Friday, December 18, 2009

Habs Need Shots on Goal and Commitment Markov Back Saturday?

image“How can you score, if you don’t shoot?” – Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion

Thursday night’s loss by the Montreal Canadiens, to the Minnesota Wild, is clearly a disappointment as their losing streak mounts to five games.

It was another one of those games when the team showed up for two periods.

While first period was a mess for the Habs, the final forty minutes was a much better story.

The Canadiens managed to get a dozen shots, in each of the final periods, at Niklas Backstrom and 31 on the night along with 18 blocked shots, and 15 that missed the net.

Unfortunately a hot Backstrom, combined with a defense that can clear rebounds, spelled a loss.

For the first time in ten games, Montreal actually outshot their opponent.

Outside of the injury factor, the lack of shots on goal has been one of Montreal’s biggest problems in 2009-10.

Canadiens coach Jacques Martin addressed the situation last week after his team’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Martin noted that the Penguins find ways to get the puck to the net and that “If it’s good enough for the Stanley Cup Champions, then it’s good enough for the Montreal Canadiens.”

Montreal currently ranks 29th in the league in shots-per-game with 26.8. Conversely the injury depleted team is 9th in shots against at 31.1.

That’s just under a five shot differential. Five more opportunities for the opponent to score, not including misses or blocks.

Once you realize that 22 of the Canadiens’ 36 games this season have been one-goal games, that differential could make the difference to a team that is 9-9-2 in those situations.

The Canadiens, notably the second and third lines, need to try not to use set plays as often as they appear to be doing and just get pucks on the net.

Do that, and the probability of a goal, and a win, is clearly much better.

image Another factor, which demonstrates a team’s commitment to playing a full game, is their record when scoring first.

Montreal is 4-15-2 when their opponent scores first. That’s fourth worst in the league.

Add to that their record when trailing after 40 minutes is 2-14-1, and 8-0-0 when leading, and you get the picture.

Get the shot totals up, keep a full pace, and the remaining 46 games should be much better.

The Canadiens now embark on a seven-game road trip to close out 2009. All seven are against Eastern Conference teams.

Markov and Gionta Updates: Andrei Markov has been cleared for contact play by team doctors. It will be Jacques Martin’s decision whether to start him on Saturday against the Islanders.

Brain Gionta continues his rehab on his broken foot. The left winger skated in Brossard Friday, for about 30 minutes, with the Canadiens head athletic therapist.

There is still no updates on defenceman Roman Hamrlik’s injury.

Back to the Hammer: Forward Tom Pyatt and defenseman Yannick Weber were returned to the Hamilton Bulldogs Friday morning. This is Weber’s second call-up and return, without playing a game, in two weeks.

With Markov’s potential return, and Pyatt’s demotion, Marc-Andre Bergeron could be moved to forward during the road trip.

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