Canadiens Defenceman Mike Matheson Emerging As Leader
Few Montreal Canadiens players have thrived as much as Mike Matheson in the season’s final stretch.
The chips are down and there’s not much left to play for, but for Matheson, that does not seem to factor into his decision to pull out all the stops during any given shift.
Points have been difficult to come by since March 1st.
Not just for the Canadiens as a team, but for the individual players in the lineup.
To give you an idea of the dearth of production from various players, only one forward has managed to earn more than 10 points at 5v5 in the last stretch of games: Nick Suzuki, who has one goal and nine assists in 17 games.
Alex Belzile is the next forward on the list, with eight points, tied with the oft-maligned winger Jonathan Drouin.
Completing the top five are Dennis Gurianiov and Jesse Ylonen, who have earned just six points in 17 games.
And while the forwards haven’t produced much in terms of entertaining hockey, Matheson has risen to the occasion.
What a gorgeous goal by Mike Matheson. pic.twitter.com/mAh4qdSQCc
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 6, 2023
Not only does he have as many points as Suzuki, which means he’s outproduced every other forward in the lineup, but he’s also managed four goals in that stretch, the second-highest mark behind only Belzile, who found the back of the net five times.
It’s also worth noting Matheson registered his name on the scoresheet during the power play more often than any other player on the roster.
Matheson dangles through the Panthers PK and tees up Rem Pitlick for a power play goal.
9-5 in Sunrise right now. pic.twitter.com/Je8zl3VWKW
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 17, 2023
Matheson’s modus operandi is rather simple: give an honest effort every shift, regardless of the score.
His secret for success? Mobility.
Not only is he an excellent skater, but he also has a penchant for generating controlled exits and controlled entries, which is a significant boon for all the players who are lucky enough to be on the ice while Matheson is playing.
Mike Matheson goes for a skate, Kirby Dach creates the rebound and Josh Anderson makes it 4-1! pic.twitter.com/0cy4F91hpA
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 18, 2023
When Canadiens head coach Martin St-Louis says he wants a team that’s dangerous in transition, quick with the puck, and relies on talent and instinct rather than complicated strategies, he’s talking about players like Matheson.
Suzuki is a wizard in the neutral zone and should not be dismissed from the discussion, but few players in the NHL seem to have the ability to drive the play as often and as efficiently as Matheson.
He’s quickly emerged as a leader on the team, and not just behind closed doors, which is usually where NHL players earn their leadership tag.
Matheson leads on the ice.
It’s also worth noting many of his plays epitomize entertaining hockey, which is always important for a franchise that is in the midst of a rebuild, and thus, has a very low entertainment factor to offer fans using hard-earned money to watch their games.
Jeff Petry may have provided the Canadiens with well over half a decade of excellent hockey, but it is quickly becoming clear that not only can Matheson match his impact, he can do so while keeping fans engaged in what are otherwise meaningless games.
Mike Matheson THIS close to a forever highlight. pic.twitter.com/CpxaARqf5G
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 24, 2023
All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick.
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