Montreal Canadiens: Alexander Romanov’s Analytics Among Best In NHL

VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 20: Alexander Romanov Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 20: Alexander Romanov Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin and then-top-prospect Alexander Romanov had to jump through several NHL hoops to come to agreement on an entry-level contract.

Romanov’s KHL season ended during the NHL’s pause that was forced by the Covid-19 global pandemic. This should have made him eligible to sign with the Canadiens, but the NHL decided to change its own rules on the fly.

Suddenly, KHL players were not allowed to sign their entry-level contract for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. Then, when it was announced there would be a return to play for the 2020 postseason, these players were deemed ineligible.

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The NHL and the NHLPA argued back and forth about whether players like Romanov should be able to sign and play in the NHL’s return to play, and they came to an odd compromise. Players were allowed to sign an entry-level contract and practice with their team during the postseason and burn off the first year of that entry-level deal, but they weren’t allowed to play games.

So, Romanov did just that. He moved to Montreal for the summer and practiced with the team while they played the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers in the postseason.

It appears to have paid off.

Romanov stepped right into the Habs lineup on opening night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, without so much as one preseason game, and looked like he’d be playing defence for an NHL team for the past ten years.

In that first game, Romanov played 21:30, third most among Habs blue liners trailing only Shea Weber and Jeff Petry. He played a regular shift at even strength, ran the second power play unit and was on the regular rotation on the penalty kill as well. He moved up from the third pairing to the second pairing halfway through the game and was playing with Petry in the third period of a tie game against the top six forwards of the high powered Maple Leafs offence.

He has moved back down to the third pairing with Brett Kulak since then, but the pair has provided the Habs with terrific depth on the blue line.

It’s early in the season, but right now Romanov (and Kulak) have some of the best advanced stats among blue liners in the league.

In 85 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time over six games for Romanov, the Habs have attempted 106 shots on goal while their opponents have attempted only 62. That gives Romanov a Corsi-For percentage of 63.1. The only defenceman who has played more than two games this season and has a better Corsi is Matt Grzelcyk of the Boston Bruins.

As for shots that actually hit the net, when Romanov has been on the ice, the Habs outshoot their opponents 57-33. This means, if Romanov jumps on the ice, the Habs have a 63.33% chance of getting the next shot on goal.

Kulak has played most of his minutes with Romanov so his numbers are almost identical.

The Canadiens don’t have the superstars at the top of their lineup like many of the other Canadian teams. Their depth is what is going to keep them in games and give them a chance to go on a postseason run in this division.

So far, the third pairing of Kulak and Romanov has looked exceptional. They aren’t necessarily playing the best players on the other team every night, but when they get on the ice, they dominate possession and are outscoring the other teams 6-2 at even strength.

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Depth will be key for the Canadiens this season and Romanov’s terrific play gives them incredible depth on the blue line.