In the wake of the Game Three performance in San Jose, there are few things Anaheim Ducks fans can be proud of. Through their loses there has been one shining beacon in the darkness of the night. Brandon Montour has stepped into a new role on his team and has succeeded in his duties. While the San Jose Sharks continue to speed by the Ducks ageing core, Montour shows the promise of a new brand of hockey. His speed and skill have made him one of the only Ducks players to elevate his play this post-season. His efforts have not gone unnoticed. Brandon Montour has not only been the best Anaheim blueliner, he has also been their best player on the ice.
Brandon Montour: Filling in for Fowler
Cam Fowler suffered a shoulder injury down the stretch run of the regular season. As a result of this, he has been sidelined from the Ducks blueline so far these playoffs. The Ducks have no shortage of solid defensive defensemen, backed by a top pairing of Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm. However, they lack quick, experienced offensive-minded players on the back end. With Fowler out of the lineup, they have missed his speed and puck-moving abilities. So far in the series, Montour has stepped up to fill this role. He demonstrates an abundance of speed and has been the main driver of play on the Anaheim back end, proving adept in his role on the second pairing with Francois Beauchemin. Fowler’s absence has impacted the Ducks play this series, but Montour has proven to be a reliable replacement.
After stepping into the NHL last season, Montour has steadily received more ice time from coach Randy Carlyle. While averaging 20:28 in the regular season, he has seen an increase to 24:58 in the playoffs. There are not many 25-minute per game defensemen in the NHL (10 to be exact), and no skater averaged more than 27 minutes per game. Defensemen with the endurance and the trustworthiness to play that amount of time are very hard to come by. Fowler is the usual man for the job in Anaheim, but Montour has been handed the role. Montour however, has not only adapted to the increase but has also excelled in it.
What the Stats Say
In hockey, there is what is called an eye test, and there is what is happening on paper. Montour has looked as good as one can on the Ducks right now and passes the eye test. The real test comes with the numbers. It would be impressive for any Duck to have posted respectable figures this series so far, especially after Game 3. But Montour has been the outlier, posting the highest Corsi For Percentage (59.8%) and Game Score (1.15) on the Ducks’ blueline. He also is receiving more defensive zone starts (40%) than known defensive stalwarts Manson (26.5%) and Lindholm (21.4%). This shows the trust Carlyle has placed in Montour, who has leaned on him heavily thus far in these playoffs. Montour has also put up more shot attempts than anyone else on the Ducks, with 24 to Lindholm’s second best 14 on the blueline.
With all the disappointment surrounding the Anaheim Ducks right now, Montour has given fans something to be proud of. He has stepped into Fowler’s role as de facto number one defenseman and has thrived in it. His play in the San Jose series has been stellar, while those around him falter. If the Ducks look to have any hope of climbing back in the series, Montour will have to play a central role. He has taken a major step forward in his development and has proven ready to take the next step. There is no telling what his ceiling may be, but his play these playoffs have been any indication, it may be celestial.
If fans should take anything from the play of the Ducks in this series, it is that Montour is ready. For exactly what, we can not yet know, but we can be sure it will be eagerly welcomed.
Embed from Getty Images