The Montreal Canadiens fell to the Ottawa Senators in a shootout last night. David Desharnais made the final attempt and lost the puck, but he was the right choice to use in that situation.
The Montreal Canadiens tasted defeat for the first time in 2016-17 last night. The game against the Ottawa Senators came down to a shootout, and ended when David Desharnais lost the puck during his attempt. Failing to get a shot off in a shootout is embarrassing, but Desharnais was the right man to use in the shootout.
Many fans took to social media after the Canadiens loss to voice their displeasure. Many were upset that Head Coach Michel Therrien would even consider using Desharnais in the shootout. However, Therrien made the right call going to the maligned center in the skills competition.
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Therrien has made many wrong moves in his two stints with the Canadiens. His usage of Desharnais has been as puzzling a decision any coach has continuously made in the past several years.
The small center has great vision and passing skills. However, he just isn’t at the level to be a first line center. Yet, that is exactly where he has found himself for much of the past four season. Skating alongside Max Pacioretty inflated Desharnais’ numbers to respectable levels, but there are better options.
Alex Galchenyuk played most of those four seasons as a left winger, when fans of the Canadiens got increasingly frustrated. The third overall pick in 2012 finally made the switch to center late last season, and scored 16 goals in the teams’ last 22 games.
Desharnais Struggles In Some Areas, But Not The Shootout
Desharnais’ career high in goals is 16. Like I said, he is a good passer, but is very limited in other areas of the game.
One area of the game that Desharnais continues to excel in is the shootout. Yes, it was frustrating to see him lose the puck and the game for the Canadiens last night. However, taking a quick glance at his career shootout numbers, he was the right man for the job.
Again, not the right man for the number one center job. The right man for the shootout job. (This is just in case Michel Therrien ever reads this. Don’t want him to get confused here.)
Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Desharnais has taken 41 shootouts attempts in his career and scored on 17 of them. This gives him a very solid 41.5% in the skills competition. Among players who have taken at least 15 shots, he ranks 54th all time in shootout shooting percentage. His 17 goals are the 33rd most all time.
47 players have taken as many attempts as Desharnais in the shootout. Desharnais has a better conversion percentage than all but ten of them.
Pacioretty and Galchenyuk shot ahead of Desharnais last night and no one complained. Pacioretty has a career 29.6 shooting percentage in the shootout and Galchenyuk trails him with a 25.8 career mark.
Many players better than Desharnais have embarrassing shootout moments
Desharnais has done a lot wrong for the Montreal Canadiens in his career. One thing he consistently does right is score in the shootout. He blew it last night, but that happens. Take a look at the video below. It is a little dated, but it shows some of the best players in the game (and Raffi Torres) can look embarrassingly terrible in the shootout.
Among Canadiens players, the only one to take more than seven shots in the shootout and have a better scoring percentage than Desharnais is Saku Koivu. That’s pretty good company to keep in any area of the game.
I understand that Desharnais has many limitations to his game. I will openly question why he got so much ice time in overtime. His lack of speed and defensive ability make him the wrong choice in a 3 on 3 format.
However, I will never question why Desharnais is chosen in the shootout. The better question after last night’s is, why would Pacioretty and Galchenyuk shoot ahead of Desharnais?