CH won a soporific game Wednesday night in Columbus. This 3-1 victory, the first for the Montrealers since 2016 in the land of canyons, was achieved despite having picked up five paltry scoring chances. To everyone’s surprise, the Canadian thus crossed the fourth on the calendar with a record of 10-9-1 (.525), just two points from the last place that gave access to the Eastern playoffs.
The CH is at the beginning of the second half of the peloton. It’s the worst place possible for a rebuilding team, as one of the most promising draft picks of the past 20 years looms on the horizon.
Last week, I was discussing the situation of the Canadians with a respected agent. Half seriously, half jokingly, the latter suggested that Kent Hughes would soon have to conclude a transaction to help Martin St-Louis. However, my interlocutor did not mention a transaction aimed at improving the equipment. Rather, he was talking about the need to weaken her(!) to make her dive deep below the waterline.
While this reflection may seem totally unrealistic in the eyes of purists, it reflects what modern professional sport has become. This joke was also launched by a subject matter expert assuming that the CH leadership’s grand plan is being undermined by St-Louis and his amazing team.
As I wrote before the start of the calendar, the composition of the CH formation had all the appearance of a painstaking planned obsolescence operation.
A bit like companies anticipating the fragility of the products they make, Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton had concocted a lineup comprised of a decent Guardian duo, nothing more; of a defensive brigade made up of half the recruits; as well as a group of attackers populated by many veterans committed to the descent slope, and whose depth was limited to a line and a half.
Generally, we do not make strong children with such a recipe. And when we look at the draw as a whole after 20 games, the Canadian does not have the characteristics of a specific organization.
The team is ranked 27 out of 32 in defense and 19 in attack, with an average production of 3.00 goals per game. Their number one goaltender, Jake Allen (.891), ranks 23rd out of 28 NHL goaltenders with at least 10 starts.
There are, however, two major obstacles that, up to now, have prevented the perfect execution of the
plan . Those obstacles are Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki.
Caufield, who has 12 goals to his name, is on pace with a 49-goal season. For his part, Suzuki (11 goals) navigates at the rate of a season of 45 nets.
CH fans had not witnessed such an explosive first quarter of the season from a forward duo since Bobby Smith (12 goals) and Claude Lemieux (11 goals) in 1988-89. That season, CH had notably reached the Stanley Cup Final.
In addition, the CH does not bet on a scorer of 40 goals and more since Stéphane Richer in 1989-1990. The latter then shook the nets 51 times.
The combativeness of the young CH players and the almost historic start to the season experienced by Caufield and Suzuki have kept the fans on edge since the beginning of October. At the same time, these two factors give CH up to 10 additional ranks in the overall NHL standings.
The Canadian was 18th after Wednesday’s game in Columbus. If we were to take four goals from Caufield and Suzuki (which would be an excellent start to the campaign), the Habs would be around 29th in the league in attack. And inevitably, the teams’ standings would reflect that reality.
The big question is therefore whether Caufield and Suzuki can keep up that pace for much longer.
In Caufield’s case, the statistics suggest it could be. In the Canadian, the 21-year-old winger is the one who, by far, has the most scoring chances with quality. He gets 23% more than Brendan Gallagher, his closest pursuer on the team. But the latter, unfortunately, seems less and less able to take advantage of the opportunities he enjoys.
Nor is Caufield’s success rate (15.6%) science fiction compared to the number of shots he puts into the net. However, it will be difficult to maintain it. Over a full season, Alex Ovechkin, the leading scorer of his generation, exceeded 15% shooting just three times during his career.
Suzuki’s case is different because the captain has so far maintained a 25.6% success rate on the pucks he directs at the opposing goalkeepers. Unless there is a miracle, we must therefore expect a slowdown in production on their part.
How long can Caufield and Suzuki continue to skew the data?
This question is of interest to all fans of the team. Both those who want to see CH win and those who dream of seeing a future superstar join the core of the formation next summer.
#Chronicle #rebellion #Caufield #Suzuki