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Stu Cowan: Canadiens' Max Domi 'not hitting the panic button' on scoring slump

 Canadiens’ Max Domi can’t control the puck next to San Jose Sharks goalie Aaron Dell’s net in Montreal on Oct. 24, 2019.
Canadiens’ Max Domi can’t control the puck next to San Jose Sharks goalie Aaron Dell’s net in Montreal on Oct. 24, 2019.

Scoring goals in the NHL is not easy.

It’s something the Canadiens’ Max Domi wrote about in his new book — No Days Off: My Life With Type 1 Diabetes and Journey to the NHL .

“In junior, you can beat goalies from the top of the circle with a well-placed shot,” Domi wrote. “But the best players in the world have a hard time beating even an average goalie in the NHL with the same shot.”

Domi noted NHL goalies have sound positioning, are big, fast and their equipment doesn’t leave many holes, adding you’re probably not going to beat them on the first shot or even the second one. Defenders also block a lot of pucks and Domi wrote getting a shot through is “probably the hardest part” of trying to score.

“There are very few players in the NHL who can walk off the half wall and beat a goalie clean,” Domi wrote. “So I was excited to learn how to score goals in new ways.”

Last season, Domi scored a career-high 28 goals. This season, he has only four goals in 22 games and none in the last nine. Domi has only one goal in the last 17 games heading into Saturday’s matchup with the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., SNE, Citytv, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio) .

“This is where you have an opportunity to kind of really show yourself what you’re made of and get yourself through the tough times, because that’s when your true character comes out, right?” Domi said after practice Friday in Brossard. “When adversity hits … it’s not always going to be easy. The game’s tough. It’s a very, very tough game, the best league in the world. Some of the best players in the world go through droughts and they don’t score. If they can do it, then everyone can and you just got to find a way to get through it.”

Last season, Domi went 17 games without a goal between Dec. 11 and Jan. 14. A 30-goal scorer in the NHL is going to have at least 52 games in which he doesn’t score. Players need to find a way to battle through scoring slumps.

“You learn how to deal with that stuff and how to handle it,” said Brendan Gallagher, who with nine goals is on pace for his third straight 30-plus goal season. “For me, the biggest thing is really to try and focus on the things that lead to scoring and not so much the end result. You take care of the process that goes into it, the work that needs to be done. I’ll never look at a chance and say: I should have shot there. I’ve always just trusted my instincts. I’ve scored goals before and eventually you’ll see another one go in the net. It’s the work that you put in that leads to it.”

Gallagher didn’t score in 54 of the Canadiens games last season, including two eight-game slumps.

“I’ve gone nine games a few times in my career …. I never got 10,” Gallagher said about his longest NHL scoring slumps. “It was the same in junior, it was nine games. It happens and, obviously, you don’t enjoy it. You start gripping the stick a little bit tighter when you get a chance. But usually once you see one go in, a few follow.”

That’s what Domi is hoping will happen, and coach Claude Julien will move him back to centre Saturday against the Rangers on a line with Nick Suzuki and Artturi Lehkonen after playing the last three games on the wing.

A balanced scoring attack has been the key to the Canadiens’ success this season, but they have scored only three goals in the last two games and Domi isn’t the only forward struggling to put the puck in the net. Jesperi Kotkaniemi hasn’t scored in his last 12 games, Nick Cousins hasn’t scored in his last 10 and Joel Armia has one goal in his last 11. On defence, Jeff Petry hasn’t scored in the last 16 games.

“I’m not hitting the panic button by any means here,” Domi said. “It’s just the reality of the game. You got to have fun with it, too. You got to make the most of the opportunity that presents itself. You don’t have the same confidence as you usually do and you got to try your best to find that, and that’s doing extra reps in practice, watching video and just trusting the process. If you kind of let that snowball and you get down on yourself and you start questioning yourself, that’s when it gets out of hand a little bit.

“We’re still getting opportunities, we’re still getting chances,” Domi added. “If that wasn’t the case it would be a bit of a different story. We just got to trust that you keep trying to keep it simple, get pucks to the net, go to the net, go to the dirty areas and you’ll get rewarded eventually.”

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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