Phillip Danault’s Outstanding Play Crucial to Habs Success

Look-at-him-go, Phillip Danault!

If I’m being completely honest, before the season started I had Phillip Danault penciled in as MAYBE the Habs 13th forward. Boy, was I wrong.

The outstanding play of Phillip Danault has been a major contributor to the Habs success so far this season. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis, Getty Images)

When I made that prediction back in August, I don’t think I actually watched Danault enough to properly evaluate his talent and see what he could bring to the table night in, night out. The 23-year-old started the 2016/2017 season very strong; scoring a couple of goals and providing a few assists on a very hot 4th line with Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn. But ever since then, Danault has slowly made his way up the lineup, earning the trust of head coach Michel Therrien and getting more minutes and playing a larger role every game.

Fast-forward to December, as the injury bug hit the Canadiens extremely hard, with the likes of Alex Galchenyuk, Andrew Shaw, David Desharnais and now Brendan Gallagher in January all going down long-term, this created a chance for the depth players to “prove their worth.” With all these changes in the lineup, Phillip Danault saw himself as the team’s new number one center ice man between captain Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher (now Alex Radulov). The ex-Blackhawk quickly found chemistry with the captain, helping him find his scoring groove again, as the American has scored 15 goals in his last 18 games, compared to only 4 in the first 24 games of the season. This role also has an impact on Danault’s point totals as well, as in 17 games since Alex Galchenyuk hurt his knee, he’s scored 4 goals and added 8 assists during that span to take him to 21 points in 42 games.

Currently, Danault is on pace for around 40 points in 82 games, which would certainly be a career-high for the youngster. Mentioning again, the trust he has developed with coach Therrien has also been on the uprise, with his ice time increasing every night. For the last few weeks, he is seeing substantial time on the team’s first unit powerplay and penalty killing in key situations. Averaging anywhere from 16-19 minutes per night, it’s safe to say this is the biggest role Phillip has played in his professional career, and he’s flourishing in the role.

There’s an old saying in hockey that the “little things” are those that win hockey games, and Phillip Danault definitely does those “little things” that you may not notice as an avid viewer. 53% at the face-off dot, which could be considered elite, but also simply taking care and keeping possession of the puck is contributing to the Habs success. His play in his own end, neutral zone, and his creativity in the offensive end is proving that his style of play is exactly what the Montreal Canadiens staff have been looking for in a potential young top-6 forward.

Many were worried that with the loss of Lars Eller over the summer, his role wouldn’t be replaced effectively. Let me tell you, number 24 has proved to us that he can replace the Dane and contribute even more to this lineup. Danault’s ability to be responsible on both sides of the puck so far this season AND his consistent contribution on the scoresheet is hinting that he can possibly be the long-term second line center for this team; a role that Tomas Plekanec has occupied for several years and may now be losing. And after an impressive two-goal night against the Winnipeg Jets, which included a Guy Lafleur-esque coast to coast with a top-shelf finish, Marc Bergevin is smiling to himself in the press box.

To think that just before last season’s trade deadline, Marc Bergevin acquired Phillip Danault and a 2nd round draft pick in 2018 from the Blackhawks for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann, who were both pending unrestricted free agents. Over the past few years, I personally have given Bergevin heat for not having the “guts” to make a move, but with all the trades he’s made over the past two seasons, his transactions have been almost impeccable.

Phillip Danault has turned into one of my favourite players on this Montreal Canadiens team, and his contributions will be crucial through this season and the playoffs, and hopefully many years to come.

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