By The Numbers: Quirky Stats

By Bob Trask – It can be interesting to take a look at how the Canadiens are faring using different lenses. Here are a few of the quirky stats that have popped up.

Empty Net Goals – The Canadiens have given up 10 empty net goals and the league average is 6. The excess of empty net goals makes the team defense look slightly worse than it is – but only slightly. The bright spot in this negative stat is that in shows the Canadiens have been close enough in a numbers of games to warrant pulling their goaltender. However, if there special teams would have been a little more effective, perhaps pulling the goaltender wouldn’t have been necessary in a few of those games and the number could have been closer to the league average.

Power Play Opportunities – The Canadiens have had 105 power play opportunities and the league median is 109. Division rival Ottawa is 2nd in PP opportunities with 129. You have to think that Olympic class diver Tim Stutzle has something to do with that. Nevertheless the Canadiens are not hard done by in this category.

Power Play Success – The Canadiens success rate on the PP is a feeble 14.3% and the league median is 22.5%. The Senators have had a lot of opportunities and have made the most of them with a success rate of 27.9%. Net PP goals for the Sens is 36 and for the Canadiens it is 15 – a difference of 21 goals!! Even an average PP would add 9 goals to the Canadiens total and bring them up to 24 in total. Everyone knows it is a problem and the insanity of using the same personnel, the same approach and the same PP coach continues.

Short Handed Situations – The short handed situation is a little different. The Canadiens rank 8th in the league, having played shorthanded 123 times and the league median is 106. The Calgary Flames have given up the most short handed situations with 135 while the St Louis Blues have given up the least with 82.

Penalty Kill Success – The league average for PK success is 78% and the Canadiens aren’t far off that mark at 77.1%. The problem lies in the fact that they take too many penalties (and a lot of them seem like lazy penalties) and as a result have given up 28 PP goals, 10th worst in the league. An average ranking in penalties taken and in PK success would see the Canadiens giving up 23 PP goals to date – an improvement of 5 goals.

What we have seen so far is that even average success on special teams and the subsequent potential decline in empty net goals would have the potential of adding 9 goals on the offensive side of the equation and subtracting 9 goals from the defensive side. That would move the Canadiens from a -23 in goal differential to a -5. It’s still not outstanding but achieving that level would immediately put the Canadiens in playoff contention – not Stanley Cup contention but definitely in the playoff discussion.

A more effective PP has a secondary advantage. It can cause teams to play a little less aggressively against you, improving the dynamic for the team in 5v5 situations.

Based on this simple data one has to believe that behind the scenes Jeff Gorton, Kent Hughes and Marty St-Louis are looking at all their options when it comes to special teams. It might start with finding a coach who has a innovative approach to the power play. It might be learning to play with more discipline to minimize penalties taken. It might be adding a player who is the missing piece on the special teams squads. Or more likely, it will be a combination of two or more of these factors.

Leading up to the trade deadline and over the course of the off-season, you can be sure that special teams will be getting special attention from the Habs brass.

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