Mikey Reilly was one of many Montreal Canadiens defencemen coming into this season unsure of what their role would be with the team. After all was said and done in training camp, Karl Alzner ended up as a healthy scratch, despite his hefty contract and ironman streak, while in his place drew Reilly.
He ended up lining up with Noah Juulsen, and the defensive duo not only exceeded expectations, they blew them out of the water with an incredible performance. Reilly especially turned in an absolutely outstanding performance on his own. Most impressive was that he did it while playing against the Maple Leafs’ top line.
In the five minutes or so that Reilly played against Auston Matthews, Patrick Marleau, and Tyler Ennis, he helped produced 19 shot attempts for the Habs, which is great, but made better by the fact that he allowed just three against overall. One of Reilly’s biggest flaws has always been his play in the defensive zone, so to shut down one of the NHL’s elite stars like he did last night is commendable.
Claude Julien and Luke Richardson clearly noticed Reilly’s play early and leaned heavily on him throughout the night, as he led the team in five-on-five ice time. In that time he was on the ice for the most scoring chances for, and the most high-danger chances for as well, showing that he has the offensive chops to help make an impact. It’s not even always that he’s shooting the puck well, but he often carried the puck deep into the zone and operated away from the blue line, which created multiple chances for his linemates and few counterattacks for the Leafs.
If Reilly can keep his steady performances coming over the course of the year, then the Canadiens’ defence is in much better shape than previously thought. He can move the puck well, and adding a defensive wrinkle to his game creates an easily deployable option for the Canadiens coaching staff.