Alex Belzile Is Peaking At Ideal Time For The Canadiens
Alex Belzile knows opportunities to earn a roster spot in the NHL are limited.
And while the bulk of the praise for the fourth line has been centred on the great results from feisty forward Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Belzile’s excellent play since being called up from the Laval Rocket has largely gone unnoticed.
By now, we’ve seen ample examples of Belzile’s tenacious style of play, which puts an onus on giving an honest effort every shift.
But beyond his tireless work ethic, Belzile has also managed to produce some of the best underlying numbers on the team.
By The Numbers
The 31-year-old has earned four assists in just three games with the Canadiens. Impressively, all four points have come at even strength, a rather difficult task considering his limited ice time and usage on the fourth line.
What’s more, he leads all Canadiens players when it comes to shot share, controlling over 53.5 percent of the shots whenever he’s on the ice.
He also leads the Habs in terms of expected goals for percentage, with 65.3 percent, a particularly notable result given the Canadiens are one of the worst teams in the NHL when it comes to xGF%, controlling just 43 percent of the expected goals this season.
Most importantly, when Belzile has been on the ice this season, the Canadiens have enjoyed a significant advantage in high-danger scoring chances, to the tune of 66.7 percent.
Prior to his arrival with the team, the Canadiens only managed to control a little under 43 percent of the quality chances.
To put an exclamation mark on his overall impact on high-danger chances, we can remove Belzile, Harvey-Pinard and Michael Pezzetta’s results from the last three games.
The results are rather shocking.
While the fourth line controlled 66.7 percent of the quality chances, the rest of the team struggled mightily, controlling slightly more than 27 percent (!) of the high-danger shots.
The Laval Rocket line is cooking once more as Belzile picks off a lazy Chiarot pass and Michael Pezzetta buries the tying goal! pic.twitter.com/FOmjGDX3wG
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 27, 2023
Of course, playing on the fourth line tends to come with a lower level of competition, and it would be unfair to say Belzile has faced the opposing team’s best players.
He did, however, spend half his shifts facing Auston Matthews’ line on Jan.21, holding the Toronto Maple Leafs superstar to a paltry 22 percent control of the shots, not to mention, he limited Matthews’ offensive value seeing as he end up without a single quality scoring chance when he was facing Belzile (0-4).
When Matthews was no longer facing Belzile, his shot control jumped all the way to 73 percent.
That’s not to say Belzile is the type of player you want facing the NHL’s stars every night, but it’s a healthy reminder that his value goes beyond just providing energy when the chips are down.
Leaving a good impression on the fourth line is a difficult, if not borderline impossible challenge.
Not only has Alex Belzile tackled the challenge with aplomb, but he’s also showing signs that perhaps the Canadiens should consider him as more than just a great AHL veteran.
The proof is in the numbers.
All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick
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Another feel-good story. I know it’s a small sample size and coincides with the team playing better and Montembeault playing great, but that 4th line is exactly what we need for the future.
aplomb! Way to get that in there Marc 🙂