Why do so many still doubt the Eastern Conference leading Habs?

Posted: March 6, 2015 in Uncategorized
Carey Price being interviewed at the Canadiens fan practice. Photo by Brendan Kelly.

Carey Price being interviewed at the Canadiens fan practice. Photo by Brendan Kelly.

Your Montreal Canadiens are sitting pretty atop the Eastern Conference and so you’d think everyone in the Habs Nation would be riding as high as the team. So why do I hear so much grumbling?

Sure the casual fans are all super-enthused but talk to folks who watch closely and, quietly, behind closed doors, they’ll tell you they don’t really believe these Habs are going to go the distance. Compare that attitude to the Chelsea fans we all know. Chelsea are first in the Premier League and their supporters are just ecstatic (to the point of obnoxiousness, suggests this Man City fan).

So why are so many skeptical of the Habs? It’s simple really. You look at the numbers and you realize the Canadiens’ amazing record this season is built on a structure with plenty of wobbly supporting beams. The short version is this – there’s one thing holding this all together and he’s called Carey Price.

Price is, right now, the best goalie in the league with a GAA of 1.92 and a save percentage of .935. He has a league-best 36 wins. But you already know this if you’ve even glanced at a Habs game in recent weeks. Forget this week-from-hell in California and look back and think of all of the amazing games Price has played this season. Prior to this year, we used to say that Price didn’t steal games. Well he’s been on a grand-larceny roll this season. Every couple of games he pulls off a save that just leaves us speechless. He’s in a zone.

The rest of the team not so much. And that’s why the doubters are out there doubting.

Let’s start with scoring. Montreal ranks 22nd out of 30 teams in terms of goals-per-game with a sad-sack 2.6 average. All the teams below them are not playoff teams, including Colorado, Columbus, Florida, Carolina, New Jersey, Edmonton, Arizona and Buffalo. (Florida is the closest to contending given it’s in 9th place in the East and still in the wild-card hunt.)

The Habs can’t score. Simple as that. They have one bona-fide sniper in Max Pacioretty, who now has 31 goals, but after that the scoring dips big-time. The second-highest scorers are Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk, who both have 19. Brendan Gallagher has 18 and then you zip right down to P.K. Subban with 12 and underachieving David Desharnais with 11. (Can I just mention that a first-line centre with 11 goals at this point is a wee bit scandalous?) Then it’s on to the single digits. Not good.

You know why they don’t score? ‘Cause they don’t get shots on net. The Habs rank 26th in terms of shots per game, with an average of 28.3. Yup this would be The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight that launched just two pucks at Los Angeles Kings’ netminder Jonathan Quick in the first period Thursday night. Once again the teams that have less shots per game than the Canadiens are all way down in the standings (Edmonton, New Jersey, Buffalo), with the exception of Calgary which is in 8th place in the west.

More worrisome stats? Montreal is also one of the worst teams in terms of shots against, ranked 22nd, with an average of 30.4 shots against per game. Once again the only teams with more shots against are not contenders (New Jersey, Dallas, Arizona, Ottawa, Toronto, Columbus, Colorado, Buffalo).

So guess which stat is the one where the Habs are king of the hill? You got it. Goals against, with an average of 2.2 per game, making them far and away the No. 1 team in this department. Given the high number of shots against, there’s only one explanation for that stellar number and once again the prize-winning answer is the mysterious man from Anahim Lake, B.C.

So yes lots to worry about as the playoffs approach. You could of course argue that Price is indeed one of the Habs players and they’ll go as far as he can carry them in the post-season. But it sure is a risky proposition to have everything hinge on one guy’s performance.

Now I’m hedging my bets here. I’m just reporting the facts. The doubters are doubting and the Habs have a bunch of scary statistics. Does that mean they’re going nowhere in the playoffs? Not necessarily. It is indeed another season and anything can happen. But unlike What Me Worry Price, I am a little concerned.

– Brendan Kelly

 

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