Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had his busiest offseason to date this year. He improved every single position by bringing in the likes of Josh Anderson, Jake Allen, and Joel Edmundson via trade. He also got top prospect Alexander Romanov to make the jump to North America as well. However, arguably the biggest addition Bergevin made was going out and signing unrestricted free agent Tyler Toffoli to a four-year deal worth $17 million. There was a lot of excitement around the signing. How did the Canadiens manage to add such a solid piece to their lineup at such a cap-friendly number? The signing is paying early dividends, as Toffoli has gone and exceeded all expectations to start the season.
Tyler Toffoli Off to Hot Start for the Canadiens
After what many would consider a successful playoff appearance for the Canadiens, ousting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the play-in series and then outplaying the Philadelphia Flyers over the span of six games only to fall short, general manager Marc Bergevin was pleased with what he saw from his team. Their play proved that they were closer to be a playoff contender than people gave them credit for and with a few tweaks, Bergevin could have his team back in the post-season again in the upcoming season.
After working his magic through trades, he lured in one of the most coveted free agents on the market in Tyler Toffoli. Bergevin knew he needed to bring in a proven goal-scorer this season as that was an area the team was lacking. With three 20 plus goal seasons under his belt, as well as one thirty goal season, Toffoli fit exactly what Bergevin was looking for. Add in his excellent two-way ability and he would be a coach’s dream, especially for Claude Julien.
Although Toffoli didn’t record a point in the first two games of the season, he did find his way on the score sheet against the Edmonton Oilers in the third game on January 18th. However, it was when the Canadiens met the Vancouver Canucks that Toffoli truly broke out.
Sticking It to His Former Team
Toffoli was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks from the Los Angeles Kings prior to the NHL’s trade deadline last season. He was outstanding in the final 10 games of the season for the club scoring six goals and 10 points in those 10 games. He also scored two goals and four points in seven games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, Toffoli elected to walk away in free agency and join the Canadiens.
The Canadiens played a three-game set in Vancouver which started on January 20th and Toffoli was all over the score sheet. He scored his first hat-trick with the Canadiens in the first of the three games but failed to score in the shootout as the Canadiens fell to the Canucks 6-5.
In the second game, Toffoli was equally impressive, scoring two goals and adding an assist for another three points. This time, the team had a better result beating the Canucks 7-3.
In the third game, Toffoli managed to find his way onto the score sheet again, registering an assist on Corey Perry‘s first of the season as the Canadiens went on to beat the Canucks 5-2.
Toffoli really stuck it to his former team, totalling five goals and two assists in the three games he played against the Canucks. Maybe he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder that the Canucks never pushed hard to re-sign the forward, or maybe he’s just starting to find that chemistry with his new teammates. Whatever the case, the five goals he scored against the Canucks, along with the one against the Calgary Flames, has put Toffoli tied for third in the Rocket Richard Trophy race early in the season.
Contributing On Both Special Teams
One of the reasons Tyler Toffoli is such an effective player is his ability to play both ends of the ice. Toffoli plays a solid two-way style of game and this ability makes him very effective on both special teams. He is incredibly responsible in his own end, having the ability to read plays and get the puck moving in transition. He also possesses great speed which allows him to break free on a breakaway from time to time throughout the games. This was evident on both shorthanded goals he has scored already this year. On both goals, Toffoli was off to the races after the Habs managed to cause the turnover. While his second shorthanded marker may have been a bit sloppy, the one against the Canucks was a thing of beauty.
But it isn’t just on the penalty kill that Toffoli is effective. Toffoli has also notched a powerplay goal this season, and it’s all due to his knack for putting the puck in the net. Toffoli just knows where to be. He fills the lanes correctly and because of this (and a nice pass from Nick Suzuki of course), Toffoli opened himself up for a tap-in. Pretty easy play at first glance, but it’s this sort of heads up effort and willingness to go to the net that makes Toffoli such an impactful special teams player.
No Shortage of Shots in the Arsenal
What makes Toffoli such a great goal scorer is his ability to do it in a variety of ways. He can create his own shot, which is a bullet I might add. He hands a slick set of mitts so he has the ability to deke out defenders as well as the goaltender. However, he also has excellent hand-eye coordination. This allows him to get a stick on shots from the point to redirect them into the opponent’s net. And of course, as mentioned earlier, his ability to get open and the willingness to go to the net also contributes to Toffoli’s outstanding goal-scoring ability.
As you can see from the hat trick he scored against the Canucks, all three goals came in different ways. He beat goaltender Braden Holtby top corner with a shot. He had the tap in which was mentioned earlier and then his third of the game came on a redirected Jeff Petry shot.
And that’s just the three goals from that game. His two shorthanded markers came in different games. One against the Canucks and one against the Flames which we spoke about earlier. Both coming on a breakaway, one in which he completely fooled Thatcher Demko. He also had another goal against the Canucks where he won a puck battle in front of the net and fired it home. Almost all of his six goals have come in a different way to start the season.
The Most Important Move of the Canadiens Offseason?
This ability to put the puck in the net is something the Canadiens have been missing for such a long time. And being able to do it on both special teams, makes Toffoli even more dangerous. He is what people refer to as a “Swiss Army Knife” for the Canadiens. He can do a little bit of everything. Whether it be to defend, set up plays, score goals, you name it. Toffoli can do it all. This signing was such an important one for Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens. Tyler Toffoli is showing us why early on.