As the narrative goes, the Habs surprised many when they upset the Penguins in the play-in round in 2020, proceeding to lose in a competitive fashion against the Flyers in the "1st round". The play of some players led Bergevin to his shopping spree that saved the 2021 season (Jake Allen, Joel Edmundson, Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli were all key to just make the playoffs, and Corey Perry also contributed with his minimum salary contract). The reason for this optimism rested mainly on the emergence of Suzuki and Kotkaniemi at center.
Julien used them to put Danault on a purely defensive line with Byron and Lekhonen, while Suzuki and Kotkaniemi played with his regular offensive wingers in Tatar and Gallagher. We all know how that went. To his credit, Danault played great defence but his offensive production cratered and he was none too happy about the situation.
For the 2021 season, Danault was re-united with Tatar and Gallagher. Their third season together contained a lot of hiccups, with Tatar being their highest scorer but plagued with inconsistency while Gallager missed about 20 games. Danault finished with 5 goals in 56 games. In fact, the scoring leaders were, by far, Toffoli, Petry and Suzuki.
Come playoff time, Gallagher returned, but Tatar's inefficiency caused him to be soon replaced by Jake Evans, then Lekhonen, more defensive players. Danault's line still struggles to produce offensively, being tasked with more defensive missions again. If that sounds like Danault is the new Plekanec, well, it does look like it. But a key difference with 2020 is that Danault seems to totally accept, and in fact appreciate, his role. He actually wants it this time.
I think a huge reason for this is that, this time, he kept that dynamo on his right wing, Brandon Gallagher. This was no downgrade. Danault has yet to score in these playoffs, the last before he hits unrestricted free agency.
And nobody cares. No center playing with Gallagher regrets it.
What a difference a year makes.