The Montreal Canadiens are receiving an impressive amount of offence from one of their lines.
It’s not the top line, nor the second line, but rather, a line composed of three players who are desperately attempting to prolong their time in the NHL with a bounce-back season.
Not only have Brendan Gallagher, Tanner Pearson, and Sean Monahan scored four goals at 5v5 while shutting out their opposition, but they’ve also produced some very interesting underlying numbers.
They’re well above 50 percent in shot control (53.5 CF%) and they’re trending upwards in expected goals (52.1 xGF%). This is due to their affinity for scoring goals in high-danger areas, as evidenced by Gallagher’s first two goals of the season.
Another classic Gallagher goal.
He ends up with Sabres on top of him, but the puck is in the back of the net.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) October 24, 2023
The trio has built instant chemistry, powered by Pearson’s great shot and Monahan’s skill in transition. You can argue that Kirby Dach is the best Habs player when it comes to driving the play through the neutral zone into the offensive zone with control of the puck, and you’d be right, but Monahan is a close second.
Much like Dach, Monahan creates time and space for his teammates, which has been a godsend for both Pearson and Gallagher.
They’re not the fastest players on the ice, but they do know exactly what to do when they enter the offensive zone.
And they’ve done a very good job giving their defencemen options in the defensive zone. The Canadiens struggle to exit the zone with control of the puck, and most blame the defencemen, but the fact remains that forwards must drop back to give them outlet options if the team is to improve their overall play in transition.
Gallagher gonna Gallagher. He scores his first of the season and ends up in the opposing net as well.
The most important play was Gallagher giving Matheson an outlet option when Matheson was under pressure in his own zone. Smart play all around for Gallagher.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) October 22, 2023
Montreal Canadiens Brass Tacks
So, what’s the secret to the resurgence of the Revival Line?
All three have played well, and they share the common trait of having a chip on their shoulders due to being written off early in their careers. That certainly helps in terms of motivation, but there’s also been a clear change in their usage.
Head coach Martin St-Louis has tapped into the right formula, for the time being.
And that formula is directly related to their average time on ice during 5v5 play, as evidenced by the ugliest chart I have ever produced:
Ugly charts aside, it’s quite clear that St-Louis has noticed that the three players still have something to offer the team, but they’re better off being used sparingly.
Not only does the lower TOI ensure that the three players, all of whom have suffered serious injuries in recent years, have lower chances of being injured, but it also gives players like Gallagher a chance to go all out and remain effective.
It’s not exactly load management in a traditional sense, but we do have to give credit to St-Louis for understanding exactly what needed to be done to put them in the best possible situation to succeed in a sustainable manner.
And we should also send some of the praise Alex Burrows’ way.
Yes, he gets criticized non-stop for the powerplay, but the truth is that Burrows does not run the show during the man advantage. It’s actually St-Louis who is in charge of the powerplay.
But Burrows does come up with the forward combinations, and he seems to have found the right trio to anchor the bottom six.
All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick.