Call Of The Wilde: Montreal Canadiens dominated in St. Louis

The depleted Montreal Canadiens didn’t improve on their second-worst win record tonight in St. Louis. With more than half of the club injured, the Blues beat the Canadiens 4-1, their sixth straight loss.

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The Canadiens needed seven minutes in the first period to get their first shot. They had six in the first 20 minutes. And that was a good period.

In the second frame, 12 and a half minutes passed before Montreal finally got its first shot away. It was a 35-foot weak-wrister from Nick Suzuki. Montreal had 12 shots after two periods.

It seemed as if this segment was going to be empty. They didn’t make a significant play in the first 40 minutes, but then Montreal actually scored its first goal in six periods.

Alexander Romanov slid in from the point about 15 feet to score on a 30-foot wrist shot. Ryan Poehling set him up, for the assist. It wasn’t the world’s greatest goal, but it was their first since Tuesday, so it sure felt like it.

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Cole Caufield needs to shoot much more than he has so far. It was obvious to any observer Caufield wouldn’t be able to get as many shots in the NHL as he did in college hockey, but the drop has been significant.

Caufield was able to get almost six shots away per game, on average, in Wisconsin. It’s part of the reason he scored at almost a goal-per-game pace and won the Hobey Baker Trophy as the top player in college hockey.

Caufield scored 30 times on 165 shots in his final season for the Badgers in 31 games. That’s a clip of 18 as a shooting percentage. No NHL player manages 18 percent shooting over an extended period of time. The goaltending is too good.

However, for Caufield to fall so significant it’s non-sensical. Caufield has one goal for 40 shots this season in the NHL. That’s a percentage of around two. Historically, shooting percentages do not drop from 18 to two, from college to the pros. That is an unheard-of drop.

As Caufield finds the net, you can expect goals to come, because he does have a superb shot. If his percentage were even respectable — about ten percent — Caufield would have four goals this campaign.

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There’s a secondary issue for Caufield so far this season and that is a drop in his shots taken per game, which has gone from six to two. That means he is not around the net, and not getting into shooting positions. It means he is on the outside and being neutralized. That’s the issue Caufield has to correct.

A counter to this though is Caufield needs some help to correct this. He can’t get six shots per game when his head coach only plays him ten minutes. Caufield also can’t correct this when Dominique Ducharme won’t use him on the power play regularly. Finally, Caufield can’t correct this issue when his linemates are minor leaguers, and he is on the fourth line of a club that is scoring at a clip of only two per game.

Caufield is going to need some help in his ‘pro development’. It’s long been argued that the Canadiens are terrible at the pro development aspect of creating a winning team. This is Example ‘A’.

However, it would be best not to get nervous about this abysmal rookie season for Caufield. His shooting percentage will move from two to ten percent. He has too good a shot for that to not happen. His shots per game will go up from two to about four when he plays with better players, on a better team, getting some ice time and some power-play time.

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If Caufield were to play 82 games in a season with good players and power-play time, getting four shots per game with a shooting percentage of ten, his goal total would be 32. Not sure that anyone can see that total at the present moment. But you certainly should expect it when his environment is better. Caufield will eventually find something significantly better than this start to his NHL career.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens see familiar struggles in loss to Nashville Predators

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If the Montreal Canadiens are having a hard time winning any games these days, it might be because they aren’t really the Montreal Canadiens. There are 11 regulars that are out of the line-up right now. It’s a phenomenal number.

Jake Evans became the latest addition to the list, joining Christian Dvorak, Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Paul Byron, Jeff Petry, Joel Edmundson, Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher, Sami Niku, and Carey Price.

Those aren’t exactly minor players in this organization. They are the most important players. Only one of their top four defenders is in the line-up — Ben Chiarot. From last year’s forward group that made it to the Stanley Cup final, of the top three lines only Nick Suzuki is playing right now. One guy.

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On Saturday afternoon, the Canadiens announced that Toffoli will be out for eight weeks as he had his hand operated on earlier this week. Toffoli was second on the team in points when he went down with the injury.

Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on after each Canadiens game.

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