Third (or fourth?) Time the Charm for Perreault?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, December 07, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

"It's just one game now and I gotta do it next game and for the rest of the year so I can stay here." -- Mathieu Perreault, after Monday's two-goal game against Toronto

I'm going to go out on a limb right off the bat and frankly state that I like Matthieu Perreault.  From my limited exposure to him, he's been nothing but engaging, sincere and accountable -- good or bad.  As a hockey player, he's proven to be a dynamic, hustling, talented playmaker at the AHL level, with two consecutive 50 point seasons.

(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
And he was well on his way to surpass that in this campaign, as he had eight goals and 17 assists in 25 games for Hershey this season, tied for 10th in the AHL in points (25).

I just wonder if he's got the chops for the big leagues.

Several occasions he's been called up, and in the first game or two he'll do what he did Monday night:  score, buzz around on the forecheck, add life to a young (but veteran) team.

Then, after a couple games, he'll disappear.

"Every time I get called up seems like the first game I'm flying and now it's just a matter of doing that every night," Perreault told reporters after the Caps devastating 5-4 shootout loss to Toronto Monday night.

So far this season, in four games he's got two goals and two helpers, in two different stints.  Well, that's not really a clear picture.  He had two goals Monday, and two assists in his first game this season, Oct. 23 against Atlanta.

He didn't score in the next two games, and Perreault was returned to Hershey.  Of course, that was while the team was still conducting the "Tomas Fleischmann at Center" experiment.  Perreault was a victim of numbers as much as production.

Last season, Perreault had a two-point night right off the bat, Nov. 4 against New Jersey.  Eighteen games later he had not produced another one, and was held off the scoresheet altogether in 12 of those 18 games and was demoted.  For the season, he played 21 games and had five goals and four assists.

Perreault needs to produce points at the NHL level if he's to stick in this league.  He's a good skater, so he can be effective on the forecheck, but other than that, his role is limited.  He is small ( generously has him listed at 5'10", 175), so he really isn't much help along the boards or with checking. 

And his stature is perhaps an explanation to why he's been unable to consistently produce for the Capitals; he just gets worn down playing against bigger, stronger competition night in and night out.

NHL history is dotted with "little guys" excelling.  Stan Mikita, Theo Fleury and Martin St. Louis were all vertically challenged and all were/are dynamic NHL players.  But they were all elite skaters with very high motors.  Perreault is a good skater and quick -- two of his strengths -- but I don't think he's in a class with the three mentioned above.

There is a gaping hole at center on the Caps second line, and Perreault has shown to mesh with Alexander Semin in the few opportunities he's had this season.  The job is there for the taking, and it looks like Perreault is going to get every chance to hold onto the spot. 

Perreault even skated in overtime with Semin during four-on-four Monday, and unexpectedly was the second shooter in the shoot-out, as Boudreau by-passed Nicklas Backstrom in the situation.

"It shows they have confidence in me and they're not scared to play me in a big situation."

If GM George McPhee and Coach Bruce Boudreau don't see consistent production from Perreault in the next 10-15 games, I think we should expect McPhee to address the situation with a veteran two-way player as we approach the trade deadline.

But I'll definitely be rooting for the little guy.