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Montreal Canadiens

Canadiens By The Numbers: Smaller Players Taking Charge



Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher

It’s been a rather difficult season when it comes to delving into proper analysis regarding the Montreal Canadiens.

The team has been hit with more injuries than an 11th-century Norman invasion force, making any semblance of consistency a foreign concept.

But within the chaos, two players have emerged as leaders from a statistical standpoint.

Nick Suzuki continues to be the driving force on offence, but when it comes to generating underlying numbers that should lead to sustained production, two players, in particular, have excelled.

Guess Who’s Back?

The first has enjoyed a resurgence after what can only be described as three incredibly frustrating, injury-riddled seasons that also featured very little luck: Brendan Gallagher.

Consequently, Gallagher’s underlying numbers had suffered greatly, casting doubt as to his future with the franchise.

His lack of production, paired with his declining possession numbers, was compounded by his contract, which carries a $6.5 million annual average value until 2026-27.

You’d be hard-pressed to argue Gallagher did not deserve a significant pay raise, seeing as he was one of the most productive goal-scorers at 5v5 for well over half a decade and was just getting paid $3.75 million per season to do so.

But the harsh reality of the NHL is that teams can no longer afford to pay players for the value provided in previous years, which meant that Gallagher’s contract was quickly turning into an albatross for the Canadiens.

Not only was Gallagher no longer scoring with any regularity, but he also no longer tilted the ice in the Canadiens’ favour during his shifts, which had become his calling call during his time with the Habs.

But something changed once Gallagher recovered from his latest injury.

Perhaps it was that he finally took enough time to recover from an injury, which hasn’t always been the case in the past.

Regardless, not only has Gallagher started seeing his name on the scoresheet more often, his underlying numbers have returned to pre-injury levels.

His expected goals for percentage, an important statistic when it comes to projecting future offence, has climbed to 50.5 xGF%.

And though that may not seem exciting for a player who was usually closer to 60 percent when he was playing on the best line in the league with Tomas Tatar and Philip Danault, we have to remember we’re dealing with a team that has been struggling to generate positive expected goals-for numbers.

In fact, other than Frederic Allard, who only played a little over 11 minutes at 5v5 in his debut with the Canadiens, Gallagher is the only Canadiens forward who is currently on the right side of 50 percent in the very important metric.

There Is Another

This will absolutely shock anyone who has been paying attention to the Canadiens in the last few months, but feisty forward Rafael Harvey-Pinard is the only player on the roster who has a better expected-goals-for percentage than Gallagher relative to his teammates.

Canadiens rel xGF%

Harvey-Pinard hasn’t just established an impressive scoring rate, he’s doing it in a manner that should be considered sustainable going forward.

We should also note both Jordan Harris and Jonathan Kovacevic make an appearance on the top 5 list, leading all defencemen that have graced the blueline for the Canadiens this season.

There’s been very little consistency this season, which has led to a bevy of defensive pairings, but once things normalize next season, the Canadiens should probably try to avoid breaking up Harris and Kovacevic.

They’re what we call a unicorn pairing.

Smart, effective, and a significant boon whenever it’s on the ice.

All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick.

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Another small player has shown good chemistry with Gallagher since they both returned from injury. Jake Evans. I think Evan, Gallagher and RHP have the makings of a good responsible line that has the ability to check the opposition while putting a couple of points up on the board too. I’d like to see that combo play together before the season ends.

Roger Wilco

Bye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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