Friday, 18 March 2016

Stefan Matteau and Devante Smith-Pelly, Part Deux.

I wrote a long post on Devante Smith-Pelly recently, it's a subject that might intrigue us over the next few seasons.  My take is that he and Stefan Matteau are found money, we got them in exchange for Jiri Sekac, who while flashy and showy is struggling to show he's an NHL'er, to say the least.

Reading a Montréal Gazette article by Stu Cowan, I come across this passage:
After Smith-Pelly’s three-point performance Thursday night, he told “So far, I think I fit like a glove (with the Devils). I’m just getting in on the forecheck and creating havoc, going in front of the net and parking myself right there, at the edge of the crease. That’s something I knew I definitely had to do.

My question for the learned  folks here is, did anything in the Canadiens' vaunted/cursed system prevent Devo from doing this while he was here?  I'm not being glib or trolling anyone, I'm asking an honest question, looking for some analysis.

Now, I know that Devo expressed surprise last season at how we play, that relentlessly pursuing the puck rather than thumping and finishing checks was a different deal than he'd grown accustomed to in Anaheim.  I've observed and posted on this, how on 24CH you see the coaches enjoin players to not 'look'  for big hits, that these will happen organically, that they should rather focus on the puck.  I've posted a couple of times when I'd see an opposition defenceman behind his net flip the puck along hurriedly and then brace for impact, only to see a Torrey Mitchell or Michaël Bournival or Jacob de la Rose speed by and chase off after the puck.  You'd see the d-man kind of frozen for a second, shocked they didn't get pounded into the boards.

So maybe that's what Devo means when he says "creating havoc", although I'd argue that when Brandon Prust and Dale Weise were racing around on the forecheck, that created havoc also, but without the Ryan Reaves flying elbows.

But the rest of the quote, I'm scratching my head.  "...going in front of the net and parking myself right there, at the edge of the crease."?  Michel Therrien does nothing but promote that.  I've posted on that as well.  The famous "We are a grinding team!" quote that social media latched on to, it's actually part of a longer segment when he torches his guys for not 'driving the net', for hesitating to go to the net, he lampoons them about how they seem as if they're negotiating or debating as to who should go there.

Another example I've caught is a couple seasons back, early in the year when the boys weren't scoring very much.  I lauded Michel Therrien for using a different teaching method, whereby instead of telling them (again...) to go to the net, go to the slot, he simply invited every goal scorer thus far that season to come to the front of the dressing room and mark on the whiteboard where he was when he scored.  The picture and lesson was clear, and he was hoping it would sink in if he presented it this different way: every 'X' was in and around the crease, none were along the boards or far out at the blue line.

So, I wonder, what prevented Devo in his 80 games or so here from parking himself at the edge of the crease, like Yvon Lambert did, or like rookie Mike McCarron seems to grasp as a raw rookie, right off the bat?  If anything, that's what we'd fault Devo for, for playing entire games when he was invisible, when you'd catch a fleeting glimpse of his number 21 and wonder "That's odd, I didn't know Doug Jarvis was playing tonight?..."

I'm genuinely asking this.  Is there a difference in the system the Devils use that allows DSP to play a netfront role and have success which wasn't possible given the system predicated in Montréal?  Was there a reason why he couldn't forecheck and create havoc in Montréal?  Or are we thinking his recent success is a product of puck luck, unsustainably-high shooting percentage, and a change in scenery/kick in the rear?

1 comment:

  1. Good post, Normand, as usual. I always look forward to reading your posts.

    As for Devo, I wish him luck in NJ, but I think he is getting blessed with a lot puck luck right now. He is not that kind of sniper and cannot sustain a high shooting percentage, IMO. He will return to normal levels soon, but I hope he enjoys this temporary success while it lasts.