Saturday, 14 March 2015

David Desharnais must shoot the puck more.

Encouraging to see David Desharnais fire the puck at Michal Neuvirth on a 2-on-1, trying to squeak it through, or to generate a rebound that can be cashed in, during the Canadiens' 3-1 win against the Islanders.

I’ve advocated in the past, when dealing with an inconsistent René Bourque, that the coaches should focus on the process, the effort, rather than the results. That they insist that he just play positionally sound hockey, and would get a regular shift if every game he fired two shots on net, and delivered two hits. That simple. Take two shots a game, and hope that some will go in, and stay involved physically by finishing a couple of checks or separating a puck carrier from his sensesthe puck. If you do that you’re golden.

I’ve reached a level of frustration with David Desharnais that makes me want to do the same with him. I want the coaches to insist that he get off two shots on net, at minimum. That he should be feeding P.K. and Max those delightful passes of his is understood. But we want him to improve his game by also taking shots on net.

In the offensive zone, instead of the default setting being that he try to slip a cross-crease pass to Dale Weise for a tap-in, and failing that to dish it to Andrei, he should have in his head the option to deke and take a good shot on net.

He can surprise goalies, he’s very accurate with his wrist shot, he’s deceptive, can fake one way and go the other. His former teammate Mathieu Darche was saying that he’s very diligent in practice, always working on his shot, and that he’s got a goodie, but it doesn’t seem to translate into game situations.

Justin Bourne had a good piece recently on how a player can be seriously messed up by being asked to do something that’s unnatural, like maybe asking the very topical Craig Janney to snipe goals instead of feeding Brett Hull. That instead of getting the same production plus adding a new facet to the player's game, what often happens is that the player now thinks, instead of reacting on the ice, he hesitates, and accomplishes nothing, he’s a half-second off. The player’s original production falls off, and you don’t really get the ‘improvement’ either.

Still, I think it’s probably a good idea to set that benchmark as at least a soft target for David. The coaches have to convince him that he needs to be more ‘selfish’, that on a two-on-one he should view this as a scoring opportunity. That rebounds are good outcomes. That goalies flub shots, very often, it’s in the range of likelihood as getting a pass through three defenders’ skates and sticks.

And this isn’t alien to the coaching staff. On 24CH, we saw a sequence where Dan Lacroix was exhorting his troops in the second intermission, and all through the third to ‘get to thirty shots’. The Canadiens were trailing at the time by a couple of goals, but he wasn’t asking them to score, to tie the game, but rather that they “get to thirty”. He'd yell that at the players on the ice as they skated up with the puck, at his charges on the bench. In that particular instance, happily, they were rewarded and mounted a comeback.

So yeah, I can see Michel Therrien having his proverbial cup of coffee with David in his office: “On a besoin de toi mon Dave. Il nous faut plus de but, t’es capable de nous en fournir. Deux ‘shut’, c’est tout ce que j’te demande mon grand, deux ‘shut’, …”

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