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.

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About Last Night: Habs Burn the Leafs

By JD Lagrange – “Oh what a night!” Yes, we are feeling a bit like borrowing the words of Frankie Valli this morning, thinking about the opening night the Montreal Canadiens provided us with. Entertaining, exciting, eye opening and surprising are only a few qualifiers we can use to describe their performance last night.

Few gave the Canadiens any chance at winning that game. After all, how fair was it to put the 32nd place team, the lowly Habs, against the powerhouse, Atlantic Division favourites, Stanley Cup contenders, the almighty Toronto Maple Leafs, with 60-goals’ scorer (how many times have we heard that on Sportsnet last night)? But as you know, David defeated Goliath. Martin St-Louis’ men upended “Tarana” by the score of 4-3! Yes, it is burning season and the Canadiens did some yard work… burning the Leafs!

Recap

The Canadiens played nose to nose with the Leafs pretty much all game. Michael Bunting opened the scoring for the Leafs halfway in the first period and that’s when many people thought that the Canadiens would fold and the floodgates would open. Not so fast.

Cole Caufield

Just 33 seconds into the second period, captain Nick Suzuki found Cole Caufield whom, in a Caufield fashion, beat Matt Murray to tie the game at one. The Bell Centre exploded! But then, a blown coverage by Suzuki in front of Jake Allen’s net resulted in Denis Malgin giving Toronto the lead back. But the Canadiens’ sniper wasn’t done. Caufield picked a corner with a snipe coming down the right wing to tie the game at two.

Everyone thought that the game was over when former Calgary Flames Sean Monahan gave the Canadiens the lead at 17:30 of the third period but William Nylander had other ideas, tying things up just 40 seconds later. The rollercoaster ride at the Bell Centre continued up until the end, as Suzuki slid the puck to the Powerhorse himself, as Josh Anderson got the puck where Grandma keeps the cookie jar, with only 19 seconds to go in the game, to give the Canadiens the surprising win.

Heroes

There were many players on the Canadiens who had a good game but a few of them really stood out.

Kaiden Guhle played on the first pairing with David Savard and the two did very well together. In his first ever NHL game, the 20 year-old rearguard led all Canadiens’ players in ice time (22:34), including 3:43 short-handed.

Sean Monahan was flying out there, showing no signs of his two hip injuries which slowed him down the past couple of years. He was the second most utilized center by St-Louis and in 18:15 of ice time, including the power play and the penalty kill, he was a team best 60% in the faceoffs’ circle.

Cole Caufield had four goals, all on the power play, during pre-season and he was buzzing from the first shift to the last. Before he scored his first of two goals, we knew that he would as he was dangerous every time he touched the puck. He literally outshone Matthews in this game, as he did throughout his College career by breaking the Leafs’ player’s NCAA records.

Showing no signs of succumbing to the pressure of the “C” on his chest, Nick Suzuki carried the torch to center ice in the pre-games ceremonies and lit the rink on fire. And he played with that fire all game, likely the best player from both teams all night. He ended up with two assists, three shots and three blocked shots in 21:24 of ice time. It’s important to note that he was 57% on faceoffs in the game too!

Brendan Gallagher was flying out there. That’s right, you’ve heard it well. We saw the Gallagher of a couple of years ago out there. Completing a line with Christian Dvorak and rookie Juraj Slafkovsky, he was noticeable (for the right reasons) at both ends of the ice.

Honourable mentions to Jordan Harris and Kirby Dach, who were both solid out there too. Also in their very first NHL game, Juraj Slafkovsky and Arber Xhekaj were good, in a more limited role.

On a side note, I want to tip my hat to the fans present at the Bell Centre for the ovation they reserved to Carey Price at the players’ introduction prior to the game. It was classy and mostly, well deserved for a guy who gave it all for this franchise over the years.

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