When Martin St-Louis addressed the media last week, he offered clear insight as to what Josh Anderson must improve if he’s to make a positive impact on the team.
You’d be hard-pressed to argue Anderson does not give an honest effort every game. He’s one of the most energetic players on the team and certainly brings an element of excitement to the table.
But St-Louis was looking for a little more focus when using that seemingly bottomless reserve of energy.
“Josh has a lot of speed,” said St-Louis. “But you don’t need to go 100 miles per hour all the time in every shift, because sometimes you’ll miss your exit. I think he’s improved a lot in that respect. He’s controlling his speed. We want him to play with speed, but it’s about knowing when to speed up and slow down, to control the game. It’s not just about going where he wants to go, but rather going to where he should be.
“We’re trying to help every player become more complete, so they have a better chance to become more productive on the ice. Not necessarily in production, but their overall impact on the team.”
With two goals in three games since he re-entered the lineup, it’s fair to say Anderson has improved his production, but as St-Louis alludes to, the end-game with Anderson is finding him a role that doesn’t just lead to goals, but improved overall performances as well.
Anderson avec le but égalisateur!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) November 18, 2022
At the time of the suspension, Anderson was not scoring, but more importantly, his underlying numbers were disappointing, to say the least.
You may even remember an overly confident writer suggesting the Canadiens should look into trading the speedy winger.
Two goals don’t change much in the grand scheme of things. However, a significant uptick in puck control, scoring chances, and expected goals would be worth pointing out.
And that’s exactly what has happened in the last few games.
Creating chances off the rush, Anderson’s bread and butter definitely leads to scoring chances, but it’s not particularly conducive to generating much if any sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
Now that he’s playing alongside Sean Monahan and Evgenii Dadonov, Anderson hasn’t just started to produce, he’s actively helping the team win, by keeping the puck far away from the defensive zone, just as St-Louis requested.
It’s still very early, but the results thus far have been very encouraging.
Mode cheval activé ⏱️
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) November 13, 2022
The line has controlled over 70 percent of the shots in the three games they’ve played together, but that’s far from the end of their impressive stats. They’ve also held a 69 percent advantage in scoring chances, and even more importantly, they’ve been dominant when it comes to the high-danger chances, one of the Canadiens’ greatest areas of weakness this season.
For a team that usually controls a little over 40 percent of the quality scoring chances since the start of the year, any number north of 50 percent should be considered healthy.
Since Josh Anderson has returned from his suspension, he’s controlled over 92 percent of the high-danger shots (12-1).
It’s a jaw-dropping number that points to the instant cohesion between Anderson, Dadonov, and Monahan, while also pointing to the possibility of long-term sustainability when it comes to production.
That is exactly what St-Louis was looking for last week.
Anderson is still using his speed, however, once he enters the offensive zone, he’s doing a much better job supporting his teammates on the cycle, a counter-intuitive concept for a north-south player.
The number will surely drop well below 92 percent. We’re dealing with just three games worth of data.
But the results are encouraging for more reasons than one.
First and foremost, it alleviates some of the pressure faced by the Canadiens’ top line of Nick Suzuki, Kirby Dach, and Cole Caufield by bringing secondary scoring to the table.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) November 16, 2022
It also opens up more possibilities for general manager Kent Hughes, whether he’s exploring the possibility of a trade, or the inclusion of Anderson in his long-term plans.
Any way you cut it, Anderson’s resurgence is a positive sign for the Montreal Canadiens.
(All Josh Anderson and Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick)