When Brendan Gallagher was place on the injured list due to his fractured thumb, the immediate question was: Who is going to replace his presence?
On Wednesday night the Montreal Canadiens got an answer in the form of Corey Perry, who was one of the few Montreal skaters to show up in all three periods against Toronto, though it shouldn’t be all that surprising to anyone who has watched the team this year. Despite being a last-second signing, Perry has come up big all season long for Montreal and tried to do so again on Wednesday.
When the Canadiens went down a goal early, he immediately made his presence felt on his first shift, tying the game not even 90 seconds later. His smarts and vision allowed him to keep the play moving even after a misfired shot hit him in the leg and bounced away. He drifted into the open space on the ice to receive a pass from Nick Suzuki, and from there he held for a second to outwit Jack Campbell and tuck his shot right in the open five-hole.
Needing a goal late, Perry put himself right in front of Campbell, trying to take away the goalie’s line of sight in the slot. He hacked and chipped away at the puck, finally lifting it past Campbell’s glove and putting Montreal within a goal.
Those two plays are something the Habs need to find more of in the coming weeks. They’ve never been the most skilled team in the division, but they’ve won plenty of games by relentlessly grinding down their opponents and making messes in the net-front area. Perry has been a huge part of that, as his hands have made him a threat to redirect pucks and score in tight on the forehand or backhand.
For a guy signed for basically league minimum, Perry has produced far better than most could have hoped. In a regular 82-game season, he’d be on pace for 25 goals, which would make him one of the best-value players in the league.
For the Canadiens, it’s great to get contributions like this, but they shouldn’t be relying on a 35-year-old to be their saving grace. The time is now for everyone on the team to step up in the ways Perry has for the team of late.