Analyze all you want, there’s only one statistic that counts and for the Canadiens, it’s not a very good one. Their record is 10-9-2, leaving them in 17th place overall in the league standings making them one of the league mediocrities.
I know, there were almost 100 man-games-lost to injury to mitigate their performance, but strong organizations are supposed to overcome that sort of thing.
There are things to like about the team; their goaltending, defense, special teams, even their work ethic, but they are not very good at scoring goals and without that, you don’t win many hockey games. .
I hate rolling out numbers but these you can’t ignore. The Canadiens rank 23rd in goals scored with 51. That’s only 2.43 per game. 47% of their goal production (24) has been scored by their power play. Five-on-five the Canadiens are ranked 26th in the league.
Four of the top five point producers are kids. Lars Eller is 24 years old, Brendan Gallagher and Michael Bournival 21 and Alex Galchenyuk won’t be nineteen until early next month. Where are the veterans?
Plekanec and Gionta have done what they’re supposed to do, playing third line, two way style hockey. The black hole is the other so-called production line.
When the season started Desharnais/Pacioretty’Briere were anointed ‘first line’ status. Twenty one games later, the trio has a total of four goals, two of them into empty nets. True, there have been injuries but even when they were together their play could be termed, at it’s most polite, ineffective. That’s one third of your offense out of commission. The result is what you see; inconsistent production and a team incapable of putting any sort of winning streak together.
When effective play at one end of the ice comes up short there is a domino effect. The ice winds up tilted to the other end. We constantly hear that the Canadiens defense has blocked by far more shots, than any other team in the league. The Canadiens have been forced to block 404 shots in 21 games because the puck is in their end more than any other team in the league.
By sheer weight of numbers, some unblocked shots get through meaning Carey Price and Peter Budaj have become two of the league’s most put-upon goaltenders. So far they’ve faced 655 shots on goal. Combine the two categories it adds up more than 1000 shooting attempts inside the Canadiens blueline.
The Canadiens defense as a whole has been beyond criticism but they are being asked to pay the price for poor forecheck and puck possession in the offensive and neutral zones.
The first quarter of the season only establishes a pattern, but it’s not yet carved in stone. Two years ago, we didn’t figure out the Canadiens were a terrible hockey team until the 35th game which was when Pierre Gauthier fired Jacques Martin.
As we go through the second quarter, which will end just before New Year’s day, some things are going to have to change. David Desharnais has to find a way to score, or at least set up his linemates. Max Pacioretty needs to find the back of the net. Daniel Briere has to prove that his age and health haven’t enabled the game to pass him by.
If they can return to form and become the on-ice presence there’s a possiblity of a ‘domino effect’ in reverse. As we found out last year, under Michel Therrien’s system, three balanced lines make the Canadiens very difficult to play against. Right now they’re operating on three cylinders.
Of course, things would be greatly improved if the team stays healthy as well.
If none of the above happens, Marc Bergevin might have to step in. With no real game-changing forward ready to call upon in Hamilton, that probably means a trade or two.