o witThe Canadiens played their 50th game of the season Tuesday night against Buffalo and lost their second straight game which has once again sent the city of Montreal into fits of anxiety and self-doubt.  That’s the way it is, and always has been with the Habs and their fan-base.

And while fans and media reverts to semi-panic and finger pointing,  all those two  losses did was move sportsclubstats.com to drop the odds of the Canadiens making the playoffs from 99.6 to 99.2%. In other words they consider the Canadiens almost as close to being a playoff shoo-in as they can find.

Not that this is going to ease the genetic angst of the average Canadiens fan, but here are a few things to brighten your outlook on the team as we embark on through the season’s final 40 percent

To wit –

….The Canadiens have won 32 of their first 50 games which is first in the Eastern Conference.  Their winning percentage is .670 tieing them for first in the East with Detroit.

….The Canadiens have been remarkably consistent. They have exactly eight wins in each of their first four months of the season. (October 8-2-1; November 8-5-1; December (8-4-1; January 8-2-1)

….They have five more wins and eight more points than they held after 50 games last year when they were en route to a 100 point season. At their present rate the Canadiens would finish with 110 points, their highest point total since the inclusion of the inflationary third “loser” point in 2005-2006.

….The much discussed and maligned power play isn’t as bad as it seems although it started out that way.  After the season’s 16th game it was operating at a miserable 7.1%; 3 goals in 42 opportunities. In the 34 games since the Canadiens power play has been producing at 19.8% (21/106) which places them in the league’s top ten over that stretch.

….In the advanced statistics department, the Canadiens ‘Corsi’ and ‘Fenwick’ puck possession numbers are not very go0d (20th and 21st respectively). But the so-called PDO (the sum of a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage)  takes into account the goaltending factor and in that, the Canadiens rank second in the league behind only Nashville.

1121 spt nhl canadiens….And that brings us to Carey Price. On December 6th the Canadiens and Price lost 4-1 in Dallas. At that point Price was 14-8-1 with a 2.46GAA and a .919 save percentage in 23 starts. Since then he has started 17 with a 13-3-1 record and a league best 1.52 GAA and .948 save%.

….The combination of Price and Dustin Tokarski leads the league in goals against average at 2.26 per game.

….Max Pacioretty is on track for another 39 goal season. The big difference is his overall team contribution. Last year he finished the season at plus-11. This year he’s already plus-24 which might extend to plus-40 by season’s end. (Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov is top ranked at plus-27)

….Alex Galchenyuk passed his season high in points production last week and in closing in on a 20-goal 55 point season at the age of 20. Last year he finished at minus 12. He’s already plus-9.

….The critics will point out the Canadiens have scored the fewest first period goals in the league at 23. They’ve actually been outscored 37-23 in the opening 20 minutes. In the second and third periods they outscore opponents 101-74. Only Calgary and Tampa have scored more than the Canadiens 59 in the third period.

The first 15 games of the season, the pundit and internet crowd were saying the Canadiens winning record was more luck than good management. They had a pretty good point.  But we’re fifty games into the season now. The “luck factor” has had plenty of time to even itself out and the Canadiens continue to hang with the league’s big boys. Not only that, they’re beating them on a pretty regular basis.   Against the other seven teams in the East that currently occupy one of the playoff berths, the Canadiens hold a 12-4-1 record.

The Habs may not be the second coming of the 1976-77 version of the team but they’re not bad either.

And they have a goaltender. Anyone who can remember the Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy eras will tell you just what that can mean heading into the playoffs.