Pierre-Luc Dubois Is In The Midst Of Biggest Drought Of Young Career, But Is Showing Signs Of Breaking Slump

By Dan Dukart on March 21, 2019 at 10:15 am
Pierre-Luc Dubois skates with the puck against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

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Pierre-Luc Dubois is on a cold-streak, and there's no two ways around that.

In his past 10 games, Dubois has a clean stat-line (and not in a good way), posting 0-0-0. It's not like he's not getting chances. In that time, he has 19 shots on goal, and has hit several posts.

In Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames, Dubois made church music twice, hitting the goal post and clanking the crossbar, as the snake-bitten 20-year old looks to get off the proverbial schneid. It was one of the better performances from a top line that has struggled across the board as of late. Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, and Dubois combined for a staggering 25 shot attempts Tuesday, 10 of which were on target, and dominated possession to the tune of nearly 77% of 5v5 shot attempts percent. Atkinson and Dubois came away pointless, while Panarin tallied an assist on Zach Werenski's goal.

The frustrating performance has become old hat for the line, but especially for Dubois. In the same past 10 games, Panarin's "struggles" of 0-5-5 are much less pronounced, at least from a production standpoint. Atkinson, too, has the same point total, going 3-2-5 in his last 10 games.

This isn't the first time Dubois has struggled this season, but it's important to clarify a few things here. First of all, he's still an incredibly young player at just 20-years of age, and while his production has been lacking, his overall play hasn't been an issue. Secondly, per NaturalStatTrick, Dubois is second on the team in individual scoring chances for in the past 10 games with 26 such chances, besting Atkinson (25) and Duchene (18), and trailing only Josh Anderson (27), who has been fabulous.

It's also worth noting the arrival of Matt Duchene, who John Tortorella has used as a top-line center in lieu of Dubois at times since his acquisition. Then there's this: in the 14 games since Duchene joined Columbus, Dubois ice time has been cut to an average of 15:39, down from 18:36 per game in his first 59 games. Dubois is likely playing with less confidence, no longer being counted on for top assignments. Who can say how much this has impacted his game, but we're talking about a 20-year old, and it bears mentioning. 

Even with two droughts in his age-20 season, Dubois is still among the best point-producing players at that age over the past decade. Meanwhile, he's also in the top 25th in the NHL in shots off the post that weren't goals this year, hitting the post six times (in addition to the aforementioned crossbar, meaning he's clanked iron seven times) this year. 

Simply put, Dubois' numbers should regress to the mean. Over his past 10 games at 5v5 (140:45 TOI), Dubois has been on the ice for 70 scoring chances for and only 59 against, but has been on the ice for just two goals scored for and four against. His pre-trade deadline 5v5 shooting percentage of 14.41% was among the best on the team. 

Hockey is a weird game. One of the most tired adages is tired because it's true: teams that go on long winning streaks win some games they don't deserve to win towards the end of the streak, and vice versa. The same goes for individual players. Dubois was a quarter of an inch away from scoring a pair of goals in a tightly-contested loss in Calgary. 

The smart money says that Dubois will be an enormous factor going forward as the Blue Jackets look to clinch a playoff berth. With nine games remaining, there is plenty of reason believe he - and his line - break out of this slump.

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