It’s not easy to be the guy who has to play second fiddle behind Shea Weber in Montreal. The Canadiens’ top pair eats up major minutes against top competition and plays hefty minutes on the penalty kill, but we knew that already.
We also knew that behind Weber is Jeff Petry, a player who would likely be on many top pairs across the NHL, and could arguably be on Montreal’s as well. In the early going of this season, it looks like Petry is putting together an incredible campaign on the blue line, one that will have him in the Norris Trophy conversation.
Through seven games, Petry has posted two goals and six assists with a plus-eight rating. The scoring places him second among defenders, just one point behind John Carlson, Cale Makar, and Quinn Hughes at the time of this writing. A big point to also take into account with Petry’s points is that six of them are primary points, meaning he’s more directly involved in the play than someone like Carlson who has four secondary assists.
While plus-minus is a highly flawed stat (and I don’t believe it has much worth), it’s often something the voters take into account when considering their awards finalists. That increased rating is a credit to Petry, whose pairing with Joel Edmundson has done well to keep pucks out of its own net so far.
There are a lot of things to like about Petry’s overall game. He’s making smart plays defensively without getting dinged for penalties. In fact, he’s the only member of the Canadiens to not take a penalty at all. It’s still early, but the simple signs are there for someone that should be getting more attention among the NHL’s top defencemen.
For the Canadiens that might mean eventually breaking up his partnership with Edmundson. They’re sitting below even in terms of controlling shots on the ice, some of which can be attributed to a rough first two games. Even with that in mind, when he’s away from Edmundson, Petry is controlling nearly 63% of the shots, compared to the 45% he is with his usual partner. Right now the puck is bouncing the right way for them, as they have a 1.081 PDO (a combination of on-ice shooting and save percentage) to start the year, benefiting from a higher shooting percentage than normal.
The groundwork is there for Petry to make a name for himself as one of the NHL’s best offensive producers, and he should rightfully be attracting some talk about a Norris. It does come with the huge caveat that a regression is likely coming, and when it does Montreal will have to adjust accordingly. Whether that is reuniting him with Brett Kulak, or tweaking the system, there are options for Montreal.
Petry is off to a flying start and is a huge part of the Canadiens offensive success. Now it’s up to the coaching staff to keep that going.