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.

TORONTOMONTREAL
21GP21
11W11
5L9
5OT1
27PTS23
.643PTS %.548
61GF65
55GA73
26.5%PP %16.4%
107:20PP TIME102:00
78.6%PK %80.0%
30.3Shots/GP30.4
28.5SA/GP33.3
  • 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.

MATTHEWSCAUFIELD
25AGE21
6’3″HEIGHT5’7″
208WEIGHT174
21GP21
9G12
12A9
21PTS21
1.00PTS/GP1.00
+1+/-0
3EVG10
10EV PTS17
6PPG2
11PP PTS4
20:34TOI/GP18:05
16:46EV TOI/GP15:05
3:46PP TOI/GP3:01
79:00PP TOI63:14
89SHOTS78
10.1%SH%15.4%
24GvA9
21TkA6
$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.

MATTHEWS/MARNERCAUFIELD/SUZUKI
25AVG AGE22
21GP21
13G24
32A21
45PTS45
2.14PTS/GP2.14
+2+/-+3
7EVG17
23EV PTS34
6PPG6
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
132SHOTS124
9.8%SH%19.4%
51GvA23
43TkA16
$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…

Sub-Par Goaltending Costing The Habs

By JD Lagrange – The Montreal Canadiens are going through their first real tough times and what’s most alarming is that it’s happening against teams that on paper, they should be beating. To make matters even more troubling, they are almost fully healthy, as veteran defensemen Joel Edmundson and Mike Matheson are back in their line-up.

The team was up to such a promising start to the season and fans were excited to see the young Habs. The offense was running in full cylinders, the young defense was doing its job, and the goaltending was solid. But since November 12th, the Canadiens’ goaltenders have not been as good as they have been the first month of the season.

GPWLOTGAASv%
ALLEN42204.74.853
MONTEMBEAULT10105.21.821

Yes, Allen managed two wins in there, believe it or not. But it was due to a strong offensive effort in both cases, not so much because of his strong performances. Here’s a break down, game by game, during that stretch.

DATEVSGOALIERESULTSHOTSGOALSSv%
Nov.12PITAllenW244.833
Nov.15NJDAllenL384.895
Nov.17CBJMontyL285.821
Nov.19PHIAllenW294.862
Nov.22BUFAllenL387.816

No matter how you twist this, no NHL team will win many games when their goalies have a saves percentage below the respectable .900 mark. Those were all winnable games, with perhaps the exception of the red-hot New Jersey Devils. Columbus is missing half their line-up to injuries, as did Philly. And Buffalo had lost eight in a row. This is not acceptable.

Cheating forwards

Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield

With that being said, the entire blame is certainly not all on the Allen and Montembeault duo. In many occasions, we’ve seen forwards not giving their full efforts coming back to help in deep in the zone. Many times, forwards were caught cheating, anticipating the Canadiens to get the puck to them when the opponents had possession.

Let’s call a spade a spade here. In spite of having an outstanding season offensively, the dynamic duo of Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield have been guilty of that in recent games. That’s unusual for them as they were strong at both ends of the ice to start the season.

This is just one man’s observation, but in more than a few occasions, it’s like they’re relying on Kirby Dach to be the guy down low. That’s fine but when Dach is already there, Suzuki and Caufield must watch for the fourth man in, or replace a defenseman who might have pinched in and got caught. The two offensive juggernauts have not been doing that lately.

It is quite obvious on the Sabres’ first goal last night. Matheson has his man, Dach followed his man to the net and beyond. Edmundson had two men to check because we can see Caufield and Suzuki coasting back and not taking the late man, Rasmus Dahlin, who ended up scoring.

Solutions

There aren’t many solutions but the good news is that there are a few. For one, you need a commitment to coming back into your zone with at least four players. So two forwards must be committed to come and help below the hashmarks… and check an opponent.

In a few occasions in the past few games, I have pointed out on Twitter that Suzuki looks tired. On for the season, he averages 20:43 of ice time. That’s fine, he can do it. But since November 5th, his average ice time is at 22:07, and he played just shy of 25 minutes against Philadelphia. That is too much.

I see two ways to take some ice away from him in order to keep him fresh:

  1. The Canadiens have two other quality centers in Sean Monahan and Christian Dvorak who can take additional ice time at center. Use them.
  2. Take his 1:22 from killing penalties and give those to someone else. The Canadiens have sent a good penalty killer in Rem Pitlick to Laval and kept some dead wood up with the NHL club. Have him would allow to use a fresher Suzuki after the penalty is killed, to generate offense. Scotty Bowman (you may have heard of him), while with the Detroit Red Wings, did that with multiple Selke winner Pavel Datsyuk.

Winning is not everything, particularly not this season. But burning out your players, having tired key players on the ice, is not helping develop anyone either. It is clear from watching some of them play, that they are not utilized to the maximum of their strength and abilities. This is on the coaching staff.

Yes, offense is exciting to watch but right now, retrieving the puck out of your own net as often as they do isn’t too exciting either. Like anything in life, you need a balance and right now, it’s tipped too far one way.

More reading…