USA TODAY Sports
Tomas Plekanec was completely under-appreciated last season as David Desharnais ran away with the glory in an offensive role. Now that Pleks has some healthy linemates, have things changed for him?
Last season was the first time Tomas Plekanec was a rookie in 2005-06 that he failed to score 20 goals in a season, and as if to make up for it, Plekanec is well on his way to scoring 20 in this lockout shortened 48 game year.
Plekanec managed to skate through sand last season against top competition, and while he was blitzed in possession, he was able to be nearly as productive as David Desharnais was while playing with Darches and Blundens instead of Paciorettys and Coles.
This year however, Brian Gionta has been healthy, and a rejuvenated Rene Bourque allowed the Canadiens to create a legitimate tough minutes line that can score. In doing so, Plekanec has become a possession monster against the toughest opponents teams can throw against him.
In spite of playing with more talented linemates, Plekanec is still the best possession player out there most of the time he's on the ice, with his quality of teammates being relatively low in comparison to his peers. This means that he's the one driving the possession, which makes all these even strength numbers all the more impressive.
You can see how consistently Plekanec has been above team average in his 10 game rolling average possession, which you can compare to his zone starts:
Even more impressive? Plekanec is actually getting below average on-ice shooting, and hasn't been able to buy an assist at even strength. Eventually things are going to turn there for him, and since game 24, it's already begun, with 3 assists in 4 games.
Perhaps the biggest factor in Plekanec's success this season is his increased shot rate, which is only outpaced by two Habs forwards, both of which who play much easier jobs. Plekanec's play has seen him produce a scoring chance differential better than Pacioretty's last season, and Pacioretty was sheltered!
The only real weakness in Plekanec's even strength game is his lack of discipline, and that's just carrying the #1 center torch of Saku Koivu.
Similar to his even strength play, Plekanec has been lights out on the powerplay. He's been producing at a first line rate in both situations. What's confusing about Plekanec's powerplay stats is that he isn't used more often. He was used heavily to begin the year, but it's been Desharnais getting the first wave time lately, even though he's been clearly inferior.
The one thing that will prevent a perfect score in Plekanec's stellar season is his penalty killing. I'm not sure what's happened this season outside of the change to a diamond penalty kill formation, but these are not the numbers we all expect from Tomas Plekanec.
The team's worst shorthanded risk/reward rating, and a full shift of 12 more scoring chances against per 60 minutes in differential on the PK than last year has Plekanec looking like the worst penalty killing forward on the Canadiens, and that just sounds absurd to me.
To the eye Plekanec hasn't looked that bad on the PK, but that could be due to getting the highest on-ice save percentage of any regular penalty killer on the team. But could that lead to him being on for the second lowest goals against per 60 on the team while shorthanded? I'm just not sure. It's possible that Plekanec is doing something on the PK that just isn't picked up by statistics, but until now, that stats have always been on his side. I'm erring on the side of him being bad but lucky, but based solely on the PK system, which I believe to be awful.
Plekanec is being graded as a tough minutes, first line center, and he's passing with flying colours, playing as well as he ever has. The only reason he doesn't get a 10 is because of the penalty kill.
First half grade: 9/10