by Dustin Kagan Fleming
The Canadiens have a new weapon that the league is being forced to learn to deal with. It is not superstar goalie, Carey Price or underrated, elite winger Max Pacioretty this time though. What the Habs have now is a level of depth that is incredibly difficult to maintain.
This was showcased on Friday night against the Calgary Flames when the game was effectively won by the team’s bottom 2 lines. A hat trick from Dale Weise, Devante Smith-Pelly’s first goal of the year, a shorthanded goal by new comer Paul Byron along with 3rd pairing defenseman Nathan Beaulieu’s goal led the team to a 6-2 win over the struggling Flames.
Calgary spent so much effort trying to contain the usually dangerous and effective first line and didn’t have to do much to handle a second line that played a weak game. Despite this, they lost to under the radar players like Torrey Mitchell and Thomas Fleischmann. This has been happening all season and this new dimension of play has been a huge part of what is letting the team dominate games the way they have been. Fleischmann and Weise have found instant chemistry and as a result are both putting up strong point totals while Desharnais has become one of the most elite third line centers in the league thus far.
The 4th line is a line of speed and hard-working players that have been doing damage on both ends of the ice. To really put this into perspective: Dale Weise has 6 goals and Torrey Mitchell has 5. Both have played 12 games. They’re combined 11 goals is 1 goal less than the entire goal production of the top 2 lines of the Pittsburgh Penguins combined. That from our 3rd line winger and 4th line center.
Add that to the excellent primary scoring abilities we have with players like Pacioretty, Plekanec and Galchenyuk among others, the team suddenly looks incredibly hard to shut down offensively. You stop the top players and it’s the unexpected ones that are putting the puck in the net.
Like I said in my last piece; one of the main reasons for this team’s skill level is its ability to roll 4 effective lines. Right now fans are being shown just how effective each and every one of those lines can be. These guys aren’t just providing scoring depth, they’re also managing to control play. They’re managing to keep up their duties as checking forwards and seriously limit opponents’ offensive opportunities whether they be first liners or fourth.
A team with real depth like this that can use it in so many different ways can go very far. The best teams every year are ones that can consistently pick up the slack from other places when one line cannot get it done. This is an amazing advantage for the team moving forward.
Dustin Kagan Fleming is a Montreal student. An upbringing in the city has left him with a passion and love for hockey and the Canadiens from day 1. To read more of his work, visit his website https://canadienspostgame.wordpress.com/.