Saturday, 3 October 2015

Nathan Beaulieu about to take the next step, along with the Canadiens defencemen.

With respect to Nathan Beaulieu, there's an interesting article by Marc Antoine Godin in La Presse today.

It argues that, with the fledgling of Nathan and the addition of Jeff Petry, and the focus on producing more offence, the Canadiens are poised to derive more goals due to their mobility and headiness on the blue line.

Tom Gilbert says the defenceman will support the attack in the offensive zone "from the opposite side that zone entry was made".  So basically Andrei Markov's backdoor move.

"Last season, our style was more north-sourth early on.  Our forwards had to move the puck up as fast as possible.  But as the season went on, we defencemen were encouraged more and more to support the attack, especially backdoor.  I think that will be more apparent in our play this season.

Michel Therrien went over this with the media, covering old ground from last season, when he made his famous 'no defenceman has a bungee tied to him to prevent him from moving up the ice' declaration.

"We've never asked our defencemen to not involve themselves in the attack.  To the contrary, we've always encouraged them to do so.  But these things come with confidence.  We can feel it more and more in our defencemen.  They're able to read the play, the opportunities to support the attack.

"Jeff Petry, as soon as he got here, he adapted really quickly to this.  The results followed and that's probably one of the reasons he decided to stay in MontrĂ©al."

The article covers that Nathan has offensive talent, but the team asked him last year to not worry about points and polish up other aspects of his game.  As he gains in confidence and experience, we can expect to see him also 'judiciously' support the attack.

Michel Therrien:  "Nathan Beaulieu has gained maturity in his game.  He plays with confidence, but he can't lose sight of the fact that he's at the stage when he's establishing himself in the NHL.  He has to improve every day, and Jean-Jacques Daigneault works with him a lot to show him when it's time to jump up in the play, and when it isn't time.  He's still a young d-man."

So a good overview of the maturation of Nathan, and the progression of our squad this season.

Personally, I've loved what I've seen from him.  In the scrimmages and pre-season games, he looked sometimes like the 16-year-old who sneaks onto the ice to play shinny with a bunch of 12-year-olds, he jumps out at you so clearly with his mobility.  There's an awareness in his game, the way he carries the puck with his head high, I dare to use the word 'panache' to describe it.

After some growing pains and rough patches, I can't say enough about how he's approached his situation.  He could have pouted and done some Nazem Kadri declarations, how he's just as good as Cam Fowler or Kevin Shattenkirk, but instead, he kept his nose to the grindstone, did what he was asked to do, and said all the right things.  He was entrusted this spring to play with youngsters, notably Noah Juulsen on Thursday, which is a mark of confidence from the coaching staff.

We've fretted about who could/would replace Andrei Markov in a couple of years, or at least reduce his workload presently.  It seems likely now that Nathan is going to be the answer to this problem.

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