Alex Belzile is a welcomed addition for the Rocket
The most important return to action in the Montreal Canadiens organization this week is without a doubt the return of Carey Price at the Bell Centre on Friday night. That being, at Place Bell, the Rocket also welcomed back one of its pillars after a 28 games absence that lasted more than two months.
As it has always been the case for the Rocket this season, the team played well without Alex Belzile, who unveiled some pretty serious acting chops this week. Even with that good record, there is no doubt that #22’s return helped contribute to the team immediately. It’s not a coincidence that this winning streak happened just as the the Laval Rocket are in the midst of a playoff push.
Obviously, like for any other return in action, Belzile needs to find back his rhythm, which is why Jean-François Houle makes sure not to overexert him as soon as he’s back. Despite that more limited icetime, the production of Alex Belzile hasn’t really slowed down as he has now recorded two goals and three points in four games since his return.
Sometimes, when players get to see the ice less often, there will be some complaining but that is far from the case with Belzile, whose experience helps him realized that it’s long process and it’s not exactly linear.
“Today, I definitely felt much better on the ice” explained Alex Belzile after his second game back in the lineup. “My gas tank was a bit bigger. I also try to keep things simple.”
The simple way to play sure seems to fit Belzile. His production is appreciated by the team but where he helps the Rocket is with his play at 5 on 5. It’s not complicated, since the beginning of the season, he is the best player of the team in that crucial statistic.
When he evaluates his own performances, it’s obvious that the forward understands the impact of his experience in the league and most importantly, what it can bring to the rest of the team.
“I know it has been a while since I have played but I watched a lot of the games from the stands” noted Belzile. “I’ve been prepared and I know, with my experience, how the league is. You have to keep the plays simple and move the puck forward. It’s very cliché but honestly, it’s the good way to play.”
This knowledge is especially obvious when you look at the performances from the players on the team. In only 25 games this season, Belzile maintained a +29 scoring chances differential at 5 on 5. Only two Rocket forwards can say that they have done better this season; Rafaël Harvey-Pinard (+72) and Jean-Sebastien Dea (+53).
When the #22 is on the ice, it’s usually a good bet that you’ll see the Rocket spend some time in the offensive zone. His 61.27% Corsi percentage is pretty clearly the best of the team. It might not seem like a big number but with the talents of the players that are on the ice night after night in this league, nobody is really safe. Therefore, any advantage when it comes to puck possession is helping a team a lot.
Once again, the guy trailing the #22 among active Rocket players is Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. He’s a at 56.66%, which is very respectable but also kind of far behind Belzile. The only guys in between who played with the Laval Rocket this season both made their way to the NHL this season; Corey Schueneman (58.63%) and Ryan Poehling (57.45?).
There is no doubt that Alex Belzile’s return was a big boost to the Laval Rocket. Too many times this season, they had to use their splendid depth. If their pillars, such as Belzile, starts to come back to the lineup just in time for the playoffs push, it’s a really good sign for Laval and what’s yet to come.