The Montreal Canadiens earned their first win in almost a month on Thursday night, taking down a St. Louis Blues team they had no business beating. In perhaps their most entertaining outing of the season, they got a goal in the dying seconds to force overtime, where they would go on to prove all the oddsmakers wrong.
And the best news for Habs fans? Cole Caufield’s fingerprints were all over that win.
He was having a good game well before he potted his first of the night, a clutch marker with around eight seconds on the clock to send the game to overtime.
Clutch Caufield ties the game with nine seconds left! pic.twitter.com/wRiz5uvSrA— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 18, 2022
Then, as if playing from a script, Caufield would end the game. He would do so in a manner eerily reminiscent of his first NHL goal, which also came in overtime and was assisted by Jeff Petry.
Jeff Petry with the slick feed and Cole Caufield wins it in OT for the Habs! pic.twitter.com/zcVjKVXrPI— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 18, 2022
Something has clearly clicked for Caufield since Martin St. Louis took over as the team’s head coach. The St. Louis philosophy of allowing his best players to make their reads has allowed him to play with more instinct, and find soft ice, which has been the strength of his game at every level.
He’s untethered, and this newfound freedom is yielding some of the best hockey we’ve seen from him in his young career. Fans are now getting a look at what they had hoped to be seeing when the team drafted him. It’s hard to argue that this has nothing to do with the coaching change, when that change has brought four goals in four games. More than goals, he’s legitimately shown improvement in every way.
The Habs are playing better, but there are two players, in particular, that are thriving.— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) February 18, 2022
First 45 games: Petry had 48.9 CF% / 46 xGF%.
Last 4 games: 55.7 CF% / 55.7 xGF%.
First 45 games: Caufield had 46.8 CF% / 44.6 xGF%.
Last 4 games: 55.2 CF% / 52.4 xGF%.
The overall improvement was duly noted, as Caufield was the most used forward on the night for Montreal other than Nick Suzuki. His new coach trusts him, believes in his abilities, and isn’t afraid to put him on the ice in any situation.
St. Louis was hired with an ostensibly ominous interim tag. I would venture to guess that if he can make this team play entertaining hockey like that from here on out, and also keep Caufield going in this direction, that interim tag gets dropped at the end of the season.
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