MONTREAL-– Canadiens head coach Martin St-Louis addressed the media ahead of Tuesday’s game versus the Minnesota Wild at the Bell Centre, with the bulk of the discussion centring on returning players, potential sources of additional offence, and ice time, or lack thereof.
Rem Pitlick finished last season as one of the few silver linings in the lineup. The Ottawa native was claimed on waivers from the Wild and went on to score 9 goals as well as 17 assists in 41 games, earning himself a two-year, $1.1 million AAV contract in the process.
But ice time hasn’t come easy to Pitlick this season. Not only is he currently playing on the fourth line, which entails fewer shifts, but he was also made a healthy scratch in the first three games of the year.
According to St-Louis, it’s not a matter of Pitlick’s current form, but rather an overabundance of forwards in the organization.
“It’s a different situation for him this year,” he said. “For one, we’re healthy upfront. We went out and got Dach, Dadonov, Monahan, and Slafkovsky. So there are fewer opportunities for him. It’s a matter of circumstance. I like the player. But the circumstances this year are different from last year, and that’s why he’s getting fewer chances. ”
“But the year is young.”
With Joel Armia nearing a return, there’s a risk the ice time available to the bottom-six players may become even scarcer, especially if Juraj Slafkovsky is cleared to play in the near future.
Both Armia and defenceman Joel Edmundson are slated to join the team during their upcoming road trip, meaning a player such as Pitlick could end up watching a portion of the upcoming schedule from the press box.
There’s an argument to be made about making one of the aging veterans a healthy scratch, but it’s worth remembering the Canadiens are still hoping to move some of their assets before the deadline.
Edmundson’s return to play is unlike to displace a veteran, mostly because the Canadiens have very few veterans on the blue line. However, due to the incredibly solid play from the bevy of rookies in the lineup, the decision will probably be a little more complicated than originally anticipated.
As for his listless powerplay, St-Louis sees one simple fix.
“First off, we need to generate point chances,” he said. “We can’t just wait for the penalty kill to mess up, we have to make them mess up. We have to break them down a little bit. We can’t just hope they miss an assignment and create a chance for us.”
If St-Louis is dead set on generating more point chances, he could turn to either Jordan Harris or Jonathan Kovacevic seeing as they currently lead the team in terms of 5v5 shots, with 15 and 12, respectively.
However, something St-Louis said left the impression he’s well aware of which players are generating chances.
When pressed about the lack of offence from the Brendan Gallagher, Christian Dvorak and Evgenii Dadonov line, St-Louis alluded to having a certain knowledge that the process itself is a positive one in their case.
“No changes,” he quickly responded. “Obviously I’d like them to score, and they’d like to score, but if you take a look at the line, in general, it’s one of our best lines. They just haven’t been getting results lately, but they need to continue doing what they’re doing.
“All the statistics we have on their game, their scoring chances, how they defend, it’s all very efficient. They’re simply not scoring right now.”
While it’s true the line hasn’t produced much in terms of offence that was recorded on the score sheet, they have controlled the majority of the shots (56.5 percent) and the scoring chances (53 percent) which does connote they are on the right path.
Statistically speaking, it’s only a matter of time before they start producing for the Canadiens.
St-Louis’ comment also points to a head coach that is using every resource available to him, in this case, underlying metrics, a very encouraging sign for an organization that has heavily invested in modernizing its modus operandi.
(All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick)