Montreal Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin stepped away from the game of hockey for a while last season to focus on his own mental health.
He had been dealing with anxiety and insomnia and finally decided it was time to take a break from the National Hockey League and try to get himself on the right track.
This came at a time when the Habs were on a playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final where they played his former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Unfortunately, he missed out on that incredible postseason with his teammates, but he was able to sort things out off the ice, and his on-ice play has improved dramatically as well.
The Canadiens did not get off to an ideal start to this season. Losing their first five games while only scoring four goals in that time was about as brutal as anyone could have possibly predicted. Even their harshest critics wouldn’t have suggested they would score less than a goal per game for that long with Mike Hoffman, Cole Caufield and Christian Dvorak joining a team that scored in the middle of the pack last season.
It was Drouin who was the lone bright spot offensively through those five contests. Drouin scored the team’s lone goal in their opening loss of the season to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also scored their only goal of the game in a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers. Tyler Toffoli scored their only goal against the Carolina Hurricanes and it was assisted by Drouin.
That means, heading into last night’s game with the Detroit Red Wings, the Canadiens had scored four goals and Drouin was in on three of them with two goals and an assist.
Then last night’s offensive explosion happened. But it began with Drouin.
The Canadiens fell behind 1-0 on a power play goal by Dylan Larkin. Then, Drouin found Ben Chiarot in the slot with a perfect pass and the Habs blue liner scored to tie the game. Mike Hoffman gave them a 2-1 lead late in the first period on a power play and then Drouin was involved in the team’s third goal, scored off the rush by Christian Dvorak after a breakout pass from Drouin.
At that point in the Canadiens season, they had scored seven goals and Jonathan Drouin had five points.
Then the Mathieu Perreault show happened as he scored a natural hat-trick to turn a 3-1 nail biter into a blowout. The Canadiens finally found the win column and the fans at the Bell Centre were electric.
One big win over a team that is expected to be terrible doesn’t erase all the bad from losing five in a row to begin the year. But the Canadiens finally do have life.
It still hasn’t been a great start, but it could have been much worse and far more embarrassing if not for Drouin getting off to such a hot start with two goals and five points in six games for a team that is starving for scoring.