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Canadiens Analysis

Five Reasons The Canadiens Are Off To A Good Start In 2023-24



Montreal Canadiens defenceman arber xhekaj

The Montreal Canadiens are off to a good start to the season, all things considered. Not only do they have a 4-2-1 record, but they’ve also enjoyed a significant improvement when it comes to their share of high-danger chances.

Their special teams continue to function with the efficiency of a three-legged AT-AT, but at 5v5 they’ve managed to outscore their opponents 13-5, which is the best goal share in the NHL (72.2%).

That number will drop as the season grows long, but for now, let’s take a look at some of the individual statistics at 5v5 that have powered the Canadiens’ strong season debut.

New Blood

Boldened by Kirby Dach’s encouraging results last season, the Canadiens have several reclamation projects in their lineup. And so far, they’re the players who have done the best job producing results at 5v5.

Tanner Pearson currently leads all players with four points (2G, 2A). He’s followed closely by Alex Newhook (3G), and Sean Monahan (3A). Pearson has committed to shooting whenever the opportunity arises and currently leads all forwards with 10.5 shots per 60.

Fourth-Line Value

Despite playing fewer than seven minutes per night, Michael Pezzetta has managed to mark his mark in the early parts of the season.

He trails only Rafael Harvey-Pinard in terms of individual high-danger chances per 60.

He also finds himself on the right side of 50 percent in terms of expected goal share (xGF%), leads the team in individual expected goals per 60 (ixG/60), and rebounds created per 60.

Xhekaj’s Presence

Arber Xhekaj has quickly built a reputation as one of the toughest customers in the league, but it’s also worth pointing out that when he’s on the ice the Canadiens control almost 54 percent of the shots, the highest number among all blueliners. He’s also second in expected goal share (56.4 xGF%). Only Kaiden Guhle, who has just played two games this season, has made a greater impact.

With Xhekaj on the ice, the Canadiens also enjoy a huge advantage in high-danger chances (25-14, 64 HDCF%).

MUST SEE: Arber Xhekaj Overpowers Ryan Reaves

Volume Master

Cole Caufield has done most of his damage in overtime (3v3), which explains why he only has one goal at 5v5.

Nonetheless, his 5v5 production should pick up shortly given that he leads the team in total shots on net, with 16. Historically speaking, Caufield scores a ton at 5v5. An uptick in production is due if his 5v5 shooting percentage normalizes.

Expected Goals

I removed Dach and Guhle from the equation to clean up the numbers, but it’s worth noting that they both had excellent stats prior to their injuries, albeit in a limited sample size.

Dach’s expected goals share was above 70 percent, whereas Guhle’s was above 65 percent.

As for the rest of the players above 50 percent, it’s a mixed bag. Xhekaj is the only (healthy) defenceman to feature in the list. Both Nick Suzuki and Caufield are there, which is rather encouraging.

Monahan continues to be one of the most underrated players on the team, and you’ll note that Pezzetta’s name once again makes an appearance.

Montreal canadiens

All Montreal Canadiens Statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via NaturalStatTrick.