The Montreal Canadiens have started the 2015-16 season with a bang, going 11-2-0 so far while leading the league or appearing in the top 10 in just about every major team statistic. They had a record-breaking 9-0-0 start to the year and have kept up their winning ways, despite dropping two games. The Habs stats tell the story. They have scored 50 goals in 13 games, 10 goals more than the next highest scoring team Dallas Stars, they have an incredible +26 goal differential, which is 15 more than the Washington Capitals who boast the next best differential. Allowing just 24 goals against, places them 7th overall, four goals more than the stingy Pittsburgh Penguins. These reasons, along with the following, are why this year’s Canadiens look like a brand new team.
So, without further ado, lets look at some numbers and review the stats.
This was among the Habs biggest problems last year. Past the top six, the Canadiens couldn’t get some consistent goal scoring from the bottom six and and with the NHL’s new trend of rolling 4 lines that can score, it’s important to have that. You don’t need to cry about this issue any longer.
Here is a look at the team’s line-by-line scoring percentage:
- (67-14-11) 17 G – 34%
- (81-27-13) 7 G – 14%
- (15-51-22) 13 G – 26%
- (32/41-17-32) 9 G – 18%
- (Defensemen) 4 G – 8%
Taking a look at the chart above, you can see the scoring mainly comes from the top line, as expected, but the bottom three lines have their weight to say the least. The third line, that sees David Desharnais down the middle with Tomas Fleishcmann and Dale Weise on either side, has been picking up the scoring while the top six has struggled. In fact the bottom lines have scored the last 10 of 14 goals in the past three games. Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller are the only top six forwards to score in those games while Nathan Beaulieu also potted one.
The trio of Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, and Brendan Gallagher has looked superb thus far. Putting Plekanec in Desharnais’ spot as the no. 1 center has certainly worked and both centermen are excelling in their respective roles. Pacioretty looks to have returned to last years 37 goal performance, already notching seven goals in 13 games and may be on pace for 40 goals this year, which would be the first time a Hab hit that mark since Vincent Damphousse did it in 1993-94.
The second line does look underwhelming but when Alexander Semin gets slotted back in, the offense should re-spark. Semin did have a tough time generating goals, managing only one goal and three points in 10 games, but he has a deadly shot. Just wait until he has some more chemistry with Galchenyuk and Eller. They’ll be unstoppable.
Desharnais being put on the third line innitiated both positive and negative reactions from fans, but so far his production and play has warranted a thumbs up to the coaching staff. He used to be accused of leaning on Pacioretty for putting up points but he’s been near a PPG player with 12 points in 13 games while playing alongside Fleishcmann and Weise. Fleishcmann, a late offseason pick up, has also been generating offense with four goals and 10 points in 13 games. And Dutch Gretzky (Weise) has picked up where he left off last year, already just four goals away from breaking his career high for goals with many games left to play this season. Granted, five of his goals came in 2 games, including his first career hat-trick versus the Calgary Flames but 15 goals isn’t out of the question.
The fourth line has been one of the league’s best and most skilled, especially since Paul Byron was substituted for Semin in the team’s loss to Edmonton. He has two goals – both came off beautiful breakaways – and three points while Torrey Mitchell is looking to have a career year with five goals and nine points so far. Devante Smith-Pelly also has one goal and four points to his name. Mitchell’s numbers definitely won’t sustain over a full season but there is no reason to think that he won’t at least break his career high of 10 goals.
So now we know when the top six is going through a dry spell, we can count on Byron to get a shorthanded breakaway or Dale Weise to score a hat trick.
It’s been a while since the Habs had two goalies who could dominate in the crease. Carey Price and Mike Condon are doing fantastic so far splitting the net duties. But with Price injured for the next week, it’s fallen upon Condon to assume the starting role for the foreseeable future. Last night’s win over the Winnipeg Jets showed that the rookie goalie has no problem being thrust into the spotlight with the pressure on his shoulders.
Through four games with the Habs, Condon has maintained a perfect record of 4-0-0, a .944 save percentage, a 1.51 goals against average, while facing 108 shots. He’s looked calm and moves well in the net. Price doesn’t have nearly as good stats, going 7-2-0, .936SV%, 2.01 GAA, but it’s worth noting that Price played in both the Habs losses, which were caused when his team suddenly took their foot off the gas. Sometimes the stats don’t tell the full story and for Price, this is the case. This is still his team, still his crease and he’s still on pace to put up near identical numbers from his record breaking 2014-15 campaign.
Last year the Habs had a poor power play, especially on the road, only converting on 13 of 121 opportunities which gave them the worst road power play success rate. In 2015-16 the tables have turned, having a 23.4% (6th in league), and are striking while on the road, where they are 23.1%.
While the power play struggled in the first few games, it woke up in the 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings and since then has been consistent. Adding Dan Lacroix to the coaching staff and moving J.J. Daigneault to the penalty kill has had a positive effect on the team.
The penalty kill is also looking better than last year. The team is killing off 88.9% of power plays, compared to last years 83.7% over a full year, suggesting that they should finish right around the same spot, barring any major injury to our penalty killing units. They have also found success in scoring shorthanded goals, again like last year seven shorthanded goals were scored, they already have three.
SCORING BY PERIODS/OVERALL
Last season, the Habs had an awful record of scoring in the first period. In fact, teams like the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers were able to score more goals in the first frame. They got outscored by 11 goals in the first 20 minutes alone. But now in 2015-16, they’ve scored 14 of 50 in the first period, tied for first in the league, and have allowed only three goals, again tied for first. And once again the third period remains the best period the Habs play, scoring a league high 17 goals and giving up 8 goals versus last years 87 goals for in 3rd period and 61 goals against.
They have a record of 10-1-0 when scoring the first goal, again leading the league (what else is new?). In 2014-15, the Habs won 32 games when they scored the first goal. It wasn’t the best record but still enough to win 50 games. This year isn’t looking much different, but with more emphasis on scoring in the first period, another 50 win season should be in the books.
The Habs had some glaring problems last year which stopped them from being a true contender. It is still only 13 games, but these past games have shown that coaching and management have worked hard on rectifying the problems without sacrificing another area. With all lines providing offense, the defense doing their jobs, special teams being on point, and the crease held down by what could be the best duo of 2015-16, the chances of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals or further is good. The Habs domination is real.