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Bottom Six Minutes: Has Cole Caufield’s luck turned around?

Feb 15, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Montreal Canadiens right wing Cole Caufield (22) pushes the puck past New York Rangers goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) for a goal in the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens played a far better game on Thursday night against the New York Rangers than the score would suggest. The underlying numbers paint a picture of a much closer game, but defensive lapses, and an uncharacteristically rough game from Samuel Montembeault in nets, spelled disaster.

And on an even brighter side, two goals from Cole Caufield may be just what he needed to jump start his shooting percentage.

He started his night with a bit of a lucky one, deflecting a shot behind the Rangers’ net, only for it to ricochet off the back board, then Jonathan Quick’s skate, and right into the net. They don’t ask how, they ask how many, and that one made it 18 on the season for him, his first since January 25 to boot. It wasn’t at all the case that he had played badly in the five games since that date, he’s just been extremely unlucky, putting 19 shots on net in that span without seeing one go in. He was due for a lucky one.

He’s mostly been content to play set-up man, notching four assists in those games, which has surprisingly become a big strength in his game this season. In fact, while his goal scoring has taken a hit, Caufield has looked every bit like an improved overall player this season. As such, it has been surprising that he hasn’t been able to establish any scoring consistency. But if the data behind his play tells us anything, it’s that more goals should be just on the horizon.

Take a look at the below statistics from the NHL relating to Caufield. The left side is him last year, while the right side is his current season.

NHL Edge

Almost every metric relating to Caufield’s performance has improved this season, save his shooting percentage. Most interestingly, NHL Edge has him shooting the puck harder, and more often than he did last year, yet he’s not finding the net anywhere near last year’s rate. His career shooting percentage was around 14% coming into this season, in which he’d been shooting a paltry 8.7% heading into the game against the Rangers. Regression toward the mean was always bound to come, and Thursday’s game could just be the beginning of that happening, particularly with how his line is clicking.

He had eight shots on goal just in the previous game against Anaheim, so frankly this feels overdue. If it is in fact the arrival of some much needed regression on his part, it could have quite an impact on a top line that is already filling the net for Montreal. A 7-4 loss is never fun, but if it gave us an opening of the Caufield flood gates, it should give us a fun time for the remainder of the season.

Click the play button below to listen to your full Bottom Six Minutes, also available wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll be back following Saturday night’s tilt with the Washington Capitals.

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