When the Montreal Canadiens made all of their coaching changes over the last few weeks, part of the reason they came about were the struggles of the top pair of Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot. Since Dominique Ducharme took over, we’ve seen big improvements in the play of many players like Jonathan Drouin, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Alexander Romanov. However, the Weber-Chiarot duo still looks out of sorts, and that continued on Saturday against Winnipeg.
Against the Jets, Weber (31.3% Corsi-for percentage) and Chiarot (40.0%) were among the least impactful players on the ice at five-on-five. Their struggles are a problem as it stands, but thankfully they’re being mitigated in a big way by the emergence of Romanov and Brett Kulak, but especially the partnership of Jeff Petry and Joel Edmundson. The latter pair has been a driving force all year, but in the last few weeks have hit a new level, especially Edmundson who started slowly to begin the year.
Against Winnipeg it was Edmundson who led the team in CF%, clocking in at 71.0%, with Petry just behind him. While Petry was also the only one to tally a point on his his eighth goal of the year, the duo was clearly head and shoulders above their peers.
Even on plays where they didn’t get a point, they were instrumental in the lead-up to a goal. On Joel Armia’s tally, Petry’s perfect breakout pass sprung the puck forward that eventually allowed Jonathan Drouin to feed Armia for his goal.
Petry is putting together a Norris Trophy-worthy season, and the improvements under Ducharme by Edmundson are coming at a crucial time. If the top pair isn’t passing muster, the Canadiens need their other two to step up to the challenge, and so far they are.
We’ve all expected high-level play from Petry, he’s been performing extremely well in his Montreal tenure, but now it’s not him doing it alone. Edmundson coming into his own is helping to stabilize that pairing as he provides a safer option to Petry’s offensively-inclined game.