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Canadiens Kaiden Guhle Is Turning Smart Defence Into Offence



Canadiens guhle

The Montreal Canadiens pushed the New York Rangers to the limit on Thursday night.

And while most of the praise for the strong effort was given to players like Alex Belzile and Rafael Harvey-Pinard, there’s one defenceman that stole the show in all three zones.

It wasn’t Mike Matheson, although given he played over 30 minutes he deserves credit for his impact on the game.

But it was actually Kaiden Guhle who had the greatest impact on the game from a statistical point of view.

The 21-year-old rookie scored a goal and added an assist in his return to the lineup, pushing his season totals to four goals and 13 assists in 40 games, which equates to 35 points in an 82-game pro-rated season.

The goal epitomized Guhle’s affinity for jumping into the play at the right time, but it was far from his only good decision of the night.


While much has been made about his offensive prowess, Guhle’s greatest strength is his positioning.

He acts as the stalwart defender in the Canadiens’ zone, closing down passing lanes and disrupting passes.

We had a perfect example of his situational awareness in the first period, as evidenced in the clip below.

Keep an eye on Guhle, who is stationed in front of the net. He surveys his surroundings and notes a Rangers forward in a high-danger scoring area following a lost puck battle by his defensive partner.

Guhle uses his great wingspan to deflect the pass while maintaining his crucial position as the last defenceman back. It immediately leads to a controlled exit and a scoring chance for the Canadiens.

He then joins the rush, looking to capitalize on a rebound opportunity or a lost puck. The puck never arrives, but Guhle quickly returns to his position, giving David Savard an outlet option to relieve the pressure applied by the Rangers’ forecheck. Guhle then calms things down and generates another controlled exit.

It may not seem like a mind-blowing play, but the smart positioning and great active stick by Guhle led to the puck being 200 feet away from his net, rather than inside it.


Guhle has made a point of discussing his desire to improve his offensive output, but one of the greatest risks when trying to provide offensive support from the blueline is leaving your defensive partner in the lurch.

It’s particularly important for rookies to avoid getting caught out of position, seeing as they tend to have a shorter leash than their veteran counterparts.

Again, it comes down to decision-making.

But sometimes it doesn’t work out, as evidenced by Mike Matheson.

Matheson is a bit of a wild card out there. He drives the offence, but it creates chaotic situations for his defensive partners, as it did for Guhle when the game was tied in the third period.

Guhle recognizes Matheson is in trouble and quickly collapses toward the Canadiens’ zone. He gets a perfect read on the Rangers forward, who is intent on shooting.

He then interrupts the shot, outmuscles his opponent, and steals the puck. But he’s not done there. He notices an opportunity to join the rush, creating an overload for the Canadiens.

His shot is blocked, but suffice it to say he made several smart decisions in just one play, turning a Rangers scoring chance into a scoring chance of his own.

The Numbers

His offensive production is good. To be more accurate, it’s one of the best scoring rates from a rookie defenceman since P.K. Subban joined the Canadiens in 2010-11.

But overall, his underlying numbers are a mess.

He finished Thursday night’s game with a healthy stat line, controlling well over 55 percent of the shots and almost 60 percent of the expected goals for, but there’s no denying his stats this season leave something to be desired.

He tends to be outshot significantly when he plays with certain teammates, teammates named Savard and Edmundson.

There was one play, in particular, that stood out last night, which won’t show up on the scoresheet, but did have a significant impact on the game.

Shortly after Guhle scored, Alex Belzile coughs up the puck in the defensive zone. Guhle recovers the puck and allows his teammates to present him with outlet options.

There’s only one problem.

Edmundson flies the coop for some odd reason.

When he catches up to the puck, he quickly gives it away, which forces Guhle to take a penalty.

The Rangers scored shortly afterward.


Alongside Edmundson and Savard, Guhle tends to control much fewer shots and scoring chances whenever he’s on the ice. He does have a positive impact in Rel.xGF% when playing with Jordan Harris, Johnathan Kovacevic, and Arber Xhekaj, though the sample sizes are rather limited.

The Canadiens may want veteran players to mentor Guhle, but overall, they’re not helping him improve, they’re a drag on his play.

Of course, there’s something to be said about the value of having a mentor off the ice, but when it comes to their play on the ice, Guhle is the one making decisions that are usually reserved for defencemen with many years of experience in the NHL.

He’s got all the right tools to become a legitimate top-pairing defenceman in the NHL, he just needs someone to play with that can provide a little support and reliability at either end of the rink.

All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via NaturalStatTrick.

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