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Canadiens Analysis

Bear vs Bull – A Montreal Canadiens Performance Evaluation



Montreal Canadiens Cole CAufield snipes

With six regular-season games in the books, we can see some storylines emerging from this edition of the Montreal Canadiens.

The sample size is still small, but some trends are starting to appear, and like in the stock market, we can speculate on what assets could be depreciating or appreciating.

So, who are the risers and fallers? And should we be bearish or bullish on this team?

To The Moon – Risers

Sean Monahan – Tanner Pearson

Both players have an eerily similar storyline of joining the Montreal Canadiens as damaged goods, with no expectations, proving solid contributors.

They’re currently tied for second in points while playing key roles on both special teams. Monahan also leads all Habs centerman with 58.3% efficiency in the faceoff dot. Both could also become attractive rental options – further feathering Kent Hughes’ cap – if the Habs end up sellers at the trade deadline.

Jake Allen – Cayden Primeau

No Montreal Canadiens goaltender had a great pre-season camp, casting doubt over who should be the lead masked man.

But since a shaky first game against the Maple Leafs, Jake Allen has been outstanding against the Capitals and Sabres (posting .939 and .973 save percentages, respectively).

Cayden Primeau only saw one game, against the powerful New Jersey Devils, and ended up with a low save percentage of .879.

The eye test, however, tells a different story.

He prevailed against some dangerous shots and made some frankly impressive saves. He couldn’t steal the game as the team collapsed in the third period, but this micro sample size is extremely encouraging.

Justin Barron

After a lacklustre camp and a few games in the press box, Barron’s number was called.

And just like last year, he rose to the occasion. The mobile defender notched two goals in three games while looking sturdy, steady, and confident.

Juraj Slafkovsky

The first-overall pick of the 2022 draft seemed increasingly comfortable alongside Kirby Dach.

It was feared he would lose his spark with the latter’s injury, but it appears he found some chemistry with Alex Newhook. Production will have to come at some point, but Slaf’s underlying numbers and general play look great on most shifts.

Martin St. Louis shelters the 19-year-old, as he only averages under 15 minutes of play per game and barely sees power play time, but it feels like he’s on the verge of unlocking the next gear. And I’ll be here for it.

Jesse Ylönen

Forwards playing bottom-six minutes must contribute somehow, if not offensively.

It appears Ylönen understood the assignment, and is slowly becoming an effective defensive forward before our very eyes. He’s been quite useful on the penalty kill (PK) and has been playing a very responsible, two-way game, at even strength.

He’s been shy with his heavy wrist shot, but it could become a welcomed addition to the PP if Martin St. Louis decides to lean on him.

Cole Caufield
In order to win, your best players must be the best players.

While Caufield doesn’t seem to be buzzing like last year (we’ll get into possible reasons below), he still silently leads this team in points. He looks stronger, too, using his shoulder pads more, and challenging opponents with more authority.

Buyer Beware – Fallers

Arber Xhekaj

Xhekaj brings a unique physical element to this team and has a knack for getting shots to the net from afar. His underlying numbers have been excellent to start the season, but his impact has been negative, due to his indiscipline. His 25 penalty minutes place him as the fourth-most penalized player in the league.

Many of those were taken after the whistle and could be easily avoided – the coaches’ patience may be running thin.

Samuel Montembeault

After a lukewarm camp (at best), and a couple of poor showings against Chicago and Minnesota, the Bécancour native presents a weak .892 save percentage, good for 39th in the league. After Primeau’s recent great game, Montembeault could very well have already painted himself in the “third goalie corner”.


Josh Anderson
If insanity is trying the same thing over again and expecting different results, then Martin St. Louis is mad.

The combination of Caufield-Suzuki-Anderson has never shown conclusive results in previous seasons, yet, isn’t dismantled for some reason. Furthermore, Anderson, a North-South type of player who has limited passing skills, is employed on the power play… where East-West gameplay and precise passing are paramount!

We can’t pin the PP’s iffy results on Anderson alone, but he just isn’t in the “right chair”. In a vacuum, Anderson has been playing decently, showing softer hands and better vision than before, but it simply isn’t meshing with 14-22. There has to be a better chair for him.


Nick Suzuki
Perhaps it has to do with fatigue, as the Montreal Canadiens captain is the second-most-used player – averaging 20:37 minutes per game, employed on both the PK and PP – but it seems Suzuki has not been as defensively reliable or offensively effective this season.

His patented cross-seam pass to Caufield on the PP has not been working (teams likely caught on). He and Caufield being paired with Josh Anderson – an ongoing failed experiment – also doesn’t help.


Volatile Stocks

“Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.” – Henri Frederic Amiel


Mike Matheson

Which Mike Matheson will we see next game? Pre-season, high-flying Matheson, who dominated and was seemingly involved in every play, or the bland version we saw the first five games of the season?

Brendan Gallagher

The 31-year-old has been slowed by injuries and looked gassed out on most nights.

But it appears he is adjusting and finding ways to be impactful, with limited ice time. Plus, he still occasionally pots his signature Gally Garbage Goals.

Will he keep contributing and stay healthy?

Team Evaluation

With a record of 3-2-1 (.583), the Montreal Canadiens find themselves in the middle of the pack, 15th in the league standings.

Is this a wild-card playoff team?

Their showings against top teams are encouraging. They took Toronto to overtime and had a close game against the Devils (for the first two periods of a back-to-back).

This team has issues, but none more apparent than their lack of discipline – the Montreal Canadiens are the second most punished team, with 113 PIM. It’s difficult to win games when you spend most of them shorthanded, and it doesn’t help that the PK unit ranks 19th in the league.

To make things worse, players are constantly blocking shots on the PK and this is what led to David Savard fracturing his hand – the third player to get significantly injured in six games. Lazy mental gymnastics would predict this entire 23-man roster to be depleted by game 46, as they lose a player every other game. The bleeding has to stop. Literally!

And while on the subject of special teams, the drop pass to Suzuki for power play zone entry is so predictable! Maybe switch it up?

Ranking 17th in the league, there is room for improvement.

A rule of thumb for great special teams’ is for their success rates to add to 100%. Their combined PP (16.7%) and PK (75.8%) fall short, at 92.5%.


Bullish Or Bearish?

I’m feeling bullish – I like the stock (in the short term).

This team wins against weak-ish teams and can play with the better ones.

But it’s a fragile bubble that could quickly burst.

What’s the sentiment on the Street? Are the Montreal Canadiens a playoff team? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Scott Macrury

I think Matheson has been electric at times and deserves a more favourable review. In my opinion he is clearly the leader of the D core and has an offensive element not seen since PK.

Tanner Pearson has a been a great addition early on and most likely a stabilizing factor in the room for the young kids.

Suzuki almost looks disinterested, and this is a large source of concern. Something wrong there.

Albert Vanular

This comment did not age well and it took less than a day for it to look silly. Suzuki just had an excellent game and now has 6 points in 7 games- not bad for a guy who looks disinterested. Furthermore, he is close to 60% on the faceoff circle which is lot better than his previous numbers on the dot. And if you like analytics, he has been strong defensively and he has very good underlying numbers with Corsi etc. Nick traditionally plays hot and cold, so maybe you should wait a few games before jumping to conclusions. He could easily go on a heater at any time.

As for Matheson, you give him too much credit – he looks great offensively on some shifts but he has made some brutal mistakes on the defensive end which have cost the Habs. Again maybe you should look at the entire 200 foot rink instead of focusing just on the goals scored.


Matheson May look like he makes a lot of mistakes, but that’s just a product of being on the ice for half the game. The guy is a star imo. If we had a team like Colorado, Matheson would look almost as good as Makar. He’s just way ahead of most of the players on our team at this stage of the rebuild.


He was still finding his way with Florida and Pittsburgh. Coming home to Montreal is going to bring out the best in him. He’s right on the cusp of stardom imo. Of course his health will play a huge role on whether he gets there (as well as the growth of our kids). But this guy has elite skating and untapped potential.

Albert Vanular

Disagree with a lot of this. Matheson doesn’t look like he may make too many mistakes – he actually DOES make far too many mistakes. He brings an excellent dimension on offense but he has often been brutal defensively. End to end rushes look very nice but its just as important to stop the other team from scoring and Matheson has not been good at that so far this year. The comparison to Makar is frankly absurd – Cale Makar is great at both ends of the ice. As for Matheson being way ahead of most players, I hope he should be, considering that Matheson is 29 (almost 30) and most other players on the team are age 24 or younger.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like Matheson and his offense is nice especially on the PP. I agree he logs heavy minutes but maybe he would be more effective defensively if his ice time is cut down a bit.


I think we agree more than you think. I wasn’t saying he wasn’t making mistakes. He does. I was saying that we see so many because he’s on the ice so much. It’s true for all top players. If you only focus on the mistakes, all the top players would look terrible in many instances. Also, I’m not looking for Matheson to play like Scott Stevens or something. I’m looking for elite offense. It’s what we’ve been lacking on the back end for a very long time. I’d like to see him partnered with a defensive stud to create a pairing that allows Matheson to fully exploit his offensive skills. I don’t think he’s as good as Makar, but on a team with elite offensive talent, I think Matheson could get to a point where I said he could be almost as good. I didn’t say he was there now. As for being way ahead of his teammates, I know he should be due to his age. I was just stating a fact that he is on a different level than most of the guys he plays with. I don’t view Matheson as a finished product either. I think the situation he’s in here in Montreal, he’s just beginning to blossom into a true star.