Monday, January 18, 2010

The Canadiens Weekend of Woe

Two games, two losses for the Montreal Canadiens. This team really knows how to start it’s fans  week off on a good note, eh?

Had these games been at least close, or against a top-four team, one could say “A for effort”, or “at least we stayed in it”.

In the case of these two games, it certainly wasn’t the case.

Last I checked, a regulation NHL hockey game is played in three twenty-minute periods. Maybe the Canadiens were erroneously given a rule change contrary to that fact, twice!

In Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, I’d say they were there for maybe half of it, and I’m being generous.

image Carey Price’s performance was clearly not his best, in light of what coach Jacques Martin said post-game. What was essentially brushing off the media, after the loss, was also clearly not the actions of a number-one goaltender, win or lose.

Martin was right on one thing, they were beaten on special teams.

Benoit Pouliot’s cough-up with the Man advantage to an all-time Habs killer (Daniel Alfredsson) was a mistake more commonly seen in a beer league game, believe me I know, and should not happen at the NHL level.

image Ottawa played an effective game for 60 minutes, blocking shots, shutting down the open lanes and throwing out hits. Not to mention Mike Brodeur played like distant cousin Marty.

Montreal, in the meantime, must have thought they were bakers, making 30 turnovers in the game.

It was a game where the Senators wanted the win, and the Canadiens clearly did not, and when you see that Georges Laraque logged over nine minutes for Montreal, you know there’s a problem.

image Moving on to Sunday’s game against the Rangers.

I’ll be honest, I was away from the tube on Sunday, so I relied on updates off my Blackberry and replays later that evening.

Before the game, I tweeted the following, “#gohabsgo Need a solid 60 out of the #Habs tonight.”

After checking the score after 20 minutes, it appeared they were off to a solid start, 2-0 Habs.

But after 40 minutes, 3-2 Rangers with yet another shorthanded goal in the mess. That’s two shorthanded goals in two games, equaling their total allowed in the first 48 of the season.


If that wasn’t bad enough, the Rangers outshot the Canadiens 15-2 in the second period, and Montreal was held to just four over a 26 minute span.

A too-many men penalty didn’t help things either, and can someone tell me why Pouliot and Josh Georges were out there fighting?

image image

Final score, 6-2. A game dominated by the Rangers in every almost facet of the game, notably the faceoff circle (31-20). Six New York players were +3.

At least the Habs’ bakery took the night off, just two turnovers.

Martin summed it up this way post-game, and my comments are in parenthesis.

"We played a strong first period, and then we gave it away (Ya think?). We had turnovers (well not really, just 2) and a lot of bad play selection (Yeah I’d drop the giveaway play on the PP, not working). I think it’s a matter of us playing the type of hockey we are capable of (tick tock tick tock). If we play like we did in the first period for all three periods, we’d be alright. (Heard that before, Jacques)"

So two straight four point games, against the kind of teams Habs GM Bob Gainey said they had to take head-on and two losses. The team walked away with nothing to show for it, not even a shred of dignity, and currently sitting in ninth place.

2009-10 Standings - CONFERENCE

With just 32 games to go, the Montreal Canadiens are now in a shape-up, or book your late April tee-times now situation.

The good thing for the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge is that they play in the Eastern Conference, as The Hockey News’ Ryan Dixon points out.

James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail has set the bar for the Eastern Conference playoff seeds at a very generous 89 points. That said, the Canadiens would have to go 19-12-1 the rest of the way to clinch a spot.

Of the remaining 32 games, all but six are against Eastern Conference teams. Twenty-two of those games are against the top thirteen teams with five of them against the top-four.

With 5th to 13th separated by just eight points, that leaves 17 very crucial one-to-one matchups against teams still in contention for the NHL’s second season.

If The Canadiens work ethic from this past weekend is any indication however, season over at around 9:35 EST on April 10, barring an OT and shootout.

Photos: Getty Images/

Master Plan Failure?: CJAD’s Abe Hefter thinks Bob Gainey’s master plan is lacking consistency.

The Gods Are Angry: Apparently the Montreal Hockey Gods are not impressed by the weekend’s performance, taking their toll on Canada’s west coast, as attested to by Hockey54’s Dennis Kane.

Underachieving Numbers: A nice compilation by HIO regular “Chuck” who came up with this:

“Just finished doing some number crunching with goal-scoring for all teams, through January 17th (722 games played x 2 teams/game = 1444 team games)

  • A team scoring 4 or more goals in a game: .681 win% (326 wins in 478 times that it's happened)
  • A team scoring exactly 3 goals in a game: .597 win% (200 wins in 335 times that it's happened)
  • A team scoring exactly 2 goals in a game: .294 win% (96 wins in 326 times that it's happened)
  • A team scoring exactly 1 goal in a game:  .057 win% (13 wins in 225 times that it's happened)

And of course, if you score 0 goals your win% = .000 (0 wins in 80 times that it's happened)

Average it out, and if you score under 4 goals in a game, the league-wide win% is only .319 (309 wins in 966 times that it's happened)

As for the Habs:

  • Scoring 4+ goals in a game: 12 wins in 13 games = .923 win% (vs. .681 league average)
  • Scoring 3 goals in a game: 6 wins in 10 games = .600 win% (vs. .597 league average)
  • Scoring 2 goals in a game: 5 wins in 15 games = .333 win% (vs. .294 league average)
  • Scoring 1 goal in a game: 0 wins in 8 games = .000 win% (vs. .057 league average)
  • Scoring 0 goals in a game: 0 wins in 4 games = .000 win%

In other words, the Habs have just a .297 win% when scoring fewer than 4 goals in a game (vs. the .319 league average). However, they outperform the rest of the league's winning percentage when they score 2 or more goals per game. The main problem is that they've scored 1 or fewer goals in 12 of 51 games (23.5%) while the league as a whole has scored 1 or fewer goals in 305 of 1444 team games (21.1%)

Our problem really isn't goaltending. What the Habs need to do is cut down on the number of games where they score 1 or fewer goals.

Of course, the other (unreasonable) alternative is to expect the goalies to start racking up the shutouts.”


Third Star for Latendresse: Ex-Hab Guillaume Latendresse was named the NHL’s Third Star of the week. He had a four-point night earlier in the week, and a hat-trick Saturday night. Latendresse was left off the score sheet in the Wild’s other game, as they were shut out by Second Star Steve Mason of the St. Louis Blues.

AHL All-Stars Show They Got Skilz: The AHL All-Star Skills challenge goes Monday night in Portland, (TSN), with the game going on Tuesday. Habs prospects P.K. Subban and Cedrick Desjardins will represent the Canadian AHL All-Stars.

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