Now that we’ve reached the quarter mark of the season, we have established that the Montreal Canadiens are struggling to improve their underlying numbers, but thanks to strong outings from their goaltenders, the team is currently earning more wins than expected.
But what about the individual players?
I asked Habs fans to identify which players they’d like to see analyzed, to establish whether they’re off to a better start this season compared to their first 21 games last year.
Today, we will take a closer look at Josh Anderson, Juraj Slafkovsky, Sean Monahan, Kaiden Guhle, and Mike Matheson’s stats during 5v5 play.
Juraj Slafkovsky, Sean Monahan, Josh Anderson
Mike Matheson, Kaiden Guhle
— max (@woumaxx) November 27, 2023
Montreal Canadiens Stats Pack
We’ll evaluate two different types of statistics (5v5 only).
The first group will include on-ice metrics, which measure how the team plays when the Canadiens in question are on the ice. Corsi For percentage (CF%) represents the percentage of shots the Canadiens control.
High-Danger Corsi For percentage (HDCF%) represents the high-danger shot share.
Goals For percentage (GF%) is the actual share of the goals, whereas expected goals for (xGF%) give us a good idea of what to expect in the future in terms of goal share.
The second table represents individual statistics.
There are traditional statistics such as goals per 60, assists per 60, points per 60, shooting percentage, and shots per 60, as well as the number of individual expected goals per 60 (ixG/60).
From an on-ice perspective, Juraj Slafkovsky is off to a much better start this season. Yes, the Habs control fewer shots while he’s on the ice compared to last year, but they also control more quality scoring chances, more goals, and more expected goals. In the grand scheme of things, that’s more important than just controlling the shots.
Ideally, you want to see all four of those numbers rise above 50 percent, and you could argue his current numbers don’t justify keeping him in the NHL rather than sending him to the AHL, but overall, the process is starting to yield more encouraging results for the first overall pick at the 2022 Entry Draft.
Individually, the results aren’t as encouraging. He’s scoring fewer goals, fewer points, has a lower shooting percentage, is creating fewer individual chances, and has fewer shots.
The only metric that has improved is his playmaking, though his assists per 60 only saw a slight uptick.
It’s important to note that Slafkovsky is now getting a little over 12:30 of 5v5 ice time per game, compared to just 10:20 during his rookie season, which explains, in part, why his per/60 metrics have seen a decline.
His production has improved in recent games, as evidenced by his four points in the last six games, but overall, Slafkovsky is off to a slower start from an offensive standpoint relative to his ice time.
One thing is very clear: he needs to take more shots, or he’ll have a very difficult time producing the type of offence that would lead to strong production seasons in the NHL.
Josh Anderson has never been a strong player from an underlying numbers point of view.
In most years, his numbers are well below 50 percent, but this year the other shoe has fallen. Not only is he below 40 percent in shot share (CF%), but the Canadiens now only control less than 35 percent of the high-danger chances (HDCF%) while he’s on the ice. His goal share isn’t too bad, but the expected goal share indicates that the results will eventually be worse.
Simply put, Anderson isn’t just having a hard time scoring, he’s playing below the expected results from a replacement player in the NHL.
Individually, things aren’t much better.
We should note that despite his poor start, much of his offensive woes are due to a lack of luck from a shooting perspective. A small fluctuation in shooting percentage is normal, but a complete collapse is not.
Anderson should have a few more goals to his credit.
And yet, we’re seeing his actual shot output decline as well, which does not bode well for a player who is looking to get off the schneid.
I probably should have included a forward who has improved his on-ice numbers, but we’ll eventually get to Nick Suzuki in another analysis piece.
Sean Monahan, who started the season quite well but has since cooled off, is yet another forward who is suffering a downtick in underlying numbers.
We have to keep in mind that he played a large part of the season on the third line with Tanner Pearson and Brendan Gallagher. Also, the Canadiens are a weak team from an offensive standpoint, and that will play a part in these evaluations, but we also have to admit that his positive impact from last season has essentially faded away. It’s most apparent when evaluating his expected goals for percentage, which saw more than a six percent decline.
Just like Slafkovsky and Anderson, Monahan is taking fewer shots, and it has resulted in less production. But using 5v5 numbers also puts his results in a worse light, especially when we consider he has scored five of his six goals during the penalty kill or the powerplay.
In that vein, we should consider his production to be relatively healthy, and it explains why he’s among the Montreal Canadiens players who are garnering the most attention around the league.
While Kaiden Guhle is on the ice the Habs are controlling more shots than last season, but the more important numbers suggest the best is yet to come. Guhle has significantly improved his share of high-danger chances, goals, and expected goals.
He hasn’t quite reached the point where you could suggest that he’s a bonafide No.1 defenceman, but his numbers on a struggling team are the epitome of encouraging.
The Habs have a very hard time controlling the high-danger chances and expected goals, but their issues aren’t as apparent the moment Guhle starts his shifts.
Guhle’s production has always been impressive. He doesn’t get much, if any power play time, and yet he still generates a healthy amount of offence at 5v5.
He’s scoring at the exact same rate as last season, though I should note that we’re dealing with a smaller sample size in his case since he has only played 17 games.
Regardless, he’s generating more assists thanks to his penchant for creating chances off the rush. He’s one of the few defencemen who does a great job supporting the attack, pinching at the appropriate times, and helping his forwards with his affinity for controlled zone entries.
Statistically speaking, he should have more points on the board, but due to his lower shooting percentage, his overall production has been limited. Thankfully, he’s taking almost twice as many shots on net, which should eventually lead to an uptick in scoring.
A nice controlled entry by Guhle gives Tanner Pearson all the time he needs to snipe a goal.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) October 15, 2023
Evaluating Matheson’s start is a little different from the rest.
He missed the start of the season last year, which meant he jumped into a lineup midway through the year, not an easy challenge by any means.
And yet, he still managed to produce very solid underlying numbers. He was one of the only defencemen who came closer to breaking 50 percent in shot control, and his expected goals were fairly encouraging, at least relative to the rest of the team.
This year, things have changed considerably.
His on-ice numbers have faded away faster than Auston Matthews’ will to win in the playoffs.
He isn’t just getting outshot, outchanced, and outscored when he’s on the ice. He’s also the team’s worst defenceman in expected goals. We do have to consider that he faces the opponents’ best players, but that was also the case last season.
His production still hasn’t cratered, and that mitigates some of the defensive issues. Last season, his low shooting percentage should have led to more goals, as it has this year.
But overall, he’s producing much fewer assists, which is always a red flag for a defenceman who is best known for his excellent skating and ability to create chances in the offensive zone.
He’s far from the team’s biggest problem, but other than Anderson, no Montreal Canadiens player has suffered a bigger downtick this season than Matheson.
All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via Natural Stat Trick.