Louie Belpedio; still a key piece despite playing injured
Thanks to an electric showing at the Bell Place, the Laval Rocket is currently playing through a winning streak. Before going West, the team had a 4-0-1 record in their last five outings.
That winning streak could not come at a better time as Laval is in the midst of a five teams playoff race for four spots available in the North Division. That streak gave the Rocket a little cushion in second place behind Utica but it’s still not that comfortable.
What’s impressive is that this streak came at a point during which the Rocket was giving professional tryouts like candy on Halloween with Darien Kielb, Olivier Galipeau, Nicolas Mattinen and Dominic Cormier. Despite all those players in the lineup for their tryout, the team kept on winning.
Xavier Ouellet et Louie Belpedio certainly had a big hand in those results. Since the #7 came back from the injury list, the both play more than 23 minutes per game while only one other defenseman (Terrance Amorosa) breaks the 17 minutes barrier.
“They are playing big minutes right now” admitted Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle when talking about his captain Xavier Ouellet and Louie Belpedio. “We have three defensemen who have no experience in the AHL right now so it’s not easy but I feel like these two stepped up their game. I’m very proud of how those two guys are playing for our team right now.”
What’s spectacular in Belpedio’s case is that he clearly came back to help his team at a moment where the departures were numerous, whether it was Corey Schueneman sticking in the NHL, Josh Brook’s injury or Sami Niku joining his wife to welcome his new baby.
When you listen to Belpedio talk, it become clear quite rapidly that his quick return was mostly to get his team out of a tough spot. You don’t need to read too much between the line to realize that in a normal situation, the defenseman would probably still be on the team’s injured list.
“I’m definitely not 100%, I’m a little beat up right now” admitted Belpedio. “I just try to keep it simple. We have such a good team; you just move the puck and good things happen. Not just for me but for everyone.”
We could think that a defenseman who is beat up, in his own words, playing among a blueline that was built with tryout contracts would struggle a little. It would be wrong because the total opposite is happening right now.
Since he came back, Louie Belpedio has been positive in the scoring chances differential at 5 on 5 during every game. The only other defenseman who managed the same feat for the Rocket during that is Terrance Amorosa, Belpedio’s playing partner since he came back.
It’s not too surprising to see this because it follows the trend of the season. This year, Louie Belpedio leads all Rocket defenseman with a +50 scoring chances differential at 5 on 5. He has a strong lead on the next closest active defenseman on the roster who is once again his partner Terrance Amorosa (+14).
When you look up Corsi percentage, the same phenomenon pops up. With 56.05%, he has a healthy lead on all the other active Rocket defenseman with the closest being, you guessed it, Amorosa (51.85%). Belpedio is therefore a quality option for the Rocket at 5 on 5 and that’s despite a medical condition which doesn’t seem to slow him down too much.
“Keep it simple, make easy plays” summarized Louie Belpedio when asked about his good play with this moving lineup. “Communication is everything out there, especially as a defenseman. As long as you’re talking, the game kind of slows down and it makes it easier for yourself and your partner.”
It’s obvious that the #7 is not the one that Rocket fans search for the most when they come at the rink. That kind of attention usually goes to the offensive stars or the up-and-coming prospects. That being said, Louie Belpedio is exactly the type of player that a team needs around young players, especially when it comes to a playoff push.
It’s exactly what he is doing right now even though he is not 100%. It sure looks promising if he gets a clean bill of health at some point before the playoffs.