Claude Julien has been clear in the beginning of the week. Before you think of the Penguins, he must bring his men to regain their bearings as a team. This does not prevent Phillip Danault to be aware of the task ahead as of 1 August.
It is to him that will return the mandate to contain the passions of Sidney Crosby. At least, if his coach will have the leisure to hold the last change.
Officially, this confrontation in the best-of-five matches between the Canadian and the Penguins will not be considered as a playoff series. Nevertheless, it is worth recalling the statistics of the prodigy from Cole Harbour tournament post-season. It dominates all active players with a crop of 186 points. His 66 goals give him second place behind the 72 Patrick Marleau, now a teammate of Crosby.
“Crosby is a very good player. Both offensively and defensively. This will probably be the biggest challenge of my career,” admitted the striker, 27 years of age.
“But I’m going to prepare the same way that I always do. With each match, I confront the big trio opposite and I derive great pride”, he added.
A seasoned player
Since the beginning of his career, Crosby has played in 164 playoff games, which is 69 less than the 233 played by the 33 players listed on the list of Canada since the beginning of phase 3.
In fact, within the players in the centre of the Tricolour, Danault is the only one with the experience in the playoffs. Six big matches, in the face of the Rangers, in the spring of 2017.
“It’s been a long time”, has answered the athlete, 27-year-old when a colleague asked him if, at the time, he had had to cover Derek Stepan.
By chance, Danault is a player far more established than three years ago. Thanks to his work and his efforts, he has become a seasoned player whose name begins to circulate when the time comes to establish a list of candidates to the trophy, Frank Selke, awarded to the best attacking defensive NHL.
“When he joined our team, you could see that he had a lot of potential. He spoke to me often of the fact that he admired the play of Patrice Bergeron. Then, it was easy for me to work with him and help him become a player that is very reliable, has praised Julien. This is a player who, with work, maturity, and time, is in the process of becoming excellent in both directions of the arena.”
A mission for Suzuki
A result as the coach of the Canadian will be able to take advantage of it. Given the inexperience of Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jake Evans and Ryan Poehling, Julien risk of sending Danault on the ice more often than in his turn.
“I expect to have a lot of game time. I’m already on a lot of updates in game. I will may be even more. This is the kind of thing that we see in the series. I’ll be ready and I’m going to savor every presence”, has launched Danault.
The catch is that the Penguins are a monster with two heads. Even if Danault could become the shadow of Crosby, someone will have to keep Evgeni Malkin to the eye.
“Unless Sullivan (Mike, the head coach of the Penguins), I make the task easier by spacing the attendance of Crosby and Malkin, which I doubt, it will be necessary to rely on someone else,” said Julien.
And the experienced coach has his own idea about the identity of the one to whom he could entrust this task.
“(Nick) Suzuki is only in his first season, but he is a smart player. It can certainly do the work, has supported the Franco-Ontarian. Not to mention that it is not yet known what will happen to Max Domi.”
A lovely way to give experience to one of the beautiful jewels of the team.
- Having missed virtually all of training, Tuesday, Shea Weber was back at his post. Once again, Brett Kulak and Xavier Ouellet were absent.
- Alexander Romanov still has not arrived in Montreal. Claude Julien indicated that there was still paperwork to deal with. It can be assumed that he was talking about the visa of work of the defender of Russian.