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Canadiens’ Lehkonen hopes to draw on big-game experience to bust slump

BROSSARD, Que. — Karel St. Laurent was loading his equipment into his car or truck when we asked him which Montreal Canadien experienced the very best shot he faced all through his hour-prolonged workout with the team at their south-shore observe facility.

St. Laurent, who serves as an crisis goaltender, experienced just finished filling in for an hurt Carey Value on this November event, and he answered the question without hesitation.

“It’s [Artturi] Lehkonen,” the former McGill College netminder explained. “Nikita Scherbak has a deceptive shot, Tomas Tatar can actually shoot it, but Lehkonen has the very best launch.”

We’ve seen the evidence of it given that the 23-yr-outdated Finn made his debut with the Canadiens in 2016, but we have not seen adequate of it of late. Lehkonen, who has seven objectives and 24 details in 60 games this period, is in the midst of a 22-recreation intention drought. A person he doesn’t look any closer to cracking. And, in accordance to his mentor, it is starting off to dress in on him a small bit.

“I’m absolutely sure he’s pissed off about it,” explained Claude Julien immediately after Tuesday’s early morning skate. “But at the very same time, he is a great penalty-killer, he does function hard, he’s really trusted five-on-five. It is not from deficiency of hoping, it is from deficiency of manufacturing. And we’d like for him to deliver. I think which is crucial for our group due to the fact we’re a improved team when the scoring is spread out during the lineup. So, definitely, we could use some of that touch from him. At the very same time, it is not like he’s bringing nothing at all to the desk. Thank goodness for that.”

Hours later, in a 3-2 get for the Canadiens more than the Columbus Blue Jackets, Lehkonen was Montreal’s most-used penalty-killer, but he was also relegated to fourth-line obligation and lessened to his cheapest time-on-ice whole (13:18) given that he played 11:59 in a 5-2 get more than the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 15. He recorded three rather harmless photographs on Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and experienced his very best probabilities to rating in the dying minutes of the recreation — when Columbus was skating with an extra attacker and an vacant web.

Two times, Lehkonen came down the wing with the puck on his stick and 2 times he passed up a possibility to ice the recreation and break his slump.

A working day later, he was standing in the Canadiens dressing area, shaking his head as he mirrored on the skipped possibility.

“It was just 1 of those people issues the place I was coming and searching up, I saw [Jonathan Drouin] and I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll make the go,’ and then I was like, ‘S–––,’” Lehkonen explained immediately after the Canadiens practised on Wednesday. “I wasn’t thinking at all in that problem, I was just accomplishing. I know I should’ve shot it, I’m not an fool. You got a possibility to destroy the recreation there, but I skipped the go, I turned it more than, and thank god they didn’t rating. And on the other 1, I saw [Max] Domi was coming, so I gave it to him and figured I’d pull to the ideal side. That 1 wasn’t that undesirable, but the initial 1 was undesirable.”

Phone it a disaster of self esteem for a participant who’s nevertheless discovering to deal with the ups and downs of NHL hockey.

Lehkonen’s a recreation shy of his 200th in the league and he’s been through this just before. Previously this yr, he went 17 games without discovering the back of the web. He was blanked off the scoresheet for 35 of his initial 36 games final period, and he went through a few of considerable slumps in a rookie period that saw him rating 18 objectives.

But a different sample of Lehkonen’s recreation is scoring late into the period, when the games get tighter and the probabilities are minimal.

“I are inclined to enjoy my very best in the massive games,” he explained. “That’s my observe file.”

That was the case in Lehkonen’s remaining period with the Swedish Elite League’s Frolunda HC, when he scored 11 objectives in 16 playoff games and aided them get a championship. In 2016-17, a third of his objectives with the Canadiens came more than the remaining seven games of the period and he additional two extra in 6 playoff games. And final yr, he scored 10 of his 12 objectives from Feb. 3 to Apr. 7.

It is anything, Julien suggests, he hopes Lehkonen can draw self esteem from.

“We’ve seen him, in the earlier, be in a position to rating massive objectives in massive games,” the mentor additional. “I hope it arrives, due to the fact you know he has it in him.”

Lehkonen is hoping his luck will alter in quick order. He’s managed 127 photographs this period — fifth-most on the Canadiens — but much less than 6 for each cent of them have gone in.

“I know I have not scored my final intention that I’m going to rating in my career,” he explained. “I know that I’m nevertheless going to rating. It is just hoping to get it back as quick I can, hoping to obtain the rhythm once more and hoping to obtain the self esteem to place the pucks in the back of the web and not overthink it. I have to take my time with the photographs and not try to be as well quick with all my moves and stuff like that.”

And you can properly guess that following time Lehkonen receives a appear at an vacant web, he’ll shoot rather of passing.

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