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Cracking the code

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Though David Desharnais’ season got off to a rough start, the centerman found his way and never looked back.

On Oct. 1, 2013, Desharnais was ready to start his 2013-14 campaign on the strongest of notes. Playing with a new contract in hand, he wanted to make people forget about his tepid end to the previous season. Despite all his good intentions, the Laurier-Station, QC native struggled to round into form in the early going and went the first 20 games without lighting the lamp. After going undrafted, Desharnais had experienced his share of adversity throughout his career. That experience made him determined to shake off the slump. On Nov. 15, a snap decision made by head coach Michel Therrien marked the turning point for No. 51’s season.

“Even if it was a shootout goal, everything clicked after I scored in Columbus,” admitted Desharnais, who saw that moment as one which turned his year around. “I took advantage of the chance I got and I gained a lot of confidence from that play. That’s when I felt I got going again.”

From then on, the floodgates opened for Desharnais’ offensive contributions. Getting back to his usual playmaking ways, he helped Max Pacioretty to a career-best 39 goal haul while notching 51 points in the last 60 games of the 2013-14 regular season, a scoring rate comparable to that of James Neal, Logan Couture and even Zach Parise. This spectacular renaissance could be attributed to Desharnais’ strength of character, but also to the unconditional support of his teammates.

“For sure it would have been harder to get out of it without the help of my teammates,” confessed the 27-year-old forward. “Just knowing that they have faith in you gave me hope even when times were rough. Max [Pacioretty] helped me a lot and so did Daniel [Briere].”

Desharnais scores against Columbus

Desharnais and Pacioretty were producing at a brisk pace when general manager Marc Bergevin put his team over the top with an unexpected trade deadline move. The acquisition of Thomas Vanek added another dimension to the Canadiens’ offense and helped to form one of the NHL’s most potent trios down the stretch.

“He’s a player who’s played at a point-per-game pace his entire career,” recalled Desharnais, who was quick to praise his Austrian teammate. “He’s a guy who likes to be creative on the ice. Offensively, he’s helped Max and I to try different plays thanks to the confidence he gives us.”

Desharnais’ perseverance throughout the season was not overlooked by hockey insiders. After Pacioretty took home the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2012 following an impressive recovery from a career-threatening injury suffered against the Bruins, it was his linemate’s turn to be the Canadiens’ award nominee in 2014.

Entering his sixth season with the Habs, Deshanais can now count himself as one of the team’s veterans and a player who has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows throughout his NHL career. In 2014-15, he’ll be counted on to share his wisdom with the team’s young stars while once again playing a key role on the ice.

Philippe Frenette-Roy is a writer for Translated by Jack Han.

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