With the Canadiens heading back to Montreal for Games 3 and 4, they have to be happy getting the split on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs. A lot of people wrote the Canadiens off heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, most notably, TSN’s Craig Button stating they wouldn’t even win a game. Well that statement didn’t age well as the Canadiens went out and defeated the Maple Leafs in Game 1. However, even though the series is tied at 1-1 the Canadiens are still having trouble scoring goals, registering just three in two games. One player who can certainly help, is youngster Cole Caufield.
It’s Time for the Canadiens to Inject Cole Caufield Into the Lineup
The fact Cole Caufield has been sitting out to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs, especially given how well he has played to start his NHL career, was already questionable. However, heading back to Montreal with the series tied despite the lack of goal scoring from the club, the Canadiens need to get Caufield into the lineup. Caufield is an elite goal scorer. He proved this by setting the record for most goals in a single season for the US NTDP with 72. 17 more than former record holder and star centre Auston Matthews. He also has the record for most goals scored by any player to ever play for the US NTDP with 126. 22 more than Phil Kessel. He also comes finished this past season with the Wisconsin Badgers winning the Big Ten scoring title(back-to-back years), as well as the Big Ten player of the year, NCAA scoring title and capped it off with a Hobey Baker Award. It was quite the year for the youngster.
After finishing his season with the Badgers, Caufield signed a three-year entry deal with the Canadiens. He began his professional career in the AHL with the Laval Rocket, scoring two goals and adding an assist in his very first game. One of the goals being the game-winner. The next day, he scored again for the Rocket, also the game-winner, helping Laval beat the Toronto Marlies in back-to-back games.
Scoring At the NHL Level
After earning a recall to the taxi squad on April 16th, Caufield wouldn’t actually make his NHL debut until April 26th. While he was held off the score sheet for the first three games, Caufield scored his first NHL goal against the Ottawa Senators in overtime. Once again another game-winner for the youngster. He then did it once again against the Toronto Maple Leafs the next night, scoring in overtime to win the game. You see where I’m going with this? Caufield is an absolute lethal shooter who is capable of scoring big goals for his team. While you might say every goal is a big goal, Caufield takes it up a notch with the game on the line. He has registered four game-winners (two in the AHL and two in the NHL) in just 12 career professional games between the two clubs. What bigger stage for him to do it on than the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Especially for a team that is starving for goals right now. Caufield is the answer.
Helping Out the Powerplay
Another area Caufield can jumpstart for the Canadiens is the powerplay. So far in two games, the Canadiens are 0 for 6 on the man advantage. It wouldn’t even be so bad if they were actually creating scoring opportunities and had something to build on. However, the Canadiens powerplay has been completely flat. That can kill a team. Especially in the playoffs. Special teams are such an important factor to a team’s success. When the powerplay struggles as much as the Canadiens have been, it kills the momentum for them and builds it for the Leafs. Force-feeding Shea Weber is not the answer to getting the powerplay going either. They have to implement a different strategy, and have a pure goal scorer like Caufield in the lineup who has so much creativity is exactly what the team needs to get it going.
We often see players hesitant to shoot. They are looking for the perfect shot. And oftentimes for the Habs when that opportunity arises, they end up missing the net because they’re trying to make it perfect. However, that’s not a problem from Cole. He will shoot from essentially everywhere. This could be a bad thing for some players, but not for someone like Caufield. He doesn’t need much room to sneak one past the goaltender. So far in his NHL career, he’s fired 30 shots on net in 10 games. That’s an average of three shots per game and leads the Canadiens in shots on goal since joining the lineup. The Canadiens need his creativity and his ability to find the net in the lineup, and it needs to happen in Game 3 in Montreal.
Time to Let the Future Become the Present
While having veterans in the lineup is key, there needs to be a balance. The Canadiens need to put the best team possible on the ice. In order to do that, they need to start playing Cole Caufield. And Alexander Romanov for that matter. But specifically, Caufield. He is a game-breaker, with an elite scoring ability which the team is craving so much. The Canadiens have the luxury of having the answer to the team’s biggest issues sitting up in the stands watching the games. It’s time to get Cole Caufield in the lineup and allow the future of the organization, become the present.