Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When stats lie

If someone hadn't watched Tuesday night's Bell Centre "contest" between the Calgary Flames and the Habs, there are a number of misleading stats that could lead you to believe this 1-0 loss was actually a close game.

First there was the score, and the fact Montreal actually outshot Calgary 20-19 at even strength, or that the Habs were credited with 26 hits to the Flames 21, or that Habs coach Jacques Martin counted nine scoring chances per side.

Yes, all those things point to a close game, but this game was between two teams playing in different leagues. One team has three defencemen who could all be considered all-stars, another has only four NHL-calibre defencemen. That alone shows to what extent the Flames are far and away a better team than the Habs.

Give Montreal credit, they hung around in this game and would have tied it if Scott Gomez were able to get the handle on a puck after deftly beating Miikka Kiprusoff on a clean breakaway in the second. But ultimately, it was a case of the Flames being too good and the Habs, yet again, not being anywhere near dangerous enough in the offensive zone.

“What’s effort? How do you define effort? I can define effort to be a lot of different things," Mike Cammalleri said, when told by a reporter after the game that this loss could not be blamed on a lack of effort. "Are we working hard? Do we want to win? Yes. But at the same time we need to make more of an effort - if you want to use that word - to challenge teams, to make it harder on their defence. I think we need to make more tape to tape passes, we need to have more puck possession, we need to challenge them with more of a threat offensively. It’s hard to play against a team that comes at you like that, and right now we’re making it easier on them.”

Cammalleri appeared like he was getting fed up with responding to losing questions, largely because his team has lost five of the last seven games, scoring only 15 goals and going 2-for-21 over that span.

Jacques Martin, in a desperate attempt to balance out his attack, stuck with keeping Cammalleri with Tomas Plekanec and Maxim Lapierre for as long as he could. When Calgary scored late in the first, a colleague next to me in the press box asked how long it would take before Cammalleri would be back with Gomez and Brian Gionta. I figured sometime in the second period, but Martin waited until midway through the third before putting his top three offensively creative players on one line.

The saddest part of that? The Habs might have won had he done it sooner. But if Andrei Kostitsyn were able to consistently produce chances, and if Guillaume Latendresse could show he had the willingness to go to some dirty areas to help that line out, maybe Martin wouldn't feel the need to take Cammalleri off the top unit.

“It’s something that we have to keep working at, and hopefully somebody will seize the opportunity,” Martin said. “There’s some chemistry between Gomez and Gionta and Cammalleri’s played most of the time with them. We’ve tried different situations trying to find a solution that will give us more depth as far as scoring.”

I've written it before, and I'll do it again, perhaps it's time to see if Gomez can have chemistry with someone else and give Plekanec a chance to play with Cammalleri and Gionta.

On the bright side in this game was the play of the defence, which had a physical challenge presented to them and answered the bell to the best of their ability. Jay Leach played 17 minutes and, as was his stated goal Tuesday morning, he wasn't a factor. That's a good thing. Marc-Andre Bergeron saw loads of even strength ice time, and in spite of himself wasn;t a factor either.

But ultimately, Jaroslav Halak was outstanding, stopping 30 shots and giving his team a chance to win. Perhaps now he knows how Carey Price feels, who in his best games doesn't get the offensive support to win. I would have to imagine Halak earned himself another start in Phoenix on Thursday night.

Finally, Halak also addressed the whole Twitter-based controversy of Saturday night started by his agent, Allan Walsh, who tweeted about Carey Price's horrid won-loss record, setting off a firestorm that began on Twitter and made its way all the way to Hockey Night in Canada and TSN.

“He wrote something he shouldn’t have,” Halak said of all the stupidness. “It’s got nothing to do with me.”

Amen to that, Jaro.


jkr said...

I had a different view of this game. I didn't think Calgary was generating a lot of chances either. Halak was fine but I thought the differnce was special teams. Calgary didn't score on their PPs but the Habs were awful on their man advantage situations.

The top line is getting little support as far as secondary scoring goes so they always face the top D pairings of the opposition. And when your opponent is Calgary that means a heavy dose of Phaneuf & Bouwmeester. Ouch.

Anonymous said...

Bring up SK, put him with AK and plek (or gomez) and give them 10 to 15 games together to prove they are our missing two players to round out our top 6. At same time, bob should explore trade market to see what wingers are out there (frolov? Others?) -- let's be honest, with markov back and price / halak playing well, the key piece missing is two real forward lines that can score every night. Aside from SK and AK we don't have ANYONE with a legitimate shot at filling the two missing spots in our top 6. So give them a shot, but then move on bob and find those two players (even if it means packaging them with prospects and draft picks).

MathMan said...

Martin needs to bite the bullet, stop sending messages, and work towards getting his secondary scorers going whether he feels they deserve it or not -- and by that I mean #84 and #46. Enough trying to change these guy's games, they've been effective in the past and they need to be again. The players have a great deal of responsibility in this, sure, but the problem is too generalized to be laid solely at their feet. All the kids have regressed under Martin's watch and the Habs, being so young at forward, simply cannot afford this.

Mind you, I think Andrei's at least as much snakebit as bad. That 2.8% shooting percentage is ridiculously low and I don't think the player is entirely at fault for something like that. Even if his shots all sucked, you'd expect him to get an extra goal or two on sheer volume, and at his normal rate we could expect four to five goals out of him rather than one.

As for Lats, I remain entirely unconvinced that what they're asking him to do will change his game for the better. They're trying to get him to change his game and that might be confusing to him. They should ask him to go back to what he did last year, that worked very well and allowed him to score easily enough to warrant a second-line spot. This morbid obsession with having him go to the net no matter what is not working nearly as well; is it such a stretch to think he might be better served using his size to fight for pucks, help with possession and if not jostle for position in the mid-to-high slot?

Nevertheless, those two guys are currently less effective than they have been in the past and that seems to be the rule rather than the exception for the team's youth. Despite finding lots to like about Martin's coaching and being convinced he's a better coach than Carbonneau, I'm starting to worry about how the coaching staff handles the team's youth.

pierre said...

I have supported Martin from day one but there is one area of his work which has irritated me from the very beginning...... the power play.

Martin has erred with our PP from the get go by not using our very best forwards to shape the first wave as it should be.

A team's PP efficiency is defined by the quality of its first wave and not using our top tree guys together on those crucial moments has killed us thus fa... and will continu killing us as long as Martin keep up with this counter-productice non-sens.

As soon as Gionta, Gomez and Cammalleri start to be used regularly on our first PP wave things will get better and it will get even better if Martin can provide them with a better solution from the blue line than he has thus far.

Martin has not yet found the best matching pair to play the blue line and its no wonder that none are assigned to be part of a true fisrt wave..... he keeps coming up with the usual innefiencient pairs and keeps doing nothing to improve the results.

Bergeron has the best one timer by far and should be on the first wave at all time.... his vision and passing skills also better the alternatives as well.

He is the best among our present group wether you use him on the left side to distribute the puck the way Marcov did or you use him on the right side to use is one timer the way Souray did..... all Martin as to do is to decide wich side to use him and with who..... and then use them as a pair on the FIRST PP WAVE.

Martin should be in a hurry to act because if he fails doing so its over with us.

subdoxastic said...


It's nice to see a fan try and stay reasonable about expectations of young players. I know I asked this before, but in Lats previous seasons where he got close to potting twenty goals, what was the quality of opposition he was facing when he scored them? Did he get most of his goals when playing with Koivu on the first line, or did they come during his more regular 3rd line duties. I ask because, as you point out, his e.s. scoring rate has been pretty decent in the past. But many players are asked to adjust their game in order to thrive in the big leagues, and once in the NHL they might be asked to change it again (yzerman comes to mind-- and no I'm not comparing Gui! to Stevie Y.!)If Lats is having trouble this year with this scoring, we might need to be patient with him as you suggest. But if his detractors are right and he has regressed, or if his quality of opposition has changed, then maybe a transformation on his part--along the lines of going to the dirty areas of the ice--is in order.

MathMan said...

Off the top of my head, I think in general Lats' quality of competition has been middling, likewise the quality of linemates (stretches of Koivu and Tanguay, longer stretches of Lapierre and Kostopoulos). While quality of competition obviously had to be a factor in Latendresse's scoring, you'd think he'd scored enough to warrant an extended look on a top six role to see if he could transpose this success... but then again, like all the kids he's badly regressed this year, so much so that right now he's not scoring period. Though there was a stretch of a few games back when he was with Chipchura and d'Agostini that it was some sort of minor miracle that they didn't.

Whatever they're having him do now, it's not working. Maybe that needs to be examined, rather than relegating him on the fourth line and on the bench where he can do no good. Maybe Pyatt earned a look on the second line, but I'm skeptical that a rookie grinder-type will have a positive impact playing Plekanec's minutes. Mind you I'd love to be mistaken.

subdoxastic said...


Thanks for the reply. I figured it was a little of column a (koivu and the habs elite) and a little of column b (third line minutes with mediocre habs and against mediocre opposition).

I too am skeptical regarding Pyatt's chances this early in his career, but hope springs eternal.

pmk said...

46 - gomez - cam
metro - pleks - gionta
white - pyatt - moen
lats - laps - chips/ stew

pac to hamilton. he needs another year in the ahl to develop.

Anonymous said...

arpon.... where have you gone? write soon!
a loyal reader,

Anonymous said...