Quarter Season: Matthews vs Caufield

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.

Teams stats

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.

.643PTS %.548
26.5%PP %16.4%
107:20PP TIME102:00
78.6%PK %80.0%
  • 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.

10EV PTS17
16:46EV TOI/GP15:05
3:46PP TOI/GP3:01
79:00PP TOI63:14
$11,640,250CAP HIT$880,833
  • 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.

Dynamic duos

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.

23EV PTS34
21PP PTS10
21:06TOI/GP (AVG)19:23
16:13EV TOI/GP (AVG)15:37
3:41PP TOI/GP (AVG)3:05
154:19PP TOI129:13
$22,543,250CAP HIT$8,755,833
Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield
  • 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.

More reading…

No Goaltending Controversy In Montreal

By JD Lagrange – Ah fans and media. We are a passionate bunch, aren’t we? And because of it, we tend to look at situations from so close, that we tend to forget to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. A player is cold, trade him for peanuts. A player is hot, trade him before his performance goes down! A player does well in the short term, sign him to a multi-year contract!

Today, the flavour of the day is to give the starter position to Samuel Montembeault ahead of Jake Allen. That’s right. 20 games into the season, you have people building what could be perceived as a goaltending controversy. And of course, just to spice it up, let’s mix politics into the debate. In the red corner, weighing at 214 lbs, 26 year-old Becancour, Quebec native Samuel Montembeault. His opponent in the blue corner, weighing in at 195 lbs, 32 year-old Fredericton, New-Brunswick native Jake Allen.

Bad vs hot streak

Of course, in order to create that debate, one has to have been cold while the other is red-hot. And here’s where those wanting to start a debate are basing their thought process on. So far this season (prior to the game in Chicago), Montembeault’s stats are better than Allen’s.


While he started the season extremely well, Jake Allen has cooled off… a lot. In his last four games, Allen has struggled, putting up a sub-par 4.74 goals against average and .853 saves percentage. But prior to that, he was excellent.

Now, let’s dig deeper to see the quality of opponents each goaltender has had to face so far.

Allen: Toronto, Detroit (x2), Arizona, Dallas, Minnesota (x2), St-Louis, Vegas, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Buffalo.

Montembeault: Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Columbus (x2)


As we can see, Allen has been given the toughest assignments so far this season, and it’s not even close. So before trying to start a controversy, it pays off to look at the facts and circumstances. Yes, Allen is going through a tough stretch but don’t think for a second that if the roles were reversed, Monty wouldn’t either. They all do.

The reality

Here’s the reality… Neither Allen nor Montembeault are true number one starters in the NHL. Allen has made a career as a backup or at best, as a 1-B goaltender. He needs to be able to share the load with a reliable goaltender. It worked best in St-Louis when he and Jordan Bennington shared duties. And he was brought in by Marc Bergevin as Carey Price’s backup. Due to Price’s status, he has now become the number one by default.

Montembeault was picked off waivers from the Florida Panthers, when the Canadiens were desperate for a goaltender. He has a career 3.43 goals against average and a well below par saves percentage of .895. Yet, some media members and fans are suggesting reversing the roles.

Prior to the game in Chicago, Allen has started 13 of the Canadiens 20 games so far. That’s 65% of the games. Starting Montembeault for more than six games out of ten games is a huge swing… likely too much for an unproven goaltender. And yes, the Canadiens care as no, they are not trying to tank for a better pick. That’s a fans’ pipe dream.

The best case scenario, at least until Allen finds his game, might be to split the duties a bit more evenly. Or perhaps, just ride the hot hand? You have a good start, you start the next game. You poop to bed, give the start to the other guy. But reversing the starts would not be good for Montembeault.


More reading…