Canadiens Should Replace Tatar With Caufield for Game 3

Tomas Tatar has had a rough start to the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In two games played so far in the series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he has not even registered a shot on goal. For a player who the Montreal Canadiens need to help with their scoring, Tatar is far from delivering. This is nothing new for the annual 20-goal scorer, who has a history of disappearing in the playoffs. Game 3 is the right time to switch to Cole Caufield and put Tatar in the press box.

Tatar Is Not a Playoff Performer

Tatar is a veteran of ten NHL seasons and a six-time 20 goal scorer. Since joining the Canadiens in the 2018-19 season, he had the two best seasons of his career, scoring 58 points in 2018-19 and 61 points 2019-20. This season there was a decrease in his production. He had 30 points in 50 games but was only on pace to have 49 points over an 82 game schedule.

Tomas Tatar, James Reimer
Montreal Canadiens left wing Tomas Tatar celebrates a goal (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

That production, however, has not carried over to the postseason. In 37 career playoffs games, Tatar has only scored six goals and 11 points; what’s worse is he’s averaging less than two shots a game for his entire postseason career. Those are abysmal numbers for a player who averages 23 goals a season and plays on the top line. In his last 20 postseason games, Tatar has scored only four points with only 20 shots. With the Canadiens having scoring issues, Tatar’s production and history ought to be a clear indication he should be the odd man out.

Caufield Best Replacement for Tatar

The player replacing Tatar should be a no-brainer for the Canadiens. For the first two games of this series, they have sat their top offensive weapon: Caufield. In just ten NHL games, Caufield has four goals, five points and is averaging three shots per game. This is already better than Tatar’s last 20 playoff games — yes, playoffs are different, but if Caufield can replicate what he has done in his short time with the Canadiens, they will finally have someone to rely on to get the big goal.

Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Caufield would bring an offensive spark to the Canadiens’ lackluster 5-on-5 and power play (PP). The Canadiens’ PP has been terrible through two games this series, going 0-5 and not showing any signs of life. Caufield is the best shooter on the team and could be that go-to guy on the PP that can bury chances and give them an edge in a tight game.

It’s Ok to Breakup the Canadiens’ Top Line

The issue with sitting Tatar is that the Canadiens would have to break up their top 5-on-5 line and one of the top 5-on-5 lines in the league. Phil Danault and Brendan Gallagher make up the other two-thirds of that line, and statistically, it is the best 5-on-5 line in the league with a 70.8 percent expected goals percentage. However, in the playoffs, this line is only at 50% and not showing any vitality at all. If the Canadiens want to keep pace with the Leafs, simply playing tight defence will not work over a seven-game series.

Philip Danault (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Thinking this line needs to stay together should not even be a factor. The playoffs are not an 82 game season, where if you have a couple of bad games, you have time to work it out. The Canadiens have five games to work their scoring issues out, and if a top-six player is producing so badly that they don’t even have a shot through two games, it’s time to make a move.

Sitting Tatar Will Not Hurt the Team Anywhere Else

Other players come to mind when making line changes: Joel Armia, Eric Staal, and Corey Perry. Armia should stay in simply for his penalty-killing (PK) abilities; Armia is one of the top PK guys on the team. With Toronto finally figuring out their own PP troubles, the Canadiens will need a strong PK. Staal, who had an excellent first game but a poor second game, is a center, so unless Jake Evans is ready to return, sitting Staal isn’t an option. Perry could be an option, but he is an in-your-face agitator who the Canadiens will need to get under the Leafs’ skin and hopefully take them off their game, so Perry brings other aspects needed in the playoffs.

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This leaves just one player, and that’s Tatar. Tatar should sit, giving Caufield a top-six spot to see what the kid can do. The Canadiens are the underdog and really have nothing to lose. They need offence, and Tatar is the best option to take out of the lineup. Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin has a saying: “Some players get you to the playoffs, others get you through the playoffs” Well, Tatar got them there, but he certainly won’t get the Habs through them.

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