Alexander Radulov is Key to Montreal Canadiens Success

Forward Alexander Radulov is a huge part of the Montreal Canadiens success this season. Radulov may be best known to be an offensive player, but he is far more than just that to the Canadiens. He has proven to be the league’s best free agent signing from last summer.

Radulov is a monster on the puck; almost nobody can knock him off the puck. What he brought to Montreal was exactly what the Habs needed. He is relentless when in game action, making his linemates better. Captain Max Pacioretty has mentioned on multiple occasions that Radulov gives his linemates more confidence. Each line that Radulov has played on thus far has produced efficiently at some point or another. Whether it was with Alex Galchenyuk and Paul Byron, or with Pacioretty and Phillip Danault, Radulov has produced. In fact, he has been the dominant factor in having his lines produce.

Radulov currently has 41 points in 51 games so far this season. This point total places him only behind Pacioretty (44) in points. His 13 goals place him third behind both Pacioretty and Byron. However, what makes the Russian forward stand out from his teammates is his 28 assists, which are eight more than anyone else on the Canadiens roster.

Overcoming struggle

When his linemate Alex Galchenyuk was sidelined with a knee injury early in December, Radulov went through a slight slump. He went on a period where he put up only two points in nine games in which he was held off the scoresheet in eight games. He quickly found chemistry again with Pacioretty upon his return.

Radulov did find chemistry with a teammate in the absence of Pacioretty, this time it was Danault at centre. Radulov went on a six-game point streak to get his game back. On the point streak Radulov posted four goals and four assists. His impact has even helped Pacioretty become one of the hottest snipers in the NHL right now.

The impact Radulov has on his linemates

Radulov has been very impactful on his linemates this season. When the season started, Radulov could not find chemistry with Tomas Plekanec. However, he did find some with rookie Artturi Lehkonen, who was attempting to get his feet wet in the NHL before taking off. Radulov helped Lehkonen’s game by setting the rookie up for a plethora of scoring chances.

Despite this his production was not where it should have been for the way he was playing. Radulov then joined a line with Byron and Galchenyuk. At that moment he found instant chemistry with Galchenyuk, which not only helped his game but Galchenyuk’s as well. It allowed Galchenyuk to play with a true playmaker to set him up for high danger scoring chances.

The duo clicked together for over a month as both flirted with the point per game pace. Galchenyuk’s injury stalled Radulov’s game and often looked less engaged for a few weeks thereafter. When he found chemistry with Pacioretty, he became the trigger-man for yet another sniper.

Radulov-Pacioretty chemistry

While the Canadiens have had their fair share of offensive struggles, they have continued to have a consistent duo. Before the injury to Alex Galchenyuk, Pacioretty was in a big slump. It took pairing him with Radulov to break out of it. Since being paired with Radulov, he has scored more goals than anyone else in the league.

Pacioretty is tied for third in the league in goals, with 25. One of the players that he is tied with is Alex Ovechkin. A big part of that is the work that Radulov puts in each shift. He gives Pacioretty good chances to score that he could not find when playing with Tomas Plekanec. A lot of this has to do with his hands and vision, which gives Radulov the ability to give Pacioretty time and space he needs to score.

Danault, much like Byron on his previous line, gives Radulov and Pacioretty the support that holds the line together. They aren’t the go-to guys on Radulov’s lines, but they produce when it is needed most. These players are what make the lines work. They are the support group that takes pressure off the two other players.  In today’s NHL, that is what makes a successful top line.

Where should Radulov play

With Galchenyuk recently came back from injury, with Danault playing well on the top line, the Russian forward is not playing with his original centre. While he may still be producing it, isn’t to the same extent that he did with Galchenyuk. It would make sense to move Radulov down onto the second line to play with Paul Byron and Alex Galchenyuk in order to balance the attack.

Galchenyuk has struggled to get back into form since his injury, and the player that could give him the spark is Radulov. Byron will be the glue guy on the line that takes the pressure off the big names of the line.

While this may hurt Pacioretty a little bit, it won’t destroy his goal total as he often scores goals off individual efforts. He has also found some nice chemistry alongside Phillip Danault. A player like Artturi Lehkonen could also help out a line with those two, using his speed and potential. When Brendan Gallagher comes back in March, he will slide in perfectly with Danault and Pacioretty. With coach Michel Therrien saying he would like a balanced attack that looks like the best results on paper.

via Last Word on Hockey, by Nick Lariviere

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