Connect with us


Investigating Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki Recent Scoring Drought



Montreal Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki

There’s been a lot of ink spilled when it comes to Nick Suzuki’s scoring drought.

And while it’s easy to point to his recent production as a reason to doubt his overall potential, it’s important to look at the context in which Suzuki has struggled.

First off, we can’t declare Suzuki is injured, even if he did recently mention he wasn’t at 100 percent.

Given that the Canadiens have several players who are not participating in practice but are participating in games, it’s safe to assume there’s no room for more players at the infirmary, as evidenced by the team running with 11 forwards for a significant stretch of their schedule.

Regardless of whether it’s due to an injury or overuse, Suzuki is showing significant signs of fatigue.


On top of it, he’s also playing in a situation that does not complement his skillset.

As we’ve seen throughout the season, Suzuki is better off playing with teammates that can generate scoring plays off the cycle, players like Sean Monahan or Kirby Dach.

He’s a player that likes to use his vision and anticipation to control the flow of the game, opening up passing lanes as well as time and space for his linemates.

You’ll notice Suzuki is at his best when he spends a lot of time in the offensive zone, putting an onus on creating sustained pressure while forcing the defencemen to adapt, thus creating chaos.

Both Rem Pitlick and Josh Anderson have fantastic speed, but their offensive awareness is limited to generating chances off the rush, which mitigates Suzuki’s value.

Pitlick and Anderson have benefited from Suzuki’s defensive awareness and his ability to control the neutral zone, and have enjoyed a recent uptick in scoring, but it has not been a two-way street.

It’s also worth noting that with the endless stream of injuries, Suzuki is receiving the bulk of attention from opponents in recent weeks, which has made life easier on players like Dach, but much more difficult for the team’s best scorer.

By The Numbers

Suzuki has not registered a goal since Jan.14, but is it a matter of bad luck, or is he truly on a steep decline?

His on-ice results have suffered the most. Before the goal drought, Suzuki controlled close to 50 percent of the shots while he was on the ice. Since? A little over 37 percent, which points to a clear chemistry issue with his linemates.

He’s also controlling 10 percent fewer of the high-danger chances, connoting there’s a problem in the process, not just the results.

But linemates aside, what about Suzuki’s individual results?

He’s taking more shots than ever, well over one extra shot per 60 since he last scored, and consequently, his individual high-danger shots have been more frequent, connoting he’s taking it upon himself to change his results, rather than picking his spots as he had throughout the start of the season.

However, you’ll note he’s taking fewer shots from what I like to call the ‘captain’s cabin’. In previous games, he had the luxury of picking his shots and finding his favourite spot on the ice.

With a depleted lineup and questionable wingers, he simply cannot afford to pick his shots, as evidenced by the game against the Detroit Red Wings, in which Suzuki had five shots, none of which were inside the hash marks of the right faceoff circle.

heat map suzuki

There’s also a certain normalization of his shooting percentage, which was elevated to start the year, but given he’s taking more shots and generating more quality chances than before, I’d argue the drop in production is probably closely linked to his usage, rather than his shooting percentage imploding. A dip in shooting percentage was to be expected, a complete collapse, on the other hand, was not a reasonable projection.

To put a fine point on the changes in his game since the drought began, Suzuki has participated in as many rush attempts in the last seven games as he had in the previous 43, which, as previously explored, is not a situation that puts his affinity for controlling the pace of a game to the forefront.

Brass Tacks

There are limited wingers available for Suzuki, and with Dach flourishing on the second line as a centre, it’s doubtful we’ll see him back on the top line any time soon.

But as it stands, playing with two players who prefer to create off the rush is simply not a good fit for Suzuki. He’s taking more shots, but he’s not getting to the areas on the ice which led to his scoring uptick earlier this season.

The lack of chemistry, combined with potential injury, an inflated shooting percentage, and a dearth of talent throughout the lineup are all factors when it comes to Suzuki’s scoring drought.

However, they’re also factors that have very little chance of repeating in the future, making Suzuki’s scoring drought in the last week an unfortunate situation, but not one that’s worth losing sleep over.

Few players have proven their worth to this organization as quickly as Suzuki did, and it would be a shame to doubt his potential due to a difficult stretch, especially when we keep the context in which he struggled in mind.

All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick