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I’m concerned because you want your special teams, not only our power play but our PK to be better overall. You want to get better and we’ll try to get better, but I don’t have a magic wand to say this is why it’s not working.”  

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin at Wednesday’s News Conference

.The Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay. Be prepared for some of the most frustratingly awful special teams play that this year’s playoffs will offer up.

Of the remaining eight teams the Canadiens power play ranks last at 5% while Tampa is secpnd-last at 6.25%. At the same time, both teams penalty killing units have given up five goals one fewer than the playoff-worst Chicago Blackhawks. Added up; Canadiens special teams are minus-4 and Tampa minus-3 a statistic that can cost hockey games and entire playoff series. Ask the New York Islanders who lost a seven game series against Washington while going 0-for-14 on their power play.

Of course, in the case of the Canadiens it’s the same old-same old. Long power play scoring droughts have marked each of their last two seasons leaving them in the bottom quadrant of the league. They enter this series in a 0-for-16 playoff slump. Overall they were 1-for-20 against Ottawa and at times it looked like a kindergarten fire drill.

12 tb dumpchaseMichel Therrien has put a playing style in place that has made the Canadiens a Stanley Cup contender. Obviously it centres around the best goaltender on the planet abetted by strong defense and a dump-and-chase style offense.

Dump-and-chase” basically means giving up possession of the puck and then using an aggressive forecheck to retrieve it. No matter how good the forecheckers, the puck recovery fails more often than it succeeds which, while not looking good in Corsi possession numbers, still leaves the puck 200 feet from their own goaltender, which is not often a bad thing.

But on the power play puck possession is key. When they go on the power play the Canadiens are asked to instantly change the way they play the game. No matter how much they practice it, they often can’t make the switch. Unlike five-on-five play, a penalty killer is allowed to ice the puck so giving up power play possession simply plays into the hands of the defender.  I have been unable to find among the myriad of advanced statistics available, one that lists power play puck possession but I’m convinced the Canadiens would rank near the bottom of the league.

Right here it should be mentioned that there are some very good teams in the league who also struggled with their power play during the regular season including the Rangers, Chicago, Anaheim and Nashville. I think you’ll find their problems are rooted in the system the teams play.

For consistency’s sake, the Hamilton Bulldogs were asked to play the same way the Canadiens do. Last season they had two of the best rookies in the AHL in forwards Charles Hudon and Daniel Carr. Their power play also included Sven Andrighetto, Michael Bournival, Gabriel Dumont plus veterans Eric Tangradi and Drayson Bowman. With all that, the Bulldogs had the worst power among the AHL’s 30 teams at 11.5%.

Blame it on the system.

Tampa-Canadiens Special Teams – Regular Season

Power Play – Tampa Bay ranked 14th 53/282 18.8% Canadiens ranked 23rd 40/243 16.5%

Penalty Killing – Regular Season – Tampa Bay ranked 7th (tie) 42/257 83.7% Canadiens ranked 7the (tie) 42/257 83.7%.

Special Teams Ratio – Tampa Bay plus-13. Canadiens minus-1.

2015 Playoffs

Power Play – Tampa Bay ranked 14th of 16 teams – 7GP 2/30 6.7% Canadiens ranked 15th 6GP 1/20 5.0%.

Penalty Killing – Tampa Bay ranked 9th of 16 teams – 7GP 5/29 82.8%. Canadiens ranked 12th 5/20 75.0%

Special Teams Ratio – Tampa Bay minus-3. Canadiens minus-4.