Going forward he’ll be known as the guy who clinched Ottawa’s seven spot in a 4-2 win over Boston, but those who have been paying attention know full well that Jean-Gabriel Pageau
has been a shot of adrenaline to this Senators’ lineup since his recall on April 10.
Despite being on the smaller side of the scale, Pageau has asserted himself instantly as a player capable of hanging with opposing top lines. Case in point: his first two games brought heavy minutes against Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux and New Jersey’s Adam Henrique, two elite Eastern Conference centres. Welcome to the NHL, rook.
Not only did Pageau hold them both in check, he recorded points in each of those games with an assist against Philadelphia and his first career NHL goal against Martin Brodeur andn the Devils. He hasn’t looked back since. Sure, he hasn’t maintained his blistering point per game pace, but with four points in his first nine games and a whole host of other numbers to look at, there’s plenty of reason to believe that 44 has a very bright future in this league.
Pageau has been one of the team’s top possession drivers. Stats fans will note that JGP has been posting some of the highest Corsi numbers on the team (in an admittedly small sample size) against very difficult competition. Also of note: he has finished just under 60 per cent — 57.6 to be exact — of his shifts in the offensive zone at even strength despite only starting 50 per cent of his shifts in said zone. His ability to get this goal-starved team on the attack has been a huge asset.
In sum, the Sens are making things happen when he’s on the ice.
For the 20-year-old Ottawa native, this experience has simply been about trying to win battles and perform when given the chance. To this point it has been nothing but positive for him.
“I think it's just a great moment for me right now, a great opportunity and I'm just trying to enjoy every moment. To be part of this team right now, it's really special. Getting in the playoffs is a great feeling and we're going to go forward with that,“ said Pageau. “I think I'm doing pretty good right now. It's not easy. Coach gives me a lot of chances in different situations and I try to do my best in every situation.”
Take this sequence from Saturday’s loss against Philadelphia, for example.
The Flyers take a faceoff against Pageau and send it deep into Ottawa’s zone. He regroups after the faceoff loss, laying the hit on Sean Couturier below the red line in the defensive zone. The hit forces a turnover along the sideboard and Pageau takes the outlet pass over the blueline. He spots Cory Conacher on his left wing, makes the pass and the Sens get two shots on goal for their effort.
Not only is that defensive wherewithal rare from a player of Pageau’s experience, he consistently makes smart plays with the puck that turn into attempts on goal for the Sens. We often hear about the little things being done right. Pageau owns the little things.
This level of consistently mature play has been present in his game since his arrival in Ottawa and, as a result, it appears that he will be staying for the foreseeable future. His goal going forward is to stick at the top flight and it certainly looks as though he will follow through on it.
“For sure I want to stay with the team. It's really fun to be here, it's a great organization, the guys are real nice with me and I like the level of hockey,” said Pageau.” It's really fun. To play here would be special for the rest of the year. “
The experience as a whole has been eye-opening. The rookie has taken over the locker directly next to Daniel Alfredsson’s in the Sens locker room and is being given a front row seat to what comes with superstardom in the show — a lot of attention.
“I think it's incredible. He's a hell of a hockey player and a great leader. To be beside him is real fun,” said Pageau, adding with a laugh, “Sometimes after practice with all the media around I wish some of them would help untie my skates."
"It's really special to sit beside him. A player like that, anyone would like to be in my spot.”
It’s only going to become more and more unique for Pageau as the Sens go forward into the NHL playoffs. Plenty of NHLers have gone hundreds of games before their first real shot at a Stanley Cup, and you can be sure they’d be love to be in his spot regardless of who he’s riding shotgun with.
As another chapter in a dream debut, Pageau can put it in the bank as another moment to enjoy and see what happens.
“We’re just ready to go into the playoffs and happy to be there.”
|More from Inside the Senate: || || ||Latest News/Features: |
| || || || |