If one were to guess the player who pulled off a spectacular end-to-end rush in today’s game, the names thrown out would likely include Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson. But the most incredible coast-to-coast tally of the campaign thus far has come not from any of those bonafide stars, but rather from Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault.
In Wednesday’s contest between the Canadiens and Jets in Winnipeg, Danault found himself deep in the Montreal zone with a lot or real estate ahead of him. Swooping behind the net to pick up the puck, Danault cut up ice and few could have expected that he was about to go literally the entire length of the ice for a gorgeous goal.
It started with Danault making a subtle shift to avoid an oncoming check from Drew Stafford, continued on into the neutral zone when Danault protected the puck around Stafford and then cut to his left to create space away from Bryan Little, became a one-on-one with Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson when Danault slipped by Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien with a slick move to the inside and the play was capped with a quick shot over the glove:
That type of play coming from, say, Max Pacioretty or Alexander Radulov would at least be somewhat expected, but few would have pegged Danault as the Canadien most likely to call his own number on an end-to-end rush. Yet, here we are, marvelling at Danault’s beauty.
Danault has been somewhat of a revelation for the Canadiens of late, too. With Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais out of the lineup, Montreal has been forced to ride with Danault as a top-six and sometimes top-line center. Somewhat unexpectedly, though, Danault has produced like he’s a more than suitable replacement. Since Galchenyuk left the lineup at the start of December, Danault has scored four goals and 12 points in 17 games, with only Paul Byron (13 points) and Pacioretty (17 points) producing more offense.
A first-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2011, Danault made his way to Montreal in the trade that brought Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise to Chicago at the 2016 trade deadline. He had produced just one goal and five points in 32 games with the Blackhawks, but has scored 12 goals and 26 points in 63 games since landing with the Canadiens.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.