9-0… not the most captivating of headlines, but it says it all. Nine wins, zero losses.
As of the start of October 2015, the Montreal Canadiens had never started a season with more than four straight wins. Fast forward to October 24, when the Canadiens beat their division rival the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second time this season giving them their record breaking 9th straight win.
Not only is this start a Canadiens record but it’s the most regulation wins by any team to start a season.
There are a lot of factors behind the Habs early season success, here are some key numbers that have huge importance in the Canadiens 9-0 start.
The Numbers Behind the Canadiens 9-0 Start
The Canadiens have played 540 minutes of hockey so far and in that time have found themselves trailing only once. Dylan Larkin put the Detroit Red Wings up 1-0 in the Habs sixth contest. Detroit enjoyed their lead for all of 2:57 minutes before Brendan Gallagher tied things up. The Canadiens went on to win 4-1 and haven’t trailed in a another game since.
This can be attributed to their first period improvements.
In 2014-15 the Canadiens were outshot 108-73 in the first period through their first nine games. In 2015-16, they’ve turned that -35 differential into a +15 by outshooting their opposition 93-78 in the first frame. What’s even more impressive is that they’re outscoring their opponents 8-0 in the first period rather than being outscored 11-4 as they were last season.
It took the Canadiens 18 games to finish a first period with a lead last year. It took them five games into the current campaign to finish a first period without a lead.
The Habs have scored 13 more goals in their first nine times this season than they had at this point last season. They’ve also had 13 less scored against them. Thirteen is not quite so unlucky for this surging team.
The reason behind this drastic turnaround is quite simple. Depth. The Habs top line of Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher are averaging roughly 18 minutes per game in 25 shifts while their fourth line is on the ice around 12 minutes per game in 20 shifts.
While the top line has combined for 16 of the teams 35 goals, the six minute difference between the top line and the fourth trio is giving plenty of time to the rest of the offence to help out. The three remaining lines have added an additional 16 goals, helping to take the pressure off the likes of Pacioretty, and Carey Price for that matter (we’ll get to him soon).
Pacioretty seems to be doing just fine with a league leading seven goals. Plekanec has five. The Anaheim Ducks, have six.
For as long as the Canadiens are successful, number 31 will more than likely be the most important number. The numbers that have been discussed thus far have proven that this is no longer a team that relies solely on Price, who is not only the league’s best goalie, but arguably the league’s best player.
Price has been called upon to be extraordinary in the first period against the St. Louis Blues and in their most recent game against the Leafs. Price stopped 49 out of 52 shots. He also joined Lundqvist to put on a hell of a goaltending duel when the Habs faced the Rangers. Price backstopped his team to a 3-0 win, so…
Price leads all goalies with seven wins and shares the lead with two shutouts. He boasts a ridiculous 1.29 GAA and .961 sv% which is tops among goalies who have played at least five games.
When a team can control the pace of a game and score enough goals to not have to rely on their goalie, has a goalie who can put up those types of numbers, well, they go 9-0 to start a season.
The Habs have cracked the top ten, finding themselves with the eighth best power play. Go ahead, read that again. Need another go? it’s fine, I’ve checked it four times while writing it to make sure it’s right.
Okay, well it’s tough to pin their success on the power play seeing as how they only seemed to have found their groove recently. The Habs have gone 4-for-7 in their last two wins. Better late than never.
P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov have got to be the league’s top defensive duo right now, each posting one goal and nine assists. I can’t help but mention Markov’s ridiculous five-point effort in the Habs 7-2 win over the Sabres.
Killing penalties on the other hand, is something the Habs have been successful at all season and their 90.9% efficiency is good for second in the league.
There are a ton of numbers behind the Habs success. Numbers. Plural. And that’s the key; the Canadiens managed to find a way to improve in many areas. Shots for, less against, evenly distributed scoring and recently, finishing with the man advantage. Add that up to the worlds best goalie and a defensive duo who are each averaging over a point per game and you get an elite team who has rolled to a 9-0 start.
There’s no doubt that this streak will come to an end soon, but if the numbers keep up they won’t lose too many.