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Offensive Expectations: Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu had productive seasons

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With the season over, we look at the surprises, the disappointments, and heavily scrutinized.

Vancouver Canucks v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens’ season has come to an end after a disappointingly short post-season run.

Before the season began, I projected some offensive totals for the team and the players. First, let's see how the team fared overall.

Team totals

Season GP Shots/GP Shots pace Goals-for Pace Sh%
Season GP Shots/GP Shots pace Goals-for Pace Sh%
2015-16
Actual 82 30.46 2498 216 8.65%
2016-17
Expected 82 30.49 2500 225 9.00%
Quarter 20 29.20 2394 258 10.79%
Half 41 30.95 2538 248 9.77%
Three quarter 58 29.53 2422 232 9.57%
Full 82 30.00 2460 223 9.07%

Okay, I was lucky. I came short by less than one percent in terms of goals and two percent in shots.

We can see the impact Claude Julien had. He was able to significantly raise the shot pace for the season in just 24 games behind the bench. Unfortunately, the goal pace dropped a bit as the shooting percentage continued its steady downward trend. It didn’t help that his roster was expanded with several non-offensive players shortly after his arrival.

Let's shift to the player totals now. I will not expand on the guys added at the trade deadline. None of them had an impact in terms of offence.

Forward totals

Player GP G Pace G Exp. G P Pace P Exp. P iSF iSh%
Player GP G Pace G Exp. G P Pace P Exp. P iSF iSh%
Max Pacioretty (C) 81 35 35 30 67 68 55 268 13.06
Alexander Radulov 76 18 19 18 54 58 55 148 12.16
Phillip Danault 82 13 13 5 41 41 12 133 9.77
Paul Byron 81 22 22 7 43 44 12 96 22.92
Alex Galchenyuk 61 17 23 25 43 58 60 104 16.35
Andrew Shaw 68 12 14 14 29 35 35 127 9.45
Tomas Plekanec (A) 78 10 11 17 28 29 52 139 7.19
Brendan Gallagher (A) 64 10 13 28 28 36 56 187 5.35
Artturi Lehkonen 73 18 20 14 28 31 28 158 11.39
Torrey Mitchell 78 8 8 8 17 18 14 68 11.76
Brian Flynn 51 6 10 6 11 18 10 47 12.77
Daniel Carr 33 2 5 15 9 22 25 44 4.55
Michael McCarron 31 1 3 8 5 13 14 31 3.23

First I would like to point out that this disappointing season for Alex Galchenyuk is actually better than what he got credit for. I know he scored several of his goals at three-on-three, but I will point out that all those goals were game-winning ones rather than uncontested empty-netters. If it wasn't for his injury, he would have had a very decent season. Fans should stop expecting a pace of a point per game because a certain Connor McDavid had a phenomenal season and just cracked the 100-point plateau, with no one else particularly close.

I was pretty much dead on for Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov. Andrew Shaw met expectations, but they were set quite low. Don't expect him to be a 30-goal-scorer next season.

I completely underestimated Phillip Danault and Paul Byron. I didn't expect Tomas Plekanec to fall off so abruptly, and I supposed Danault’s top feat would be replacing Lars Eller on the third line. He ended up playing with the two best forwards.

As for Byron, he has to get full credit for what he has done. Of his 43 points, a staggering 37 were primary as he directly set up a large portion of the team’s offence this year. I'm not sure it will be easily repeated in the future, as he ended the season with a shooting percentage above 20%, but the talent is definitely there.

Brendan Gallagher had a tough season. I wouldn't call that a regression because he was replaced by Radulov on the top trio where he used to benefit a lot from Pacioretty’s presence allowing him to play a complementary role.

Artturi Lehkonen is another pleasant surprise. Like Byron, he deserves a lot of credit for what he accomplished this season. I would like to point out that Byron and Lehkonen played a lot with Plekanec who was not generating much from his side with another dreadful season in terms of offence.

Lehkonen was also the only bright spot for the youth. Not much progress was seen from Daniel Carr or Michael McCarron.

Defencemen totals

Player GP G Pace G Exp. G P Pace P Exp. P iSF iSh%
Player GP G Pace G Exp. G P Pace P Exp. P iSF iSh%
Shea Weber (A) 78 13 14 10 42 44 40 183 7.10
Jeff Petry 80 8 8 7 28 29 36 172 4.65
Andrei Markov (A) 62 6 8 7 36 48 40 98 6.12
Nathan Beaulieu 74 4 4 5 28 31 30 118 3.39
Nikita Nesterov 41 4 8 6 13 26 18 54 7.41
Alexei Emelin 56 2 3 3 7 10 10 82 2.44

The defence corp changed a lot over the course of the season. No player like Kevin Shattenkirk jumped into the fold, however, and nine points in a combined 36 games were all the new blue-liners contributed.

Shea Weber didn't score 26 goals like Sheldon Souray did years ago, but he performed much better than the 10-goal projection I outlined. Andrei Markov also fared quite well. He hasn't reached the cliff of age that Plekanec tumbled over.

Jeff Petry had his best offensive season ever. A 30- to 40-point campaign may be his ceiling, which is very good for a second-pairing defenceman. The much-maligned Nathan Beaulieu matched that production — in fewer games — and may be in line for the same range in his career.

Final thoughts

There were some surprises and some disappointments. Players got shuffled and some saw more ice than expected, and several made the best of it (e.g. Lehkonen, Byron, and Danault).

Nonetheless, the talent pool is questionable. Do the Habs have the talent to reach a higher mark in terms of goals per game? A better power play would certainly help.

Were Radulov’s 18 goals on the top line more impressive than the 19 Gallagher posted while being injured for part of the season last year? Do Danault’s 13 unexpected goals fill in for the 30 from Galchenyuk in 2015-16? Would Lehkonen break 25 goals if he played on the first wave of the power play?

Marc Bergevin and his crew will have to split their focus between the talent and the deployment to find a way to improve the team’s skill and obtain higher-level replacement players to fill out the 23-man roster. One of those players should be Charles Hudon, provided the Vegas Golden Knights haven’t seen more potential in him than the Habs have seemed to in his AHL career.