Montreal Canadiens: Top Powerplay Best Served With Different Quarterback

San Jose Sharks v Montreal Canadiens
San Jose Sharks v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens powerplay continues to be inconsistent and I have noticed that Mike Matheson has become a big reason for it.

Now this isn’t meant to pile on Matheson, because he is a talented player. But the fact of the matter is that he has some tendencies that disrupt the rhythm of the Habs power play. It appears that he has limited vision to the right of him.

He also tends to overshoot, which is fine and dandy if he can threaten the shot to the net. Unfortunately, a fair percentage of his shots are blocked or deflected, resulting in an easy defensive zone clear for penalty killers. He has made the Canadiens' top power play one-dimensional, and the results speak for themselves. 

Although the team is plagued with injuries, we shouldn’t be led to believe that the top unit is playing to their potential. Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield both have great shots and Sean Monahan is brilliant at the top of the crease. Juraj Slafkovsky is also yet another option, and he is up and coming, but hasn’t gotten many touches on the power play. 

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It’s as plain as can be to the naked eye - the talent drop off between the two units is significant. 

Jesse Ylonen and Justin Barron are the two best offensive players, but aside from them, there are slim pickings. But that doesn’t have to continue being the theme. If only there were a skilled player who could operate a power play scheme and address the need for skill on the second brigade.

Whether you agree or not, the Canadiens need to address a problem. So long as Matheson stays trigger-happy and refuses to pass the puck to Slafkovsky, he will never have a chance to use his shot. On the second unit, however, there is only Ylonen who would be considered a sniper.

This plays into Matheson’s hand since he prefers to shoot the puck. Josh Anderson and Brendan Gallagher are like two dogs on a bone, which means they should have a ton of rebound chances. And Slafkovsky no longer needs to beg for a pass from Matheson - which is a win-win. 

Now who replaces Matheson on the first unit? Two young defensemen have shown shades of their offensive abilities. For that reason, I think that Martin St. Louis should give Kaiden Guhle and/or Jayden Struble a chance. If it doesn’t work, then you change it, but you never know until you give it a shot. 

Guhle and Struble are defence-first defensemen, but it doesn’t limit them offensively at all. In fact, because of their stout play away from the puck, they earn a lot of opportunities and are strong in transition. They have the mobility and skating fluidity just like Matheson and they haven’t begun to scratch the surface of their potential yet.

With Matheson showing what he is, it seems logical to let the young guys play. With Lane Hutson in the wings, Matheson could be a legitimate trade chip. Sure Guhle and Struble are young, but the right time to sell high on Matheson is sooner rather than later. 

Once each member of the power play starts getting consistent touches, the unit is sure to have increased production. That doesn’t seem like it will happen until Matheson is no longer earning minutes on the top unit. Matheson, simply put takes the penalty killer's attention away from the rest of the unit, so if he can get pucks through, Gallagher and Anderson can go to work around the crease.