If Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi do end up playing on the same line this season for the Canadiens, one question will be who is at centre? Another will be who is going to shoot the puck?
Domi was at centre between Drouin and Joel Armia Sunday afternoon when the Canadiens played their annual Red vs. White scrimmage at the Bell Centre and they looked very good together. Drouin scored twice, including once on a penalty shot, to lead the White to a 4-3 win over the Red. Drouin’s first goal came on a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play with his linemates.
Drouin and Domi are both known more for their playmaking skills than their goal-scoring abilities. Drouin posted 13-33-46 totals last season as a centre with the Canadiens, while Domi had 9-36-45 totals with the Arizona Coyotes, playing mostly on the wing. Four of Domi’s goals were empty-netters.
“One of us is going to have to shoot more, that’s for sure,” Drouin said after the scrimmage. “We’ve talked about it, too. I think we know we’re similar players in how we want to play the game and, obviously, pass-first guys. But I think you look at our early careers, we’re similar in goals and we want to put that up way higher than it has been.”
Drouin scored 21 goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2016-17 season, while Domi had 18 for the Coyotes as an NHL rookie in 2015-16. Domi has scored only 18 goals over the past two seasons combined.
“You want to have 20 goals at least to help the team, you want to shoot, you want to score,” Drouin said. “We’ve talked about it. I think one guy has to shoot more. If it’s the right play that’s been done, you got to shoot the puck and not look for that fancy play. Again, we like passing the puck, but we’re going to have to shoot.”
So will Armia, who had 12 goals last season with the Winnipeg Jets and could become a trigger man for Drouin and Domi.
“I think we all knew how good he really was,” Domi said about Armia. “In practice even, I mean he doesn’t miss much. He’s a shooter, he’s smooth. He’s a smart player, too. Big body and that’s always nice to have that presence on the ice out there and he knows how to get open, that’s for sure.”
Drouin, Domi and Armia are all former first-round picks at the NHL Draft. Drouin was selected third overall by the Lightning in 2013, Domi 12th overall by the Coyotes in 2013 and Armia 16th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2011. They definitely have talent and now it will be a case of seeing how they can click together.
This was the first Red vs. White scrimmage for Domi and Armia and the second for Drouin, who agreed the pace was much faster than last year. That has a lot to do with the fact there are so many new faces trying to make a good first impression at training camp, but it also has something to do with the new system coach Claude Julien is trying to put in place with the emphasis on speed.
Yes, they were, and it was an entertaining scrimmage to watch, much to the delight of the crowd of just over 16,000 in attendance, including a lot of kids.
Domi was impressed by the fans after skating in a CH game jersey for the first time.
“Pretty amazing to be a part of that,” he said. “It definitely exceeded my expectations.
“All the respect in the world for our fans and we really appreciate their support. Hopefully they enjoyed the day and they got a little taste of what they’re going to see this year.”
We’ll get a better chance to evaluate the new-look Canadiens when they play their first of seven exhibition games Monday night against the New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre