The Montreal Canadiens missed the playoffs for the second year in a row last season. However, they did show some promise, as they only missed the postseason by two points. The coming-out party of Max Domi, the impressive rookie season from Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Carey Price returning to form were just a few of the bright spots for the Canadiens.
However, one player who seemed to have lost a step was Jonathan Drouin. The former Halifax Moosehead finished the 2018-19 season with 53 points in 81 games, which was tied with Phillip Danault for third in team scoring. Yet, it seemed like Drouin had lost a step, going pointless in 16 of his last 18 games of the season, and was not the same player Marc Bergevin traded Mikhail Sergachev for back in 2017.
This season, however, Drouin has found a renewed form of confidence, and the Canadiens, and their faithful, are starting to take notice.
One of the obvious signs of Drouin’s exceptional start is his production. The
Ste-Agathe, Quebec-native has scored eight points in his first nine games of the season. The only game he has not registered a point in was, ironically, against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 15.
Another notable stat is that Drouin has had an even or positive plus-minus in eight of the nine games, with once again the exception being the game against the Lightning. Through the first few weeks of the season, Drouin is third on the team in points along with Domi and Brendan Gallagher.
It is difficult to stay close to a point-per-game pace in today’s NHL, with only a select few being able to accomplish the feat. However, Drouin’s start to the season has certainly shown that he is on the right track to being an impact player for the Canadiens.
Other noticeable aspects of Drouin’s game so far in this young season are some of his advanced statistics. According to Hockey Reference, Drouin’s stats per-60 minutes are at a higher rate than they were last season. He is scoring at a pace of 1.3 goals per 60 minutes, along 2.1 assists per 60, both are well above his averages from last season.
While his Corsi per-60 is over five deviations below his total from last season, Drouin’s impact while on the ice has been prevalent. His on-ice goals for per-60 and on-ice goals against per-60 are some of the best numbers since his days playing in the Sunshine State.
Earning the Fans’ Hearts
There is no question Montreal is one of the toughest cities to play in. Fans are well-informed, and always are willing to let players know how they think they are doing. Whether it be praise or criticism, Habs’ fans are some of the most outspoken fanbases in the NHL.
Last season, Drouin was chastised by the Montreal faithful. There were whispers even before this season that Drouin was heading towards the trade block. However, the opinions of Drouin have changed with his play to start the season.
The Canadiens defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues 6-3 on Oct. 12. In that game, Drouin put up a goal and an assist. While being interviewed on the ice after the game by TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, Drouin received an extended ovation from the Canadiens’ fans.
After the team’s Tuesday practice, he told the Montreal Gazette what the moment meant to him.
“Whatever happens for the rest of my career,” Drouin told Stu Cowan. “I’m going to be able to come back to that moment and enjoy that.”
For a player that has been under the microscope since entering the league, having the Bell Centre chant his name will give a boost to a guy that grew up cheering the Canadiens.
There is still a lot of hockey to be played, but if the first few games of the season are any sign, Drouin is returning to star-power status in Montreal.
I’m a broadcast journalist from West Michigan, with an incredible passion for the game of hockey. After playing in goal for 16 years, I realized that my time on the ice was up, and chose a slightly different path working in the media. It is just as demanding, just a little less physical.