It is the halfway point in a Montreal Canadiens’ season that has seen a lot of up and down moments so far. With that being said, defenseman Jeff Petry has likely been the team’s most consistent player. Even through the team’s dry spells, he has continued to provide the team with offense.
At the halfway mark, he leads the Canadiens in scoring with 25 points in 29 games. He has scored a goal in four of his last five games and currently leads NHL defensemen in goals with 11. His 25 points have put him only behind Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie in points for a defenseman. However, Hedman is playing with one of the best teams in the league, which definitely helps his stats, while Barrie plays on an offensively stacked team where his defensive game is slightly limited. Whereas Petry has been playing for a team with multiple slumps so far this season.
Why Petry Could Win the Norris
While Petry is among the leaders in points as a defenseman, his contributions go beyond his goals and points. He, alongside his most frequent defensive partner Joel Edmundson, are both top 10 in the plus/minus category in which Edmundson leads the league with a plus-25 despite the team having only a plus-14 differential on the season.
Together, the pairing have been solid on both ends of the ice. The fact is playing with a strong two-way defenseman in Petry has helped Edmundson look like a better defenseman as well. To prove it, in the one game Edmundson played with Shea Weber, he struggled to clear the puck out of the defensive zone. This has been something that hasn’t been a problem next to Petry overall. It may be a small sample size, but everyone has been playing significantly better alongside him, this even includes Weber in their short spurts together.
As mentioned earlier, Petry’s consistency has made a big difference in why he has been so good. He’s managing to get good scoring chances that have led to 11 goals and he could easily have gotten a couple more. The fact that he’s also tied for second on the team in goals out of all skaters with Josh Anderson is an incredible feat in its own as it’s rare to see a defenseman look like he’ll hit 20 goals in a season. It’s even more impressive that he may get it done in 56 games. If he does score nine more goals, he will become the first defenseman to score 20 in a season since Sheldon Souray scored a franchise-high 28 goals in the 2006-07 season. With all this being said, if he could continue to play this way in the second half of the season, he could end up being serious competition for Hedman and may edge him out.
How Valuable Is Petry?
Petry is having an amazing season, and has been by far the best defenseman on his team; however, his lack of recognition around the league until now can hurt his chances of winning the Norris Trophy. However, the good news is that this performance has gotten him a lot more notice around the league.
This also means that teams may start seeing him as the Canadiens top defenseman instead of Weber. One of the main reasons for this is that Petry is a triple threat on the power play as he can skate, pass and shoot very well, whereas Weber is just a big defenseman with a strong shot, which makes him easier to stop. Not only that, but Petry’s speed allows him to get the puck out of the defensive zone faster if need be. He is able to play in all situations and has done better than anybody else on the blue line in almost every category. He has become a true leader on the team, as the Habs will continue to be in the fight for one of the four playoff spots in the Scotia North Division.
He may currently be behind Hedman in points, but his improved defensive game on a weaker team must give Petry some points with the Norris Trophy voters. If Petry continues producing, expect to see him in the final three candidates come season’s end.
Nick is a journalism student at Concordia University. He has been writing about the Habs and hockey for almost 7 years now for websites such as AWinninghabit and Last Word on Hockey. he hopes to one day work TSN.