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Montreal Canadiens

Arber Xhekaj And Jordan Harris Among Hottest Canadiens In Week 2



Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens faced three teams last week, finishing with a relatively successful record of two wins and one loss. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best performers, as well as some of the players that produced underwhelming results.

Arber Xhekaj

The undrafted rookie stepped into the spotlight last week, and not only because he tossed Zach Kassian around with the greatest of ease.

Xhekaj currently ranks second among all Canadiens defencemen in terms of shot share (55.5 percent), and though he’s struggling to mitigate high-danger chances, he contributed significantly at the other end of the rink with his two-point performance against the Dallas Stars, including his first career goal in the NHL.

When discussing Xhekaj’s impact, you must go beyond his Hulk-like strength and untapped offensive potential. He’s one of the most exciting and entertaining players to grace the Bell Centre in a very long time, allowing Canadiens fans to cheer in what is likely to be a difficult season.

The NHL is a business, yes, but it’s the business of entertainment, and few players entertain more than Lyle Odelein.

Err, Arber Xhekaj.

Jordan Harris – Jonathan Kovacevic

The Canadiens may have two very inexperienced defencemen on the same pairing. Still, a quick look at the numbers confirms both Harris and Kovacevic are playing with the intelligence and poise of hardened veterans.

Together, the duo has controlled almost 60 percent of the shots during their shifts, the highest mark among all defensive pairings this week.

The duo also controlled 66 percent of the goals and 53 percent of the high-danger scoring chances, which is, you guessed it, the best result among all pairings.

But most importantly, the pairing projects to control 53.5 percent of the expected goals (xGF%), which isn’t just the best result on the blueline, it connotes they should be able to sustain their play for the next stretch of games, or more.

The expectations were rather low in their case, but it’s fair to say they haven’t just surpassed expectations, they’ve become one of the most consistent aspects of the current Montreal Canadiens lineup.

Nick Suzuki

With four points in three games, including two goals, Suzuki continues to prove his 8-year contract extension has the potential to become a great-value deal for the Canadiens.

He’s currently producing over a point per game since the start of the season and has been on the ice for 11 of the Canadiens’ 18 goals.

It’s also worth noting he was directly involved in seven of those goals.

Simply put, Suzuki is the engine that drives the Canadiens’ offence, and he’s yet to even hit his statistical prime.

David Savard

As it stands, the Canadiens’ defenceman with the worst underlying numbers happens to be their active defenceman with the most experience in the NHL.

When Savard is on the ice, the Canadiens barely control a third of the shots and have been outscored 3-9 since the start of the year. His expected goals-for percentage (xGF%) going forward is a paltry 35 percent, the lowest mark on the team. His defensive partner, Kaiden Guhle, has somehow managed to produce better numbers, despite playing the majority of his shifts with Savard.

But it’s only fair to point to Savard’s usage, which has placed him well over his head in terms of what he can bring to the table. Savard can excel in a top-4 role, but he’s simply not well-suited to play on the top pairing on a team that already struggles to control shots and high-danger chances.

Kirby Dach – Josh Anderson combination

Dach started the season on a tear, putting up some of the best underlying numbers in the NHL with his new team, but things took a sharp turn once Anderson was added to his line.

They were outshot, out-chanced and outscored throughout the week, a situation that will likely repeat given they’re only projected to control under 40 percent of the expected goals.

Anderson has scored two goals this season, and it would be unfair to pin all the blame on his style of play, which relies on rush attempts rather than prolonged puck control, but there is a pattern developing whenever he’s added to a line.

(All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick)