Can P.A. Parenteau get right by the playoffs?

P.A. Parenteau. (Photo: Chris Szagola/AP)

Whatever the task or project, most people can relate to reaching that point where it becomes obvious no outside force is going to help the process and it’s on you to make things work.

P.A. Parenteau and the Montreal Canadiens look like they’ve finally had that realization.

The problem facing Montreal is clear and consistent; the team just doesn’t score enough. The Habs net an average of 2.55 goals per game, worse than any club currently holding a playoff spot and better than just seven overall. That’s why there was all kinds of chatter before the trade deadline that Montreal might look to acquire somebody who can finish. That deal either wasn’t available or didn’t appeal to the Canadiens, so what they’ve got is what they’ve got.

Parenteau was viewed as a player who could add some offence when the Canadiens picked him up last summer for Daniel Briere in a trade that drew Montreal GM Marc Bergevin praise. But saying Parenteau’s first season in his home province hasn’t gone well would be like saying the Toronto Maple Leafs are having a down year. From fourth-line demotions to dealing with a concussion, it’s been a bumpy ride for the guy who turned 32 on Tuesday.

About the only thing that’s gone well for Parenteau is shootouts, as his four game-deciding goals are tied with Jonathan Toews for tops in the league. Soon, though, the one-on-one talent show will be disappearing from NHL contests as we move into the playoffs.

But that doesn’t mean Parenteau can’t still help the Habs.

After bouncing up and down the lineup, Parenteau has been given another legit shot to play a front-line role. And while Guy Lafleur’s team scoring record isn’t in any imminent danger, there is some evidence to suggest Parenteau can fill the glaring right wing hole Montreal has among its top-six core.

Playing alongside left winger Max Pacioretty and centre David Desharnais, Parenteau has collected an assist in two of his past three games. He made a nice feed to Desharnais on Tuesday in Nashville, where the Habs sustained a tough overtime loss to the Predators. And while he didn’t collect any points during Thursday’s 5–2 setback versus the Winnipeg Jets, Parenteau tied a season high by firing five shots on goal and saw over 17 minutes of ice for just the 10th time this year.

Baby steps, mes amis, baby steps.

Beyond showing up on the scoresheet here and there, there’s an unmistakable urgency in Parenteau’s stride these days. He knows his only option is to play his way into coach Michel Therrien’s good books, just as the bench boss seems to be embracing the notion he’s got to give Parenteau one more honest shot with the big boys. The trade deadline has long passed; nobody is going to parachute in and save the day. It’s on Parenteau to prove his worth and the coach to give the space required to do so.

While Parenteau’s 19 points in 49 games this year don’t exactly pop, he does have some nice work on his resume. Even if you believe seasons of 53 and 67 points with the New York Islanders were driven largely by John Tavares’s presence, consider Parenteau put up 43 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2013 season with the Colorado Avalanche. That’s the equivalent of a 73-point campaign over a full schedule.

Sure, the past is the past, but those numbers offer a lot more promise than the Habs are going to find with anyone else they have on the right side, where, after Brendan Gallagher, things are pretty bleak from an offensive standpoint.

There is also a recent precedent in Montreal of players waking from season-long slumbers to contribute in the playoffs. Rene Bourque went from stiff to sniper last spring, netting eight post-season goals after depositing just nine in the regular season. Lars Eller also jumped from a clip of 0.34 points-per-game in the season to 0.76 in the playoffs, helping the Habs net 3.0 goals per game during the post-season.

Suffice it to say, seven months of misery can be forgotten in a flash if things click when it really matters.

For all the struggles Parenteau has endured this year, he’s getting a chance to make things right by providing offence his team desperately needs at a critical time. And while it doesn’t amount to more than a flicker right now, there’s some hope the situation could yet be resolved.

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