Cole Caufield had a delayed start to his playoffs but he has quickly become a fixture in Montreal’s top six. Along the way, he may very well be the biggest wildcard if the Habs are going to have success in the third round.
No, I’m not saying he’s the biggest key in the series, regardless of whether it’s Vegas or Colorado if they come back to win the next two games. That has been and will continue to be Carey Price.
But Montreal’s offence remains consistently inconsistent. I tend to call it a pop-gun offence. That’s exactly what it was against Toronto and while they were a bit better against Winnipeg, I don’t think anyone’s saying they’ve turned the corner. This is still a team that typically needs a lot of chances to score.
That’s where Caufield comes in. He hasn’t scored yet but he looks more comfortable each game and is getting shots off at a much better rate as of late. After having just nine shots in his first six games, he had 13 in the final three against Winnipeg and more importantly, they’re looking more dangerous along the way. It’s also nice to see fans be patient and not get too caught up in the zero in the goal column.
When Caufield first got into the lineup, the fear was that a quick mistake or two could get him out of the lineup again but we should be past that point now. He’s getting better each game and is quickly developing chemistry with Nick Suzuki. That has earned him some rope to work with even if he makes some mistakes along the way.
Throughout his career, Caufield has been more than just a simple scorer at each level; he’s more of a game-breaker. The last time he went ten games without a goal was, well, I don’t know how long. I’m not sure Caufield knows the last time he was in this type of drought.
Most high-end goal scorers are streaky. We saw it this year with Tyler Toffoli and in the past with Max Pacioretty and if Caufield reaches his ceiling, the hope is that he’ll be a better sniper than those two. It stands to reason that if he can get one, he could get a few in a hurry. And in doing so, a pop-gun offence (including a streaky power play) becomes just a bit more dangerous. In a short series, that could swing a game or two Montreal’s way and that could make a huge difference.
We don’t know yet who the Canadiens are playing but we know that it will be an opponent that’s more dangerous than Winnipeg or even Toronto, one of the top-scoring teams during the regular season. Those teams have game-breakers but the Habs don’t. Caufield could be that player and if he is in this upcoming series, he could bring Montreal the dimension they will need to have a chance.
Is it fair to put that type of pressure on a 20-year-old rookie? Of course not. But he is the one player who can really lengthen this attack in a moment where they will need it. Price will be the most important key to success in the semi-finals but Caufield may very well be the biggest one after that.