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Best for last

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Saving the best for last. What better adage to describe Devante Smith-Pelly’s first season as a Hab?

Acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Jiri Sekac in February, the robust forward initially got off to a slow start in Montreal – a healthy scratch twice in March – before finding his form in the playoffs just like he did a season ago in California.

There’s a reason why fans and general manager Marc Bergevin alike were aware of the 6-foot, 220-pound winger’s reputation as a playoff performer – and it’s one that’s hard to ignore. His team’s top scorer in 2014, Smith-Pelly racked up five goals in 12 postseason games – including one winner – while also leading the Ducks with 53 hits, 16 more than his closest contender in the category.

Even in Junior, the Scarborough, ON native was an important part of the Mississauga St. Michaels Majors’ 2011 Memorial Cup run, earning a spot on the tournament All-Star team despite falling in the championship final to current teammate Nathan Beaulieu’s Sea Dogs.

And almost predictably at this point, history repeated itself once again in 2015.

Setting the tone early from the moment the puck dropped for Game 1 against Ottawa, DSP finished his first playoff game as a Hab with six hits to his name. Forming a line with Torrey Mitchell and Jacob De La Rose for most of the spring, the 23-year-old would eventually finish his postseason campaign with 46 hits – three more than Alexei Emelin – to lead the Canadiens in the category despite playing an average of just 12:18 per night.

Although he couldn’t quite match his offensive production in terms of quantity from a year ago, Smith-Pelly nevertheless scored what may have been his biggest goal to date on May 9 at home against Tampa Bay, beating Ben Bishop just moments into Game 5.

“Any playoff goal is important, but scoring one at the Bell Centre is unbelievable. It’s definitely among the most memorable goals of my career,” admitted Anaheim’s former 42nd overall pick from 2010, following the crucial 2-1 win which extended the Canadiens’ season for another game.

Already feeling at home in Montreal, DSP continued to chip in offensively over a 12-game postseason campaign, finishing his first season as a Hab with a goal and two assists – registering each in front of his new fans at the Bell Centre.

Vincent Régis is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Steven Nechay.

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