clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jesperi Kotkaniemi may have been Montreal’s best player. He was also among the least used.

Most of the dangerous play Montreal had in Game 2 incorporated the Habs’ youngest player.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

There are losses, and then there are losses. Last night was the bad one (I always get the two mixed up).

As per Natural Stat Trick, in all situations, Toronto controlled 58.5% of the shot attempts. That’s okay; they controlled shot attempts Thursday as well. The difference in Game 1 was that the Montreal Canadiens controlled the expected-goals-for percentage (xGF%), arguably, although not always, a more important statistic since it measures where shots are coming from and their likelihood of going in. But alas, that was Game 1. Last night, the Habs controlled 20.3% of the expected-goals for.

After the first period I was excited. Montreal might be able to pull this off. They had 51.6% of the expected goals and looked good, like the first game. But they followed up the first period with an 11.9% xGF% in the second. The third period came with an uptick in shot attempts, controlling 57.6% ... raising the xGF% by a whopping 0.4% to be 12.3%. Montreal fell back on its old habits of shooting from anywhere and everywhere no matter how low the chance of scoring.

So, was there a bright spot? Something to hold on to? Give us hope about the future? Of course there was! One of the same things that gave us hope last year in the playoffs: Jesperi Kotkaniemi. When he was on the ice at five-on-five, Montreal controlled 68.8% of the shot attempts and had 72.7% of the expected-goals for.

The only caveat with these numbers is that most of his shifts started in the offensive zone, and he only played 12:49 total. But considering just how good these numbers are you have to wonder, why didn’t he play more? This man had it all going for him: great advanced stats, an amazing smile, oh, and he scored the team’s only goal.

As much as those gaudy numbers should be tempered a bit by the small sample size, wouldn’t you want to at least test and see if he could play more? This is, after all, a coaching staff willing to play over six minutes without a goalie. Giving a 20-year-old a large helping of the minutes is a far less risky strategy.