In case you haven’t noticed, Max Lapierre is having one heck of a season. Lapierre, who was picked up a year ago at the trade deadline, has brought an element needed to the Canucks. Early on this season, Lapierre filled-in nicely centering the third line while Ryan Kesler was injured and Manny Malhotra was struggling to get his game back. After Kesler got back, Hodgson established himself and Malhotra improved, Lapierre settled in to playing on the wing on the fourth line. He has played in a lot of different spots all year, and excelled through all of them.
I feel like Lapierre is a guy that doesn’t get talked about enough in Vancouver. He’s also a guy that is still trying to shed his reputation as a rat and a diver. Aside from a couple of instances in last year’s Stanley Cup final, I feel like he has done everything he can in that regard. Sure, he’ll still get under the skin of the other team, but he’s doing that with big body checks and tough play a lot more than yapping and diving. I’m sure that it’ll take a lot longer for him to change his reputation in the eyes of most in the league, but for me, I see him differently.
With 6 goals and 7 assists, Lapierre won’t set career highs in goals and assists this season. His career high came in 2008-09 when he had 15 goals and 13 assists with the Montreal Canadiens. But that season Lapierre played a much different role. Lapierre played a large portion of the season on the Habs’ 3rd line, getting about 15 minutes of ice time per game. Compare that to his 11 minutes per game this season (much of which is spent killing penalties or on even strength beginning on faceoffs in the defensive zone), and you can see why Lapierre won’t reach those numbers. But Lapierre’s value to the Canucks extends far beyond goals and assists.
For starters, Lapierre has been a contributor on the Canucks penalty killing, which is currently 5th best in the NHL. He is also very reliable on faceoffs, winning 53% of his draws. Perhaps more importantly, Lapierre has been the most consistent physical presence on the team this season.
The hits stat is a flawed one (different arenas seem to define a ‘hit’ differently), but Lapierre’s numbers are impressive nonetheless. Despite his ice time this season, Lapierre is first on the Canucks with 193 hits. That’s more than 60 hits more than Kevin Bieksa, who sits in second place. It also places him ninth in the league among forwards.
Lapierre has also been in 7 fights this year, the most he has ever had in a season. He has done that while only being in the box for 10 minor penalties.
Max Lapierre is a great energy player for Vancouver. Look no further than his momentum shifting shift against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, where he hit everything that moved. Nothing, short of a goal, got the normally quiet crowd at Rogers Arena riled up more than that shift. He is a very important player for the Canucks and he’s the type of guy that should elevate his game in the playoffs. Quite simply, he the Canucks’ unsung hero.