Montreal Canadiens: Phillip Danault is the Most Underrated Defensive Center

Apr 3, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Phillip Danault Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Phillip Danault Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

The most recent image most Canadiens fans have in mind when it comes to Phillip Danault right now is cheers-ing with a slice of pizza in hand during the postgame presser after sweeping the Winnipeg Jets.

But let’s go back to why he was eating that pizza and why he deserves it and more.

Phillip Danault is one of the best defensive centers in the NHL, and the most underrated one, for that matter.

His playoff performance has been very quiet, only getting two assists in 11 games played, but that’s what Danault does. He’s a quiet guy, until he shuts down the best players in the league, and lets his defensive skills make all the noise for him.

Montreal Canadiens: Phillip Danault’s Stats

In the regular season, Danault scored five goals and 19 assists, for a total of 24 points in 53 games. That’s an average of 0.45 points per game, which is decent, considering his role is not to score and produce but to play defensively against the best players in the league. Think of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who Danault successfully shut down in the first round. Think of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Danault also shut them down in most games during the regular season and there’s no doubt if the Canadiens would have faced the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs, he would have done it all again. He also shut down the Jets’ best players, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, and Nikolaj Ehlers.

Danault, overall, has played in 27 playoff games, and has scored one goal and six assists, for a total of seven points. That averages to 0.26 points per playoff game, which is higher than his average of 0.18 points per game for this postseason.

Now, if it were any other player with those numbers while getting paid $3 million per year and probably getting a raise next season, I would be writing about how outrageous that is. But we’re talking about Danault here and anyone that has watched him, at least in this postseason, should know that he brings so much more than numbers. I like to think of it as he brings the opposite, he’s the reason for the opponents’ lack of numbers.

There are quite a few guys on the Canadiens’ roster who are the same way, maybe they don’t have the same defensive skills as Danault, but they bring more than goals, and the two that come right to mind are Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin.

They are both completely different stories that I will not get into right now, but Gallagher’s energy and leadership are so much more than his goals, and so are Drouin’s playmaking and passing skills.

While other defensive players do also produce offensively and have the stats to prove it, Danault doesn’t. And that is totally fine because his defensive skills alone bring more to the Canadiens than these other guys bring to their team.

Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, and Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights are all finalists for the Selke Trophy and have all shown that producing while being a defensive forward is very much doable, but if we consider the defensive element of their play alone, I think Danault has the advantage over all of them.

It would be a lot of fun to be able to watch two of the best defensive forwards compete against each other in the Stanley Cup Semifinals.

Danault vs. Stone.

Other than having the battle of the goalies in Carey Price vs. Marc-André Fleury, we would also have the battle of the defensive forwards. It could very well become a reality if the Golden Knights beat the Colorado Avalanche in the second round.

dark. Next. Ideal Lineup for Round 3

Game 6 is tonight at 9 p.m. EST, and the Golen Knights could end it then, meaning the semifinals could start Saturday. But if the Vegas-Colorado series needs a seventh matchup, we will have to wait until Monday to see the Canadiens face off against the best team in the West.