Despite losing all three games last week, there were a few silver linings to explore when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens. Unfortunately, unlike last week, we’re going to hit on a few issues that are starting to come to a head.
But first, the fun stuff.
Legitimate Top Line
Since we discussed the potential impact Kirby Dach could make on the top line alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, the Canadiens’ top trio scored the following 6 goals for the team, uninterrupted.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) November 5, 2022
The only other player that managed to score a goal last week was rookie Juraj Slafkovsky, who put an end to the top line’s scoring streak in the third period of the most recent game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Suzuki-Caufield duo had been scoring goals at an impressive pace prior to Dach’s arrival on the line, but it’s fair to say the results were powered purely by raw talent rather than a sustainable process.
But now that Dach is involved, the Canadiens’ top line isn’t just scoring goals, it’s playing the type of hockey that can sustain scoring throughout the year.
A quick look at their underlying numbers reveals just how much of a positive impact Dach has made.
Dach didn’t just bring immediate sustainability to the line, as it stands, the numbers suggest long-term sustainability.
The uptick in control of high-danger chances is particularly encouraging, seeing as Suzuki and Caufield had controlled a little under 22 percent of the quality chances to start the year. Controlling 50 percent of the high-danger chances may not seem like a great result, but considering the Canadiens struggle mightily in that regard, relative to their teammates, it’s a very good number.
There is one argument to be made against the potential sustainability of the line, and that’s the elevated shooting percentage it is currently producing.
But that argument ignores a very important part of the equation.
Caufield is not an average shooter. Far from it.
He’s an elite sniper that will likely have elevated shooting percentages throughout the rest of his career. Thus, all worries about their shooting percentage should be taken with a grain of salt given the talent involved in the process.
At worst, we may see a slight regression in their overall production, but the most important aspect to focus on is their elite underlying numbers.
Secondary Scoring Declines
As exciting as the emergence of a legitimate top line has been for Canadiens fans, it also points to the lack of secondary and tertiary scoring throughout the lineup.
The Canadiens have scored 34 all-situations goals this season.
Both Caufield and Suzuki have scored 8 goals, which represents almost half of the team’s overall production (47 percent). Add Dach to the pair, and the balance swings to the top line (52.9 percent).
Christian Dvorak did manage to score a hat trick, though it should be noted it was one of the flukiest hat tricks in hockey history, given one shot deflected off a defender and the third goal was scored in an empty net.
Josh Anderson also has three goals this season, but his underlying numbers are a significant drag to every line he’s featured on.
Slafkovsky is in the three-goal club as well, which is fairly impressive seeing as his usage has been limited, though he’s also scoring on a third of his shots this season, the epitome of unsustainable.
Brendan Gallagher, Mike Hoffman and Sean Monahan have 5 goals between them, and even if they are producing reasonable underlying numbers, they’re clearly not living up to their offensive potential, nor are they providing good value on their contracts.
Blue Line Troubles
The scoring drought extends to the blue line as well.
Rookies Arber Xhekaj and Kaiden Guhle each have a goal, which leaves them tied for the lead in defenceman scoring, seeing as the rest of the blue line has been held scoreless through 12 games.
As exciting as it is to watch the evolution of star players such as Caufield and Suzuki, it’s also quite concerning to see the rest of the lineup fail to make an impact in the offensive zone.
- Corsi For Percentage (CF%): Corsi For percentage (a.k.a. shot share) measures the percentage of shot attempts a team controls when a particular player is on the ice. Example: If Brendan Gallagher is on the ice for 7 shots by the Canadiens and 3 shots against, he will have a Corsi For Percentage of 70 percent, since the team controlled 70 percent of the overall shots during his shifts.
- Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF%): A statistic based on the overall control of shots (similar to CF%), but those shots have been weighted for shot quality, including factors such as the type of shot, the location, whether the shot was taken on the rush, or even a rebound.
- High-Danger Corsi For Percentage (HDCF%): HDCF% is measured in the same manner as CF%, but it only weighs high-danger scoring chances (IE: Shots taken from locations that are conducive to scoring goals).
- High-Danger Goals For Percentage (HDGF%): Measures the percentage of high-danger goals a team controls when a player is on the ice.
(All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick)