We think we should change the subject. That almost everything has been said about him, at least for the moment. That we should avoid overbidding on an already overexposed player.
But when Rafaël Harvey-Pinard scores three goals in an 8-2 Habs win over the poor Columbus Blue Jackets, it would be a little clumsy to gush over David Savard’s blocked shots – six more Saturday night for those who keep the account.
The youngster probably wasn’t exaggerating after the match, referring to the “chills” he felt when the crowd roared at the announcement of his third goal of the match. He repeats it: what he has been experiencing for the past few weeks is a dream. “Sometimes I have a hard time realizing it. »
Yet it is very real. With his 10th, 11th and 12th goals of the season, Harvey-Pinard climbed to sixth place in this chapter with the Canadiens this season, despite the fact that he played only 29 games. The achievement is obvious.
Another thing that the Saguenean often repeats is how hard he tries to deal with what happens to him “day to day”.
The NHL has had its share of shooting stars. These players who were the flavor of the day, the week or the month, even of the season, and who got lost in the maze of the collective imagination.
However, when it comes to Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, we allow ourselves to believe that his current successes are not only circumstantial.
Looking at his stats raises a big red flag. After the matchup against the Blue Jackets, his shot percentage is now 25.5%. It’s a complete disproportion. In the NHL, since the start of the 2022-2023 season, there is about one goal scored on 10 shots – which includes those scored in an empty net.
A rate above 20% is unsustainable. In career, Alexander Ovechkin has a rate of 13%. It gives you an idea.
A recent example of the volatility of this statistic? Rem Pitlick’s 23.1% as recently as last season earned him a tally of 15 goals. Where was Pitlick on Saturday night? Left out by one of the worst teams in the league, decimated by injuries moreover.
When we take a closer look, a few indicators are clearly in favor of Harvey-Pinard. Last season, when Pitlick was on the ice, his team was scoring goals but generating very few offenses, judging by scoring chances obtained and goals expected. This season, when Harvey-Pinard is on the ice, the goals are there, but so are the chances. The numbers confirm what the eye test says.
And he doesn’t just enjoy favorable combinations with talented teammates, like Nick Suzuki, for example. Still five against five, he is, with Brendan Gallagher, the one who obtains the most individual scoring chances per 60 minutes played, according to the specialized site Natural Stat Trick.
Gallagher, moreover, is full of praise for his young colleague. “He comes to the arena with the right attitude,” he said. He understands how lucky he is, and he deserves everything that happens to him. He has more and more responsibilities. It will pay off, that’s for sure. »
Several times over the past few weeks, head coach Martin St-Louis has spoken about the importance of “details” in Harvey-Pinard’s game.
On Saturday, he had to twist his arm a bit to detail these details, but he still complied with the exercise.
His work ethic makes him first in class. His “level of competition” too.
Nick Suzuki continued the list: “His stick details. His defensive positioning. He blocks shots. All the things coaches like, he does. »
A sign of his coach’s esteem for him: Harvey-Pinard has started 18 of the last 22 games on Suzuki’s left. This is a detail that is anything but insignificant, considering how much the squad has changed in the meantime.
“He’s super smart, very good at supporting the game,” the captain said. A line needs that, especially when the puck is on the boards. You need options and it fits in the right place. »
The main concerned, he stays the course: one day at a time, one game at a time. It’s not always easy, he admits, especially with the growing attention on him. Just a few days ago, he was the main guest at the Semaine des 4 Julie. His name is everywhere. He keeps a cool head by staying as far away from social media as possible, he says.
It is very wise of him, because it is true that nothing is won for him yet. And no one will predict with conviction that he will become a 30-goal scorer in the NHL
However, when the word “culture” is spoken daily in the entourage of this club, he looks oddly like a player who embodies this ideal.
“Our training camp has already started,” Michael Matheson said Saturday night, referring to next fall. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard seems to have understood this.
He posted his first 4-point performance in the NHL and tied his career-high 61 points in a season. However, he especially displayed the aplomb and the confidence that we saw of him at the start of the season.
A ghost. He and Kirby Dach, Jonathan Drouin achieved the feat, if you can put it that way, of posting a -1 differential in an 8-2 victory.
For obvious reasons, absolutely no one will talk about him, but Jesse Ylönen scored his fourth goal in five games and added an assist. His trio also played a strong game.