The last time Habs had two players average over a point-per-game for a full season was 1995-96 with Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse.
STU COWAN, MONTREAL GAZETTE
It has been a long time since the Canadiens had a dynamic duo when it comes to offence.
The last time the Canadiens had a player average over a point-per-game for a full season was 2007-08 when Alex Kovalev had 35-49-84 totals in 82 games. The last time they had two players do that was 1995-96 when Pierre Turgeon posted 38-58-96 totals and Vincent Damphousse had 38-56-94.
We’re only 28 games into this season, but the Canadiens have one player averaging over a point per game and another one who is close. Heading into Thursday night’s game against the Senators in Ottawa (7:30 p.m., TSN2, TSN5, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) Max Domi has 13-17-30 totals in 28 games and Jonathan Drouin has 10-15-25 totals.
This new dynamic duo has been fun to watch, especially in Tuesday night’s 5-2 win over the Senators at the Bell Centre when they both had three points, with Domi scoring twice and Drouin once, while they assisted on each other’s goals.
“Both of them are smart players,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said after practice Wednesday in Brossard. “Both of them are good playmakers and they see the ice well. Right from the get-go, I said to them: ‘You guys can make great plays, but my only thing for them is it’s going to be important that you guys find ways to get on the inside because you’re going to make great plays all night long, but if it’s on the perimeter you’ll get nothing out of it.’ They’ve done a good job. You look at where Max is scoring from, right from the middle of the ice. He’s driving through the middle and those plays are happening.”
After Tuesday’s game, Domi said one of the main reasons for his chemistry with Drouin on the ice is the fact they are great friends off it. Julien said the two linemates have been able to help each other.
“Not only are they both smart players, but they also enjoy playing with each other,” Julien said. “That’s more important than people think.”
The coach added that having the scrappy Andrew Shaw on their line has also helped.
“I think Shawsy’s been a good addition to their line because he’s always in front of the net and he’s always going to get his nose dirty,” Julien said. “I think those two guys certainly can use a player like that on their line because it just gives them more room to be creative. So it’s a good mix.”
Drouin struggled last season with the Canadiens after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenceman Mikhail Sergachev. In 77 games, Drouin had 13-33-46 totals and was minus-28. He’s plus-2 this season.
“Jonathan Drouin came here last year really excited about playing in his home town, in his home province,” Julien said. “Having grown up in the Montreal area and being a Habs fan, he thought it was great. As a young player, you realize how much attention is being paid to the hockey club here. Maybe when you compare to Tampa it’s a lot different. I don’t think as a young player that he was mentally ready for that. I don’t think he expected it to be that hard. But what he did is that he realized what he had to do and he did that this summer and he came in here a much better-prepared player, a much better-educated player as far as expectations. And also for his game, he grew from: ‘Wow! There’s no nights off around here without people talking about it.’ So he’s become a better player because of that.”
Julien noted there’s still lots of room for improvement from both 23-year-old players. Domi has been a pleasant surprise for the Canadiens after scoring only nine goals in each of his last two season in Arizona. Last season, four of his nine goals were empty-netters. All 13 of Domi’s goals this season have come with a goalie in the net. The Canadiens acquired Domi during the off-season in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk, who has 3-7-10 totals in 19 games with the Coyotes.
“He came into a big market,” Julien said about Domi. “Who knows? I know Max and Drou are friends. Did he get the information that maybe Drou gave him over the summer to say: ‘You better be ready. This is a fun place to play, but it’s also very demanding.’ I think right from the get-go we knew that Max was loving the fact that he was coming to a hockey market. He was excited about it and he’s handled it the right way. Both of them together I think it’s turned into a good mix. They both meshed well together and they’re both so far having a pretty good season.”
Now the question is whether this dynamic duo can keep it up for a full season.