For most of the regular season, Joel Edmundson was just a defensive guy in the Habs lineup, attached to Jeff Petry in pretty much every single situation. He improved over the course of the season, having a pretty solid showing through the Habs’ injury woes to end the year.
Against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round One, he was arguably the team’s most consistent performer on the blue line as the big guns of Petry and Shea Weber looked nothing like themselves. Against the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1 the defensive group managed to produce six points on the night, after just two in all of their games against Toronto. Leading the way at both ends of the ice once again though, was Edmundson.
He collected a pair of assists, one secondary and one primary, with the latter coming on Nick Suzuki’s incredible solo goal on Connor Hellebuyck. Yet, it was Edmundson’s efforts on his secondary assist that really caught my eye because it showed how much he had developed his game over the course of the season.
Edmundson pinches aggressively to present himself as an offensive target for Eric Staal, who gives him the puck and then rotates to the far side of the net. Edmundson fires a shot along the red line, then bats down the attempted clear along the goal line still. He then leaves it for Corey Perry who uses Edmundson as a decoy as he cuts to the middle to set up Staal’s goal.
To see a stay-at-home type like Edmundson activate and play like that (plus that Weber breakaway) tells me that the defensive group is playing with more confidence. That’s great news for a Canadiens team that likes to roll their lines and pairs regularly.
It wasn’t just his offensive showing that was worthy of praise. Edmundson legitimately filled a shutdown role against the Jets as well. Against every single skater on the Jets, he posted a positive Corsi for %, including a very strong showing against the always dangerous Nikolaj Ehlers and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Playing the second most minutes (just 12 seconds less than Ben Chiarot), Edmundson was full value on Wednesday night. He hasn’t always looked flashy doing it, but when he puts on a game like he did against the Jets, it’s not very hard to see why Marc Bergevin added him to the roster.
If Edmundson can keep his stable performances coming, we should see Petry grow back into his best game as well. He already looked much better in Game 1, but there are at least three more games to go.