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Finding the elusive first NHL goal for Victor Mete

Victor Mete won’t score with a big slapshot, but by continuing to make himself a back-door and trailing option for his forwards.

Montreal Canadiens v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

It has now been 65 games, and Victor Mete is still goalless. While he is a blue-liner, it is unexpected that after such a long stretch, Mete still hasn't gotten a puck to bounce his way. At this point, getting luck to go his side and scoring in a flukier way would be welcomed by the second-year NHL player, allowing him to reach an important milestone.

Mete almost had his first at the beginning of October, but it was disallowed on grounds of goaltender interference when Andrew Shaw made contact with Casey DeSmith prior to the puck entering the cage. It’s as if greater forces had to prevent Mete from getting his due.

That said, the way Mete put the puck in the net was likely how he will put up his first when the time comes: by sliding down from the point for a back-door play.

It’s no secret that Mete’s shot is mediocre compared to many other NHL defencemen. Some undersized blue-liners make it work and find a way to put up some power on their release, but Mete uses his point shot to mostly place the puck on net for rebounds. He doesn’t seem to have the clapper necessary to wire pucks in the net from afar. This is why acting as a fourth forward and getting closer to the net is the way to go for Mete if he wants to score.

It is what he used to do in Junior. He timed himself with the attack, waited for a teammate to attract the defence's attention to sneak in behind and present a cross-ice pass option. Like in this sequence below, when Robert Thomas of the London Knights spins in the corner, comes back below the goal line, and finds Mete right in front of the blue paint for a tap-in goal.

We saw that facet of his offensive game resurface at times last season, but Mete was still adjusting to the league, and he wasn’t giving his forwards another option off the rush as much.

This season, it seems like Mete is willing to try those plays a bit more than before. This is a similar sequence to the one above, except that Joël Armia doesn’t have the vision and the playmaking ability of Thomas, and doesn’t see the diminutive defenceman in position for a scoring chance until it is too late to make the pass.

That game against the Washington Capitals was maybe Mete’s best offensive showing of the season. He was taking risks, jumping up from the blue line to get the puck deeper in the zone. He even got a shot on net right from in between the dots, with a nice pass coming off the stick of Mikey Reilly.

Against the Edmonton Oilers, Mete also had a similar chance after Jesperi Kotkaniemi skated the puck into the zone, made the defence back off, and spotted the defenceman rushing over the blue line with a free lane to the net.

Mete whiffed on the shot, and he had more space there to get close to the net, but the idea was right.

In the modern NHL, defensive formations have tightened up, and with so much emphasis put on backchecking, it becomes harder and harder to score with just three forwards off the rush. Therefore, delaying the pass after the zone entry, cutting back, and hitting a defenceman that is trailing the play is often the best chance to generate an interesting scoring chance a few seconds after a break-in.

Mete’s skill set has value in this scheme. His skating allows him to go up and down the ice quickly, and it also acts as a safety net in case the plan goes awry. Hopefully, he is starting to discover the extent he can use it to create offensively in the NHL.

He is not Torey Krug, who is making his career acting as a fourth forward, but he has more potential than the zero goals in 65 games would indicate.

He just needs one. It could be the gateway to more confidence and offensive involvement from the most dynamic of Montreal’s defencemen.