Since pulling on the Montreal Canadiens sweater for the first time in October, centre Max Domi has been nothing short of sensational. With 47 points through 54 games, Domi not only leads the Habs in scoring but has already surpassed his point total (45) from last season.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Domi has exceeded all expectations since coming over from the Arizona Coyotes. He has been one of the biggest success stories for the Canadiens this season and the scary part is, he could actually be better.
Domi may not be known for his goal scoring prowess but he has the skill set to start changing that perception. If he can start using his quick release to get the puck on net more often, good things will happen for Domi…and the Canadiens.
The Creative Playmaker
Domi is a playmaker. He enters the offensive zone with a pass-first mentality. His speed and agility provide him the space he needs to put his creativity on display. It is captivating to watch him effortlessly scan the entire ice looking to set up his teammates. It is as if he has a computer chip in his brain, every potential pass carefully calculated.
For as smooth as he is as a playmaker, Domi could be a dynamic scorer for the Habs down the stretch. With 17 goals on the season, it is easy to say he has provided his share of goal scoring. With his quick release and the space he is able to create for himself, he is always finding his way into dangerous areas in the offensive zone.
When Domi is in these positions, and it tends to be often, he sometimes tries too hard, and is always looking for the perfect pass. If he took a simpler approach and start shooting the puck more, I think he could start providing even more offence by actually doing less.
Forcing the Play
A recent example of this occurred with just over 12 minutes to go in the first period of a Feb. 3 game against the Edmonton Oilers. Domi picked up the puck in his own end and began streaking down the left wing. After a nifty move through the legs of Oilers defenseman Kris Russell, Domi created an opening for himself in a great shooting area. Instead of using his quick release, he decided to try and slide a tough pass over to Tomas Tatar that was broken up.
To make matters worse, Domi picked up a goaltender interference penalty on the play after bumping Edmonton’s Mikko Koskinen from behind. He had put himself in such a great scoring position that, had he elected to shoot the puck, he would have at the very least provided the Canadiens with a very dangerous scoring chance.
Domi Has a Simple Game
Domi scored early in the second period on a beautiful wrap-around effort, but it was the play made just prior that stood out. The Habs centre took a breakout pass and carried the puck into the offensive zone. Instead of trying to drop the puck behind to Tatar, although he glances Tatar’s direction for a split-second, Domi cuts to the middle and rips a shot just wide.
A simple play that created a great scoring chance, and ultimately a goal for the Canadiens, Domi fought off his first instinct of ‘drop pass’ and elected to take the less flashy approach of simply shooting the puck on goal.
Comparing Domi’s Numbers
Domi will always be a pass-first player and he doesn’t need to drastically change his style of play. The expectation is certainly not to have him lead the league in shots, but a subtle uptick in getting the puck on net could go a long way for the Habs. He is currently sporting a shooting percentage of 14.2 on 120 shots on goal this season, averaging 2.22 shots-per-game. When compared to others who are currently sitting on 17 goals, Domi shares some interesting company.
On one side there is Jonathan Marchessault of the Vegas Golden Knights. He has fired a whopping 202 shots on goal with a shooting percentage of 8.4 percent. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Edmonton’s Alex Chiasson who has only taken 69 shots with a ridiculous shooting percentage of 24.6.
If Domi can muster an average of 3.5 shots-per-game over the remaining 28 games, even if his shooting percentages dips to 12 percent, he could find himself knocking on the door of the 30-goal mark by season’s end.
The Habs do not have a player who can be classified as a pure goal scorer. Brendan Gallagher is on-pace for another 30-goal campaign with 21 goals so far this season, but he is far from being classified as a sniper. Five of the eight playoff teams in the Eastern Conference in 2017-18 had two or more 30-plus goal scorers on their roster. Having a second player with the ability to consistently put the puck in the back of the net is critical to a team’s success. Domi can certainly be this player for the Canadiens.
I am a lifelong hockey fan and have been following the Canadiens since the early 90’s. Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, I had the opportunity to watch and analyze the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate from 2002-2015.