Analyze This: Canadiens newcomers Folin, Weal show unexpected upside

Analyze This: Canadiens newcomers Folin, Weal show unexpected upside
With good reason, too. We’ve seen this team play fantastic hockey this year — especially relative to the expectations of a bottom-five finish — as evidenced by the fact that they’ve controlled 54.3 per cent of the shots throughout the season, which is third overall in the league.

But there’s a disconnect when we take a closer look at the numbers, as they’ve only controlled 52.6 per cent of the high-danger shots, which is eighth among all NHL teams. It’s not a mind boggling gap, but it’s still indicative of a team that sometimes fails to transfer quantity into quality.

Montreal Canadiens’ Christian Folin in action against the Detroit Red Wings in Montreal on March 12, 2019. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette

For that reason — along with the Canadiens being a rather young team and icing an underwhelming defence — it’s clear they’re not ready to contend for a Stanley Cup, so there was no reason to mortgage the future for short-term benefits.

With that in mind, some of the moves general manager Marc Bergevin made prior to the deadline have had a surprising impact on the team.

Of course, Christian Folin and Jordan Weal aren’t exactly significant additions to the roster, but they’ve had interesting results during their short time with the Canadiens.

Dale Weise was the centre of attention following the Canadiens’ trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, but it is Folin, a defenceman, who’s been turning heads in his sheltered role since arriving in Montreal.

Historically, Folin hasn’t had very good underlying numbers, but in his seven games with the Canadiens he’s maintained a 59.5 per cent control of the shots during his shifts. Furthermore, the Canadiens enjoy a clear advantage in high-danger shots while he’s on the ice.

We must keep in mind his usage, which mostly involves third-pairing duties against a lower quality of competition, but there’s no denying he’s played well above expectations. While he’s on the ice, the Canadiens allow only 46 shot attempts per 60 minutes of ice time, which is the lowest amount among all defencemen on the roster.

The Canadiens have a rather fluid situation on defence, with two premiere players in Shea Weber and Jeff Petry, while the rest of the defence spots are seemingly up for grabs. In his short stint with the Canadiens, Folin has made the case that he deserves his spot in the lineup.

Weal’s acquisition was seen as depth move, but the forward’s play has been good — dare I say, very good.

As is the case with Folin, when Weal is on the ice the Canadiens allow their opponents to take very few shot attempts, only 39.4 per 60, the best rate on the team.

As for his offensive impact, during Weal’s shifts the Canadiens take more than 74 shots attempts for 60, which is second on the team behind the offensive spark plug Brendan Gallagher.

He’s also creating 3.5 individual high-danger scoring chances per 60, a very respectable number for a player who hasn’t been used in a particularly offensive role. Keep in mind these numbers are based solely on his 5-on-5 play, therefore he doesn’t get an artificial boost from his power-play time.

Overall, he’s controlled 72.3 per cent of the shots and 61.9 per cent of the high-danger shots while he’s on the ice.

As the chart shows, luck has not been on his side when it comes to goals, but given that we’re working with a very small sample size, his fantastic shot-control numbers will surely go down, while his goals-for percentage should see a significant uptick from before the end of the season.

Both players were given opportunities to make a name for themselves with their new team, especially due to the ongoing auditions on defence and on the fourth line. And while the limited data set means that Folin and Weal’s numbers will undoubtedly fluctuate as they play more minutes for the Canadiens, it’s so far so good.

What were seen by some as mediocre depth moves leading up to the trade deadline might end up being more modest, yet low-cost, roster improvements by Bergevin.
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