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The Montreal Canadiens Bring in The Dragon Slayer

“So this is what a Power Play looks like”
– Me….and every other Habs fan, probably

The Canadiens struggles on the Power Play have been well documented over the last couple of seasons. The team definitely needed a breath of fresh air, and though early and a small sample size, there is hope that change has arrived.

Alex Burrows is a hometown kid, or more commonly referred to as un gars de chez nous. He is an easy guy to root for because he is living many Habs fan’s dreams. He had a successful NHL career, making the league as a journeyman who worked his way up to playing on the top line with the Sedins. He is forever known as the Dragon Slayer and his legacy in Vancouver is cemented in the Canucks Ring of Honour.

Now he get’s to the greatest hockey franchise in history. (A completely unbiased opinion!)

Unlike most retired players who enjoyed long careers, Burrows wasted no time getting back in the game. The year after retiring he joined the Laval Rockets as Joel Bouchard’s assistant coach. In an attempt to get a more personal analysis on Burrows and his time in Laval, I reached out to someone who knows him. This is what they had to say:

“He’s very articulate, deceptively smart and always wants to learn and adapt, with ways to improve his tactics and improve himself all around as a coach. He’s a fantastic player’s coach who keeps a strong connection with the players.”

I want to highlight the second half of this quote, and put it into context with a quote from Marc Bergevin. This is from the press conference announcing Dominique Ducharme as the Interim Head Coach.

Clearly Bergevin wanted to bring in a new message and more importantly coaches who can better communicate with players. It takes time to properly assess how a team adapts to a new coach and their new philosophies and tactics. Just look at Toronto and Sheldon Keefe, it took some time but no one is complaining any more. Which is why any argument for how Burrows has changed a players game is a bit circumstantial at this point.

Be that as it may, his adjustments to the Power Play (PP) are evident. For starters, the Habs can enter the offensive zone. A few simple adjustments to drag the first opposing forward to the boards, to create a series of 2-on-1’s has paid massive dividends.

Next the off the puck movement is a new look from the stagnant PP under the previous regime. The Habs are running the PP from both sides of the ice and guy are moving to create passing and shooting lanes. Since Burrows has taken the reigns, the Habs have had the 5th best PP in the NHL, clicking at a 33.3% success rate (6/18).

This is without having figured out the best way to utilize Shea Weber yet.

I am going to contradict myself and say that Burrows arrival has had the greatest affect on Kotkaniemi (KK). The second unit (arguably the first right now) runs through KK and it has been working. There is a clear familiarity in the system from his time in Laval last season. With the Rockets Kotkaniemi put up 13 points, five of which came on the PP.

Despite contradicting myself, I will say that I do believe we are seeing Step 2 of Bergevin’s plan taking affect. The Habs GM has been burned by his loyalty to others in the past but it seems that this time around he has identified his guys and gone with his gut.

As a Habs fan who has seen this story far too many times, I expect some regression. However, I hope that this is offset by the growth in other areas as Burrows and Ducharme continue to push the team in a slightly new direction

Some big news to announce here at Hot Sauce Sports. We are proud to welcome the Chtib & Zhang Show to the family! They will be bringing a fresh new perspective to the team as they are by far the youngest of the crew. Check out their first episode under the Hot Sauce brand!

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