It’s been very interesting seeing the different dynamic this year on social media among Tampa Bay Lightning fans. For one thing, the team is really struggling after a historic season. Many people are up in arms about any little thing that’s gone wrong or that they can be negative about, weather reasonable or not.
One thing that’s been interesting to me is a lot of criticism of Carter Verhaeghe because he only has one assist through 13 games. What’s interesting to me is that last year, Mathieu Joseph was in the same boat, with just one assist through 13 games. The difference is that it seemed like everyone was falling over themselves with excitement about Joseph. Maybe it was his speed? Maybe it was because he was throwing some hits? But for sure, he wasn’t producing on the scoresheet.
But maybe it was also the team’s record. The Lightning are currently 9-7-2 with 20 points and sitting sixth in the Atlantic division. Through Joseph’s first 13 games last year, the Lightning were 9-3-1 with 19 points and were first in the Atlantic division.
So, what really is the difference in performance between the two through their first 13 games? They both have one assist. Joseph’s came shorthanded and was a primary assist on a Tyler Johnson goal. Verhaeghe’s was a secondary assist on a Joseph goal at even strength. Verhaeghe is averaging 9:39 TOI and has only played more than 12 minutes once and more than 10 minutes five times. Joseph was averaging 12:50 TOI through 13 games. Joseph had two minor penalties to Verhaeghe’s one. Joseph had 28 shots on goal, and Verhaeghe has just 15.
Beyond that, let’s take a look at their possession stats to get a better view of how they played on the ice beyond the traditional box score stats. Through their first 13 games in the NHL, here’s how both players looked in some key possession stats from Evolving-Hockey.com. Joseph is listed first, followed by Verhaeghe.
- GF - 27.55% - 45.54%
- CF - 56.82% - 55.74%
- xGF - 55.55% - 61.5%
- GF60 - 0.87 - 3.14
- GA60 - 2.28 - 3.75
- CF60 - 64.56 - 64.52
- CA60 - 49.06 - 51.23
- xGF60 - 2.54 - 3.22
- xGA60 - 2.03 - 2.02
- ixG - 1.82 - 1.82
- xfSH% - 6.08% - 9.58%
- Minor Penalties Drawn - 1 - 2
Looks remarkably similar doesn’t it? Their CF% and xGF% were both good. Their GF% were both on the bad side indicating that they weren’t seeing results that were expected of them. Verhaeghe has seen a lot more goals actually go in while he’s on the ice, but he’s also seen a lot more go into the back of the Lightning net as you can see by the GF60 and GA60. From a CF60 and CA60 standpoint, they both are very similar.
Looking at Expected Goals, defensively, they had a similar expectation of goals, but when Verhaeghe is on the ice, the team is expected to score almost a whole goal more per 60 than Joseph during his first 13 games. Despite less shots, they have an identical Individual Expected Goals. This is because of Verhaeghe’s higher xFSH%, which is the expected percentage of goals based on his shot location. Verhaeghe gets in closer to the net and gets higher quality chances than what Joseph was getting this time last year.
Doing this deeper dig into the possession stats has certainly shown a lot of similarities there for the starts of their NHL careers. The biggest difference has been that Joseph generated buzz and excitement early despite not hitting the scoresheet, while Verhaeghe has been often criticized on social media.
Joseph finally broke through for his first goal on in his 14th game. He followed that two games later with another goal and then two goals in the game after that. He finished the year with 13 goals and 26 points. There’s still time for Verhaeghe to break out of the funk and find the back of the net. And it feels like he’s on that cusp where once the first one comes, and he has some confidence from that first goal, a few more will follow it pretty quickly.
But that’s all dependent on the coaching staff giving him an opportunity to do so. He has been healthy scratched for five games already. They don’t give him a lot of ice time. Even Tuesday night, with Ondrej Palat missing time in the second period while getting stitched up, and Nikita Kucherov missing the third period after being injured on a hit, he still only played 6:22. He only played three shifts in the third period for 2:06, but one of those shifts was the last faceoff of the game after the Blues scored an empty net goal and was for five seconds.