Team Stats – November 13th, 2023

By JD Lagrange – After 15 games into the season, we are starting to notice some trends in the Canadiens’ overall play. With a 7-6-2 record, they are doing better than what some fans and media members thought they would. The biggest issue is consistency in their play. They are playing nose to nose against teams like Las Vegas and Boston, but put up stinkers the next day. For a team that is the third youngest in the NHL, this is a phenomenon that is to be expected.

Team stats

This weekend, I presented some personal observations about several players so far this season. It’s now time to look at the ensemble of the work coach Martin St-Louis as done, in comparison to the rest of the NHL. You will notice some big improvement in several areas from a year ago. But there is still work to be done in other areas.

Points %
12th most
4th most
Faceoffs %
3rd most
Minor Penalties

Aside from the obvious in the wins column, the Canadiens are much improved on special teams, particularly on the power play, where they rank 10th in the NHL.

I will be the first to say that the penalty minutes have to be taken with a grain of salt for two reasons:

  1. The Canadiens have six major penalties, most from players fighting to defend a teammate. This raises the penalty minutes per game played statistic but defending a teammate is a good thing… ask the Maple Leafs who are under heat for not doing that.
  2. As far as the minor penalties, the NHL seems to be having something against Montreal as many calls have been questionable at best, or down right blatant bias against them. The league has the worst and most corrupt referees in all North American pro sport, regardless of what its Commissioner claims!

This doesn’t mean that they don’t take too many (deserved) penalties, far from there. They need to be more careful in that aspect. When killing penalties, you can’t attack and you’re wasting time and energy from the players having to defend, while straining some very average goaltending (most games).

There is one area where I would like to see the Canadiens improve, and that’s in the giveaways and takeaways category. St-Louis’ team coughs up the puck more than any other team (but one) in the NHL, almost 11 times a game. On the other hand, they are 28th for the fewest takeaways per game with five.

Basically what this stat says is they are spending more time giving the puck to the opponent when they have it, and can’t get it back when they don’t have possession. Since St-Louis is preaching a puck possession game, we can see that this is not working in the Canadiens’ favour at all.

Sure, giveaways come with inexperience. It is to be expected. Veteran Mike Matheson is 3rd in the NHL in giveaways with 20, and Johnathan Kovacevic is 11th in the league. Nick Suzuki is the Canadiens’ leader amongst forwards in this unflattering category with 14, the 17th most in the NHL.

Jake Evans leads the Canadiens in takeaways with 10. That’s good for 47th in the league. He’s followed by Sean Monahan who has eight (81st).

Room to improve

The Canadiens have outscored their opponent 27-22 at even strength so far this season. So if the team can focus on staying out of the box a bit more, they will give themselves a better chance to win. It’s not rocket science.

Further, if they cut back on their giveaways and find ways to retrieve the puck when they lose it by improving ever so slightly on their takeaways, you will see a totally different team.

The season is still young and they have a lot of time to work on these early tendencies. Look at the improvement on the power play already. They are young. They are learning. If they remain somewhat healthy, we should continue to see improvements in all aspects. The rebuild is over. The Canadiens are now at the development stage and that comes with growing pains.

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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