By JD Lagrange – Well, we have reached the quarter mark of the NHL 2022-23 season. There are plenty of surprises and deceptions to go around. For one, raise your hand if you thought that 21 games into the season, the Montreal Canadiens would be two games above .500, ahead of the Florida Panthers and two points from a Wild Card spot? Or that the New Jersey Devils would be second in the Eastern Conference? How many had Dallas’ Jason Robertson being second to Connor McDavid in the NHL scoring race?
Just for fun, how many people thought that Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki would both have three more goals than… Auston Matthews? What? Yes, that’s right! Let’s take a deeper look into that one, just for fun. Keep in mind, we’re looking at the 21 games mark here, so we’re not counting Toronto’s 22nd game against Minnesota last night although for the record, Matthews was held pointless. The Habs haven’t played their 22nd game yet.
First, let’s set the table, shall we? We must look at the teams’ stats, as the success or depth of a team will inevitably affect a player’s individual’s statistics as well.
- As we can see, there’s no doubt that the Leafs have a more effective power play than the Habs so far. It is important to note that they have also played almost five and a half minutes more with the man advantage than Martin St-Louis’ team.
- I don’t know about you but I find surprising to see that the Canadiens score a bit more than the Maple Leafs. But boy do the Habs allow a lot of goals! Perhaps, it’s because they also allow a lot of shots, but with two backup goaltenders and such a young defense, it’s not alarming… yet.
Matthews vs Caufield
Now, to the nitty gritty. In the red corner, weighing in a 174 pounds, 5-foot 7-inches tall, the sophomore sensation, the challenger, Cole Caufield! His opponent, in the blue corner, weighing in a 208 pounds, 6-foot 3-inches tall, the pride and joy of Toronto-based media, the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner, Auston Matthews!
Without further ado, here are the two players’ statistics after 21 games.
- Note that Caufield, in spite of being much smaller in stature, has a substantial advantage in his production at even strengths. Matthews loves when his team is on the power play. One would think that it would be reverse, right?
- And look how much more time the Leafs’ center has spend on the power play than Caufield. Cut that time and make it equal, chances are you have even less production from Matthews, if you keep his goals by 60 minutes equal.
- I won’t get in too much details about the cap hit since Caufield is still on his entry level contract. But you can be assured that he won’t make $11.6 million. Think more in the range of Nick Suzuki, between $7.5 to $8 million.
- It appears as though Matthews is better at retrieving the puck, although one could argue that perhaps, you don’t have the puck when you have to take it away from your opponent. But look at the giveaways… that’s not in the same ball park.
I figured, why not bring in Mitch Marner and Nick Suzuki into the equation, as they are the dynamic duos of each team. For this exercise, I have added their production and salaries, and averaged their combined ice time.
|16:13||EV TOI/GP (AVG)||15:37|
|3:41||PP TOI/GP (AVG)||3:05|
- Once again, we notice the same tendency as we see in the teams’ stats and the Matthews/Caufield comparison. The difference is the amount of time on the power play and the production at even strength versus with the man advantage. Although both duos have a combined six goals with the man advantage, the Leafs’ duo has more points.
- But also, look at the shots percentage. The Canadiens’ duo is just under 10% more efficient, selective and successful in finding the back of the net when shooting the puck.
- The trend with giveaways and takeaways is the same as what we’ve noticed in the Caufield vs Matthews comparison. The Leafs’ duo is coughing up the puck more, therefore having to retrieve it more too. Caufield and Suzuki are better at protecting and keeping the puck, and are twice more effective at not giving it away.
All in all, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as you can make stats say whatever you want, and people do. But force is to admit that so far this season, the Canadiens are very happy with what they have in Suzuki and Caufield and the fact that we can put those two guys against the Leafs’ duo speaks for their skills and progression.