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Penguins vs. Senators Preview: Getting to know Jean-Gabriel Pageau

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Pageau is a silent killer hiding down the ranks of Ottawa’s bottom two forward line pairings, but the Ontario native is more than just an afterthought among superstar players like Erik Karlsson. He may turn out to be Pittsburgh’s Achilles heel on the penalty kill.

New York Rangers v Ottawa Senators - Game Two Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been overlooked during the six-year sampling of his NHL career for understandable reason, but with a surprisingly budding postseason performance in the first two rounds of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, JGP is proving to be one of the Ottawa Senators’ offensive juggernauts going forward in quite the unmistakable fashion.

After coming off a banner 2015-16 year, the 24-year-old center/winger hybrid slipped under the radar in the this year’s regular season, notching only 12 goals in 82 games. But in the playoffs, Pageau strung together six goals in six games (four recorded just from Game 2) in the second round matchup against the New York Rangers — with an empty-netter in the Game 6 elimination effort to boot. For that reason, we felt an analysis of Pageau’s worth and how he stacks up against Pittsburgh is something to definitely keep an eye on during the Eastern Conference Final.

Name: Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Position: Center/Winger

Number: 44

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 180 lbs.

Born: November 11, 1992

Drafted: 2011 Ottawa, 4th round, 5th pick (96th overall)

2016-17 Stat Line: 82 GP, 12 goals, 21 assists, 16:01 TOI, 13 +/-, 24 PIM

2016-17 Playoff Stat Line: 12 GP, 7 goals, no assists, 17:43 TOI, 4 +/-, 12 PIM

2016-17 Stats vs. Pittsburgh: 1 GP, no goals, 1 assist, ~16:51 average TOI, -1 average +/-, 5.6 average SOG

2016-17 5v5 Advanced Stats: 46.4 CF%, -2.9 Corsi Relative %, 101.4 PDO

2016-17 5v5 Playoff Advanced Stats: 48.6 CF%, -3.8 Corsi Relative %, 102.2 PDO

Player detail (via The Hockey News Player Page)

HERO Chart (via Dominic Galamini)

2016-17 Ottawa Senators player usage, via Corsica Hockey

Analysis: Pageau is positively credited for his fearless mentality on the ice in unequal-numbered situations and his versatility when it comes to playing different offensive positions. He’s been utilized in the past as both a center and a winger, and is seen occasionally flipping back-and-forth between the two at will by the Senators’ coaching staff. Because of his relentless persistence, Pageau is also highly touted for his ability to agitate the opposing team and serve as a handy penalty killer when Ottawa is down a man. Last year, he tallied a whopping nine short-handed points, seven of them finding the back of the net. That was more goals than 16 teams in the entire league had on the penalty kill, and more points than 23 of them. This season, he only managed two assists short-handed, but he’s still effectively used on the PK.

Most Common Line Mates: Pageau spends a lot of time playing alongside Chris Kelly and Tom Pyatt, where loads of success was curated for Ottawa this season. That could possibly be as a result of those three guys seeing considerable amounts of time in the center and winger positions throughout their careers, and the fact that the trio always knows where the others are on the ice. Though he’s mainly been a third/fourth line guy, you’ll see him being matched up against the opposition’s best skaters in a lot of games. Occasionally Pageau will see ice time with Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, and Zack Smith, but it’s probably due to the flexibility between the Senators’ bottom two forward lines. Guys are often times seen seesawing between them by Head Coach Guy Boucher. All in all, Pageau has clearly been the glue to any line he’s thrown on.

Why you should know who he is: Anyone capable of scoring four goals (as Pageau did in Game 2 against the Rangers) is worth knowing. Also, if the Penguins want to be successful, they’re going to have to start connecting more often on their power plays. Unfortunately, killing penalties is Pageau’s bread and butter. During the series with the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh didn’t take as much of an advantage on the PP, and with Pageau on the ice, it won’t be much easier.

How the Penguins can stop him: Pageau’s lack of size hinders him a great deal, but his biggest weakness will be at the fault of his coaching staff if they accidentally overuse him. A simple way for Pittsburgh to do that is by drawing a flurry of penalties and going on the power play as often as possible. Speed is on the Penguins’ side, so crashing the net and creating tons of offensive setups during PPs could wear Pageau out, especially if he’s trusted with killing every penalty over and over again.