Perhaps it’s a good thing Mathieu Perreault shaved off his signature voyageur beard recently, because the Winnipeg Jets forward is already hot enough without it. His recent resurgence is one of many factors in the Jets’ 8-2-0 record this month.
Streaky Perreault Heating up After Slow Start
Perreault, after scoring Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings, extended a career-high scoring streak to five games and his point streak to six. He’s already registered nine points and been held off the scoresheet in just one of 10 December contests thus far.
Perreault has always been a streaky player, prone to ups and downs. It’s something the 31-year-old veteran acknowledges.
“Right now, I’m just riding the wave,” Perreault told The Winnipeg Sun’s Ted Wyman earlier in the week. “It’s been that way for my entire career, really. I’ve been a streaky player, not that my game gets any different, but sometimes the bounces go your way and right now that’s what has happened. Obviously, it gives you more confidence when the pucks are going in … you feel like the net’s a little bigger.”
🚨: Mathieu Perreault
🍎: Bryan Little
🍏: Josh Morrissey
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) December 19, 2018
His nine December points exceed his totals for October and November combined: he started slowly, recording just three goals and three assists in his first 24 games.
Perreault’s play last season was the exact opposite. He played his best hockey early, tallying 37 points through his first 47 games despite being deployed up and down the lineup, from the first line to a high-scoring, unorthodox fourth.
However, his production fell off a cliff down the stretch as he became mired in a nasty, prolonged slump which saw him notch just two points in his final 23 games.
The terrible end to his season included a 15-game, 33-day pointless streak between Feb. 20 and Mar. 23 and spilled over into the playoffs, where he scored just once in nine games.
Perreault Showing off His Versatility… Again
Perreault has been a patch-and-go fix for the Jets throughout his five seasons with the club. His versatility and ability to thrive regardless of who he’s skating on a line with have long been his best assets. Advanced stats prove he makes the players around him better.
Perreault is currently playing on the Jets’ third line with Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev. He was deployed there late last month after Andrew Copp suffered a concussion he’s still sidelined with.
The line has been a major boost to the Jets. It’s feisty, truculent, workmanlike, and strong defensively. Case in point: Perreault, Lowry, and Tanev are all the Jets’ top-10 when it comes to Corsi For % at Even Strength and Fenwick For % At Even Strength.
It’s obvious how much trust head coach Paul Maurice has in the line. Despite being a member of a bottom-six trio, Perreault’s ice time has actually increased since joining it — roughly one-third of his 417 total minutes have come in the past 10 games.
Perreault Finding Power Play Success
Even though his line can flash some offence — Tanev has 13 points already is on pace to shatter his career-high of 18, while Lowry has 10 and recently registered his 100th point — and Perreault’s goal streak includes two at even strength, the majority of his recent scoring has come on the power play.
While the first unit of the Jets’ prolific, league-best power play deservedly gets the lion’s share of man-advantage ice time — the deadly combination of Dustin Byfuglien, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler have 24 power play tallies and 70 power play points already this season — the second unit is also proving it’s got bite, too.
SLAP PASS and IN!
🚨: Mathieu Perreault
🍎: Tyler Myers
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) December 17, 2018
The second unit — of which Perreault is a member alongside Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, Josh Morrissey, and Tyler Myers — has four goals in the past six games. Perreault is responsible for three of them.
Perreault Has a Nose for the Net
Perreault’s vision and awareness are keys to his recent success. He’s generally scoring from the slot area and as a result of his hustle, ability to slip into seams, and get himself open near the net.
The above goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning, in which Perreault redirects a Tyler Myers slap pass, is a perfect example of the forward finding a sliver of space when there seemed to be none. This backhand goal against the Edmonton Oilers is another example of his good work in tight and his awareness of a pocket of open space between four foes.
The game before, he scored on a breakaway against the Chicago Blackhawks just after exiting the penalty box. In that instance, he identified that the Blackhawks had lost track of how much time was on their power play, slipped into open ice in the neutral zone, and received a perfect stretch pass from Scheifele.
Can Perreault Keep Streaking?
When Perreault’s at his best, he gives the Jets’ offence added dynamism and depth. A big part of their 52-win 2017-18 was their ability to roll four lines that could score. While the Jets offence in general is firing on all cylinders — averaging 3.9 goals per game this month — the Jets are undoubtedly a better team when their top two lines don’t have to shoulder all the goal-scoring responsibility.
Perreault will have an opportunity to further extend his goal streak Thursday in San Jose as the Jets face the Sharks in the second date of a three-game California road swing. In 18 career games against the Sharks, he has five goals and three assists.
Perreault will likely remain streaky in the future, and the Jets have to take the bad with the good when it comes to his play. However, you can bet they’ll take the good for as long as they can.