(Raleigh) The idea of ​​a system or organism that is greater than the sum of its parts is far from new. Who was the first to apply it to hockey, Durkheim, Aristotle or Dick Irvin? We’ll never know.

Never mind, time passes and the concept, unlike all of us, has not aged a bit. Evoking it at the end of the year leads us, in an implacable logic, to take an interest in the relationship uniting David Savard and Mike Matheson.

This is defined quite simply: the two Quebec defenders are better together than individually. Both last season and since the start of this campaign, the Canadian obtains a greater proportion of shots on target, goals scored, expected goals and quality scoring chances when the duo is together on the ice than when the backs are used one without the other.

In a recent analysis, the Athletic site noted that Matheson seems to be playing, for some time, with more audacity, in the positive sense of the term. The credit goes to him for better calculating the risks he takes. But it is impossible to ignore the impact of your partner.

Head coach Martin St-Louis often repeats that the numbers do not tell everything, that they should not be isolated from their context. And he’s right. For example, when David Savard and Kaiden Guhle played together last season, the analytical data was not flattering towards them. However, they were often the best option, if not the only one, that St-Louis had on hand to face the main opposing lines.

This season, the numbers are revealing. After playing an appreciable number of minutes with four different partners, it is with Savard that Matheson fares best, while their combination inherits the most difficult assignments at five on five.

When we discuss the question with the two main stakeholders, the notion that comes up most often in their responses is undoubtedly complementarity.

“I think I’m more defensive than other partners he’s had in the past,” Savard assumed Wednesday after the Habs’ training in Raleigh, on the eve of a duel against the Hurricanes. Caroline.

Everyone protects each other’s backs, added Savard. If number 8 is surprised up front, number 58 can pick up the pieces. And if it is the native of Saint-Hyacinthe who is at fault, the one from Pointe-Claire has the necessary speed to arrive in retreat.

“With him, the game is simple,” Matheson confirmed. I always know where he’s going to be, and I think he knows where I’m going to be too. We see the game in a similar way. »

Their coach’s eye sees the same thing.

“Savvy [Savard, Editor’s note] is capable of sending pucks to the right place,” noted Martin St-Louis. When Matheson is open, when he has space and speed, it’s rare that he doesn’t reach it. Savvy, we see him as a defensive defender who blocks shots, but he is a guy who is able to initiate the attack and support it. »

The two also highlighted, without being addressed, their friendship off the ice. Obviously, there are many good friends between the defense elders, who regularly have dinner together. The discussions are frank, both inside and outside the arena.

“We create links, we want to help each other,” explains Savard. We never try to blame others. If we make mistakes, we have no problem saying that we should have done a better job. We are very honest with each other. »

In the context of a very young and therefore vulnerable defense, playing with an experienced partner also changes the perspective.

The qualities of both are strongly emphasized in the locker room, particularly in their role as leaders with their cadets. Still, skating with a 29-year-old partner, who is approaching 500 games in the NHL, induces “a different relationship,” Savard agrees. “We have fewer conversations about things [Matheson] could do. Instead, we talk about what we can do together to correct ourselves if a situation arises. »

Generally speaking, David Savard brings a lot of “calm” to his team, Martin St-Louis recalled again on Wednesday. And his return, last December 10, seems to have had a domino effect on the entire defensive squad. The duo of Justin Barron and Kaiden Guhle appears more united, more solid. And Johnathan Kovacevic was able to be reinserted into the third duo, where he is decidedly more comfortable.

With Jayden Struble replacing Arber from the last season. As if, for a very rare time, everyone was in the right “chair”. Or, at least, close to it.