During last year’a post-season, a term emerged to describe the defence of the Montreal Canadiens: The Trident. As much as Brett Kulak made a name for himself, he never quite ascended to the perceived level of Jeff Petry, Shea Weber, and Ben Chiarot.
To start the 2020-21 season, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin added Joel Edmundson with the idea of pairing him with Petry. Bergevin counted on Edmundson being the player who was paired with Alex Pietrangelo, not the one who struggled with Colton Parayko nor the one who never fit in with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Edmundson and Petry have become a solid pairing and it has become clear through six games that opposing teams do not know how to attack the Canadiens. The reason for that is that both pairings have a similar style, and both have the respect of opposing coaches and players.
It doesn’t matter which one of Petry or Weber is the better defenceman because they are both playing to a top pairing level which provides the Canadiens with a significant advantage. Sometimes the Petry pairing plays more shorthanded and less at even strength, other times, the opposite.
On top of that, the pairing of Kulak and rookie Alexander Romanov is so good they are able to dominate their matchups against bottom six lines and third pairings. As much as the Canadiens depth as forward has been a storyline this season, the defence has that depth as well.
If anything, the Trident is now the team’s three pairings instead of three players.
Petry’s stellar start
As good as the team’s performance has been, Jeff Petry has picked up from where he left off during the post-season. He leads all NHL defenders in scoring with two goals and five assists for seven points. This is on top of his defensive play that makes his side of the ice an offensive black hole.
Petry’s hot start doesn’t just apply to even strength. When killing penalties, Petry has been unbelievable. He has been on the ice for four of the Canadiens shorthanded goals this season. On top of that, he has only been on for four of the opponent’s power play goals making him even.
That won’t last, but with Edmundson in front of the net, Petry’s allowed to play the aggressive style that Claude Julien wants to see with the disadvantage. It allows the team to create chances. His 0.89 expected goals-for while shorthanded is tied for top spot in the entire NHL.
Petry is putting together the kind of numbers to start his season that put players in the Norris Trophy conversation. It is obviously still very early, but Petry is as big a part of the Canadiens early run of success as anyone.
Weber and Chiarot shutting down opponents
If Petry and Edmundson are putting opponents into holes offensively, the Chiarot-Weber pairing may have even more impressive defensive numbers.
Weber has only been on the ice for six high danger scoring chances against at five on five, while Chiarot has been on the ice for six. To put it in perspective, among all NHL defencemen who have played at least 90 minutes this season, Weber is third and Chiarot is fifth in high danger chances allowed per 60 minutes.
To make matters worse (for opponents), when that pairing is on the ice, Montreal gets 76% of high danger scoring chances.
As always with these numbers it is still early, but the Weber-Chiarot pairing has basically not allowed teams to shoot from areas where they should be expected to score. That is a good sign no matter who your goaltender is but when it’s Carey Price, it makes a team even more dangerous.