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Canadiens Analysis

Canadiens Nick Suzuki Improved Crucial Aspects Of His Play



Montreal Canadiens Suzuki shootout

Seeing as the Montreal Canadiens are one of the youngest teams in the league, it stands to reason some of their younger players will take important steps in their careers this season.

We’ve seen improvements from players such as Juraj Slafkovsky, Jayden Struble, and Cayden Primeau, among others. And while their strong results have received a lot of praise from fans and analysts alike, one player has outplayed everyone in the lineup and has yet to receive his just due.

Nick Suzuki isn’t just on pace to set a career-high in points this season, he’s also produced the type of underlying numbers that would suggest he’s the ideal fit as the team’s top centre.

Montreal Canadiens Stats Pack

You may be asking yourself why there’s even a discussion when it comes to Suzuki’s ideal role on the team. He’s always been identified as the team’s best centre within the team’s long-term rebuild plans.

However, there were some concerning aspects when evaluating Suzuki’s play in the last two years.

Essentially, after playing a smart brand of hockey in his first two years in the league, which led to very impressive possession metrics, Suzuki’s numbers cratered.

He went from running well above 50 percent in several key metrics (shot control, high-danger shots, expected goals) to well below 50 percent. Another way of putting it is that he went from a player who controlled the puck more often than not to a player who had a hard time maintaining control of the flow of the game.

There were reasons behind the dip in numbers, mind you.

He was playing on one of the worst teams in the league, a team that set back-to-back records for the most man-games lost in a season. By the time the 2022-23 season was over, Suzuki had essentially played with every winger on the team, the vast majority of whom were below replacement level in the NHL.

There was no consistency in his game, and to make matters worse, he was the only player who presented a real threat in the offensive zone, which made game-planning against the Canadiens quite simple.

Shut down Suzuki, and you win the game.

But things are a little different this year.

Playing on a line with Slafkovsky and Cole Caufield has certainly helped. It’s a modicum of consistency for a player who has had roughly 42 different wingers on his line every month for the last three years.

But even before that line, which is playing extremely well, was put in place, Suzuki’s numbers were already quite good.

To put it simply, yes playing with Slafkovsky and Caufield has led to strong results, but Suzuki’s numbers away from those two are still quite encouraging, whereas Caufield and Slafkovsky control below 50 percent of the important stats when they aren’t playing with the Montreal Canadiens captain.

Montreal canadiens forward Nick Suzuki stats

As you can see, this season Suzuki is controlling over 50 percent of the shots, which is pretty good when you consider the Canadiens control under 47 percent of the shots when Suzuki is not on the ice.

But it’s his impact on high-danger shots and expected goals that really stands out.

Suzuki is hovering near a 55 percent control of high-danger chances, as well as a 53 percent control in expected goals. For reference, the Canadiens are the fifth-worst team in the league when it comes to expected goals, at just 46.6 percent.

He isn’t just leading the Montreal Canadiens in scoring this season, Nick Suzuki has emerged as a top-line centre who can produce sustainable underlying numbers, a very encouraging sign for a team that has had its fair share of difficulties when it comes to maintaining a strong level of play every night.

All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via NaturalStatTrick and HockeyStatCards.