struggles With Montreal Canadiens

The 26-year-old looked to have good chemistry with wingers Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson to start the season, but constant line shuffling and repeated changes in utilization made it difficult for Dvorak to establish chemistry with his teammates early on. Dvorak instantly provided the Montreal Canadiens with a faceoff specialist to stick in their top-six due to a lack of depth but struggled to find the scoring consistency that allowed him to pot 31 points in 56 games last season with the Coyotes.

In the 34 games he played under former head coach Dominique Ducharme, Dvorak put up seven goals and nine assists, a 56% faceoff percentage in an average ice time of 18 minutes a game. Despite being utilized in every situation and given good minutes, Dvorak wasn’t able to produce throughout the season because he seemed to get away from what made him stand out in Arizona. He wasn’t shooting the puck anywhere near as often as he used to and hesitated with the puck on his stick.

It was a tough time for Dvorak as the injuries to key veterans started to mount, but, to his credit, he continued to work on the ice despite the frustrating performances.

 

Return From Injury Under St. Louis

Dvorak suffered an injury in late January that kept him out for nearly two months. Prior to returning from his injury, he followed the team on their road trip and practiced under new head coach Martin St. Louis, getting used to the new style of play the team had adopted. Dvorak started off slowly in his first few games back after returning on March 17, getting his bearings back after two months out of action. It was already a noticeable change in play, as he hesitated far less and took shots from every angle he could, something he got away from earlier in the year.

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By his fourth game back, Dvorak began to play a more physical game and started taking more shots at a much faster rate, resulting in more successful shot attempts and scoring chances. His quicker decision-making helped him rack up the points despite playing with an ever-changing cast of linemates. Dvorak has quietly put up three goals and 12 assists for 15 points in 21 games and a 58% faceoff percentage under Martin St. Louis.

“It’s been different since he’s gotten here, and we’ve played pretty good,” said Dvorak of playing under St. Louis earlier this month.” it’s a fun brand of hockey to play when you’re playing fast and playing with the puck a lot more out there. It’s been a good time.”

Dvorak is one of the veterans who has improved the most under St. Louis, as he’s put up a 58-point pace under his new head coach. On top of alleviating Suzuki’s defensive responsibilities, Dvorak has been far more noticeable in transition and the offensive zone. He’s been making smarter plays and utilizing his teammates more, and that slight modification has translated into success.

“He’s very straightforward and honest with us, and that’s the way you want it,” said Dvorak of his relationship with St. Louis. “You want him to come up to you, whether good or bad, and give you pointers, so you know what he’s thinking. We all know the player he was, so it’s nice to learn from him and bounce things off of him.

Part Of The Solution For the Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens are not a very deep team down the middle for the foreseeable future and Dvorak’s improved play could see the team lean towards hanging on to the rugged centerman. Despite starting the season off slow, he’s matched his last season’s totals of 31 points in one less game (55). One would have to wonder what his offensive output could look like in a full season under Martin St. Louis and with consistent linemates, as he’s continued to put up excellent performances that have gone completely under the radar.

With Martin St. Louis likely to return next season as head coach, the Montreal Canadiens and general manager Kent Hughes could think twice about holding onto Dvorak. His $4.45M Cap hit doesn’t look anywhere near as bad if he’s able to stay in the 50-55 point range, and he would offer any young centers the Montreal Canadiens are likely to add, be it at the 2022 NHL Draft or via trade, a stopgap that will alleviate their responsibilities as they break into the league. Needless to say, Dvorak’s recent play under St. Louis is exactly what was expected of him when he was acquired in September, and that’s a valuable player to have around.

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