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Micro Analysis: Jeff Petry has earned his team-high even-strength minutes

Petry is quietly becoming the team’s go-to defenceman.

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Jeff Petry’s minutes

Petry earned his team-high five-on-five ice time of 19:30 last night. Against a team that not only forechecks well but also overflows with the talent necessary to capitalize on breakdowns, the defenceman had his usual poise in transition.

He was one of the pillars of the offence, but one sequence in particular showed why he has become both a reliable and very effective piece in Luke Richardson’s defensive group.

This specific faceoff came after an icing with a tired fourth line on the ice. Nate Thompson won at the dot and the puck flipped to the back boards, bouncing along the wall.

Had Petry looked to gain control, it would have taken a second to settle the puck down and make a play. But he didn’t; he made the right play. He put on the brakes, pushed his body into the forechecking Leafs player on his back and, this way, created a pocket and time for his partner to pass the puck up the ice.

Ben Chiarot found Nick Suzuki in stride, but the rookie missed on his own pass. The puck slid back down the zone. Again, Petry took matters into his own hands. An excited young defenceman would have immediately rushed to the puck and looked to carry it, which would have allowed the opponent following him to block his escape route. Experience has taught #26 well. Without revealing where he would take the puck, he let the opponent get close to him.

It accomplished two things: it let his team reposition after the first failed breakout, and gave him a chance to separate from the forecheck with a couple of steps with an abrupt turn. The Leafs’ forechecker hit the boards and Petry got the puck out himself, clearing it to allow a needed line change.

Max Domi’s strong skating mechanics led to Jonathan Drouin’s goal

Domi is the best technical skater of the Montreal Canadiens’ forward corps. Only Paul Byron could potentially challenge him for that title. Domi’s assist on Drouin’s goal only happened because of years of honing the mechanics of his stride.

First, Domi is always in a ready position on the ice. He doesn’t float upright like many NHLers who could never shake the bad habit. His bent knees and straight, forward-leaning back allow him to explode to loose pucks in an instant. His feet are quick, but he also maximizes the power they put out with his strong form.

On that goal, a cross-over and left leg push were enough for Domi to beat Morgan Rielly to the puck. Then, he got on his outside edge and leaned against the defenceman, knees remaining bent for stability and power. This way, Domi got the inside track to the net; his speed difference and his strong and stable position meant that any shoving attempt from Rielly would only transfer more momentum to the diminutive forward.

The recovery on both feet and backhand pass Domi then managed in a fraction of a second was another testament of his skill, and how his feet and hands work together to create memorable goals.

Ben Chiarot’s creative stick-handling

No, you didn’t miss a sequence where Chiarot dangled through a few opponents to set up a chance. That probably won’t happen this season as the new defenceman isn’t one to make highlight reels. Yet he still put a little twist on one of his main talents: blocking the puck.

After an offensive rush where he joined as a trailer, connected with a spin-pass from Phillip Danault, and got a shooting chance from the slot — an interesting play from the touted shutdown defender — Chiarot readjusted his helmet to find he was now out of position. The puck flew toward William Nylander in the neutral zone.

Chiarot skated in the passing lane and knocked it down out of mid-air ... by inverting his stick blade. Ingenious, as it increased the area of contact for the puck that just happened to hit the down-facing blade.

He may prefer to stay at home, but Chiarot has a few tricks in his bag when he decides to travel up the ice.

Game-breaking goal-scoring

I know, I know, It’s about the Leafs. But sometimes a play is so impressive you have to break it down.

Maybe it’s just routine for Toronto, but Auston Matthews gave everyone another reminder that he is in a league of his own when it comes to scoring goals.

The centreman has the size, but doesn’t play the power-forward game combined with the left-circle slapshot bomb of an Alexander Ovechkin. Instead, Matthews is very adaptable and keen in his read of the play.

It also helps that Toronto provides him with a dynamic supporting cast that makes the young sniper’s qualities shine even more.

Rielly created the first goal for the Leafs. He did what Habs defenceman too often hesitate to do: take the available space. He didn’t fire a low-danger shot from the wall, but looked for a play to the slot.

Matthews perfectly timed himself with Rielly. He saw the defenceman start his motion toward the right faceoff circle and immediately recognized the opportunity. So he sprung out of the defensive box as his defenceman got the puck, and made himself a pass option.

The goal was also a result of the way Matthews moved his body. He went into a 10-and-two skating position to pivot and direct his front foot toward the net. His body positioning ensured the precision of the following shot, but the fact that #34 also pulled it off while his momentum carried him backward added a dramatic touch to the whole scene.

This is the kind of game-breaking ability in a goal-scorer the Habs lack. Matthews’s anticipation and shooting ability immediately got his team back into the game twice: after a rough start and then when they needed a goal late in the third period.

Well ... they lack it currently (and make up for it with heart and team-wide effort). This is the kind of element Cole Caufield could bring down the road for the Habs.