On October 24th the Canadiens lost a 2-1 decision to the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre.  Their record was a record setting 1-5-2 to start the season.  Montreal was in full panic mode.

Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey remained in their executive box for an hour after the game discussing the situation.  Two days later, Gauthier relieved Perry Pearn of his assistant coaching duties, which included Canadiens special teams.

“Is that the best they could come up with?” we asked.  Putting the blame on an assistant coach, especially one with Pearn’s solid reputation seemed awfully lame?  What happened to firing Jacques Martin?  Getting rid of Scott Gomez?  Making a major trade?  Blowing up the team and starting over?

Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

It is often said, “You can’t teach goalscoring but you can teach players to play defense.”  At the time of the Pearn dismissal, the Canadiens’ power play was second last in the league and penalty killing was ranked 20th.  On balance, the two units were minus-4; the power play had scored 3 goals while the penalty killers had given up seven. Those four goals might have been a difference maker since six of those seven opening losses were close games, two of them in overtime.

It’s well publicized what has happened in the 14 games since Pearn’s departure.  The Canadiens have been shorthanded on 56 occasions, a total of 95 minutes 50 seconds.  They’ve given up two goals, one on the Tomas Plekanec “own goal” off a face in Boston and the other following a refereeing screwup at Madison Square Garden that presented the Rangers with a 5-on-3 advantage.

But, it gets better.   The last 44 times short, they’ve given up  that Ranger 5-on-3 goal and that’s it.  And since then they’ve been shorthanded a total of 50 minutes and 47 seconds and killed 36 in a row. .   Through this the Canadiens penalty killing has risen from 20th in the league to third overall.

As to the dynamic between penalty killing and the power play?  It was minus-4 after eight games.  Since – plus 7.   After a success rate of 9.4%, the power play has operated at 17%  (9 for 54).  Not great.  Just better.

Jacques Martin harps on special teams constantly, saying their success or failure is the difference between winning and losing in today’s NHL.   Much as his critics hate it, again he’s proven right.

Note –  Pearn yesterday accepted re-assignment within the Canadiens organization as a professional scout.  At the time of his removal from the assistant coaching position, Pierre Gauthier indicated that Pearn had been offered another role in the organization and had been given time to consider the offer.  In September, he had been given a contract extension through the 2012-2013 season.   Pearn’s first assignment was scouting last night’s Jets/Capitals game in Washington.

……Scott Gomez suffered a groin injury sometime in the second period of last night’s game in Raleigh.  His last shift of the game ended at 14:59 of the second period.   He will not be available for either Philadelphia Friday afternoon or Pittsburgh at the Bell Centre.  Earlier Gomez suffered an injury to a high rib oblique muscle which kept him out of the lineup nine games.  Groin injuries can be troublesome.  Andrei Kostitsyn has one and he will miss his tenth and eleventh consecutive games this weekend.