Canadiens: In Other News… Lack of Secondary Scoring, Kotkaniemi Struggles

New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens
New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages
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Harvey-Pinard’s struggles demonstrate a worrying lack of secondary scoring

Rafael-Harvey Pinard and the rest of Montreal’s supporting cast on offense, have been terrible this season. There’s no other way to put it.  Now, it goes without saying that it was a less than ideal start to the season for most of the Habs top players like Caufield and top prospect Juraj Slafkovsky.

However, both have since picked up their play in the second half of the campaign and then some, with Caufield now playing at essentially the same pace as last season with 17-23-40 totals over 50 games, while, in 11 more games played then last season, Slafkovsky has 12 more points, an encouraging pace which signifies his confidence and consistency are growing. 

With this, Suzuki now has some much needed support alongside No. 1 defenseman Mike Matheson, which, while an encouraging sign, simply hasn’t been enough to keep the team competitive, especially when the rest of the lineup has completely and entirely failed to keep up the pace, preferring instead it seems to pick at sunflowers and draw smiley faces in the dirt. And nowhere has this been more apparent than with guys like Josh Anderson, Brendan Gallagher, and Harvey-Pinard.

While I’ve already discussed Anderson and Gallagher in parts, with either their lack of finishing (Anderson) or continued lack of footspeed (Gallagher) making them a non factor in the lineup, going into this season, I was hopeful of Harvey-Pinard’s potential as a legitimate top-six forward. After having gone on a remarkable run to end last season, posting 14-6-20 totals over 34 games, Pinard stepped up when the injury bug had entirely decimated the Habs lineup yet again.

Having already established himself as a legitimate first-line option with the AHL’s Laval Rocket, Pinard brought an offensive consistency to Laval’s lineup that hadn’t been seen since the days of Chris Terry winning the AHL scoring title in 2017-18 in spite of the Rocket’s dismal performance. 

While he was a key part of Laval’s miraculous run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals (finishing tied for third on the team in playoff scoring) Pinard has struggled to show much if any of that same ability thus far in 23-24, having posted just 1-6-7 totals over 22 games.

Like a lot of former top AHL players who find brief success at the NHL level (Mark Arcobello, Brad Smyth, Steve Maltais, etc.) Pinard got his lucky bounces last season and finished plays when opportunities presented themselves, with a few highlight-reel goals and his first career hat-trick to show for it. However, the reality of the NHL is that luck can only get you so far, and having not been able to capitalize on those same chances this season, it’s been a slow and worrying start for Pinard.

While it is still too early to write him off entirely, with there always being a chance he picks up his play post-All Star break, there is also a growing concern that Pinard is ultimately just another Charles Hudon, or Aaron Palushaj. Players who served key offensive roles for the Canadiens AHL teams but could never show that same ability at the NHL level.

Being signed for a team-friendly deal at around $1 million AAV, Pinard’s surge last season brought a lot of hope to the Habs offensive depth, but with little to show for thus far this season, it's make or break time for the Saguenay native.