Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Some good game planning

Let's try and delve into the mind of Jacques Martin and figure out what he told his team prior to this 5-1 obliteration of the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night, quite possibly the most deceiving score we have seen in some time.

"O.K. team, this is a process," Martin surely began in his pre-game address to the team. "The process will start with us scoring a bunch of goals against a goalie who couldn't stop a beach ball, then we'll allow the worst team in hockey to bombard our own goalie with shots so we can increase his trade value, and we'll be 3-for-3 on this interminable road trip of ours. Sound good? Alright, let's go out there and do it!"

Honestly, the Habs earned their 2-0 lead in this game, nearly pissed it away when Scott Gomez decided to mouth off the ref and got an extra two minutes for it, and then took advantage of a very weak Cam Ward and an even weaker Manny Legace to rise out the win.

In the meantime, Jaroslav Halak made save after saved in the Habs net, stopping 46 of 47 shots, running his total to 133 out of 137 shots in his last three games. Does anyone in this room honestly believe the Habs would have even won one of the last three games without Halak? Didn't think so.

This, of course, begs the question as to Halak's value right now. The Flyers remain desperate for a goalie who can steal a game, something they haven't really had since Ron Hextall. Cristobal Huet, just days after being named the NHL's first star of the week for his stellar play, totally blew it in Chicago's biggest game of the year to lose 3-2 to the Sharks, despite the 'Hawks winning the shot count 47-14. And Detroit, well, they're just a mess dealing with a far more severe injury situation than the one facing your Habs, and a goalie like this could help them stem the tide until the Franzens and Kronwalls and Zetterbergs return.

But, are the Canadiens not a better team with Halak than without him? That's what a lot of you must be thinking right now, and I don't blame you. But if his value reaches a point where Bob Gainey can legitimately fill another hole on the team, then he has to trade him. Simple as that. If all that's coming back is a draft pick, then he can't trade him. You can trade him for a pick at the end of the year.

Aside from Halak, Tomas Plekanec has continued his skyrocketing climb into the NHL's stratosphere with three assists, giving him 43 points on the season, one behind Alex Ovechkin and ahead of guys like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Pretty impressive stuff, I can't say it enough.

That's it for now, as I'm about to head on the air for Hump Night on the Team 990 with my partner in crime Dave McGimpsey. But I'll leave you with this: how many teams win consistently while allowing 45.7 shots per game, as the Habs have the past three games? Not too many. Something has to change.


Anvilcloud said...

It's time to comment and say, "Merry Christmas." And while I'm here I'll bring something up ...

I've missed most of the last few games, so this thought comes from earlier. But I wonder just how indicative SOG is for the CH. Obviously, it tells us something, but I wonder how much it tells us. For eg: does a 40-20 deficit mean that the other guys are twice as good? Or does it mean that they are taking a bunch of no-hope shots? I do realize that every game might supply a different answer, but do you see what I'm generally driving at? Just asking for your or your readers' opinions.

Olivier said...

Anvil: I'm part of a project in which we record scoring chances for some teams (most of them in the NW, namely: Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado and Minnesota) for the whole season. I guess our method isn't necessarily the most reliable one (basically, a shot attempted but not blocked by a defender inside a zone starting from the goalposts, up to the faceoffs dots and then up to the top of the faceoff circles), being it's done by guys watching TV, but still, it's indicative.

Anyway, my point is: the habs are getting torched chance-wise. You'd hear Martin at the beginning of the year, saying that yeah, they lost, but they out-chanced the opposition, and that was true. But I'd say since somewhere in November, they just went down and never really got back up. This is a team playing terrible hockey being bailed out by tremendous goaltending and a white-hot first line.

You want a peek at the numbers, just click on my name; I'm not saying I'm good at churning out the numbers in an understandable way tough :)

nk said...

i've argued that sog aren't always indicative of a team's play but when i say, 'i don't mind the habs being outshot' (because it usually means smart hockey and a win), i don't mean i'm okay with being outshot 2-1. 45+ shots allowed is just bad hockey. thank god for our goaltenders.

we're lucky the 'canes are as bad as they are because i think the habs only registered their first shot of the 3rd at the 15min mark while the 'canes had 15+ shots on goal. Arpon's right, something has to change. special teams do not win playoff games (assuming we get there).

TK said...

Olivier- interesting stats you are collecting there. I didn't have time to go through all the numbers on the season. From your perspective, are the Habs being outchanced at even strength for the most part this season?

john deere said...

What is the quality/quantity of defenseman that Montreal has in their farm system? Any stars in the making or any ready for the bright lights?

It seems to me that Montreal will need at least four quality guys in the next couple of years as most of the guys are old and slow. Not Chelios old but old nevertheless. I see he is looking for an NHL gig, maybe that will be our Xmas present. lol

If you want to fix this shot overload me thinks the defense corp needs a total overhaul and not just a little tweaking.

Olivier said...

TK: Good question. Month by months:

October: 14 GP, +188/-183
November: 12 GP, +138/-143
December: 13 GP, +134/-204

Ugly december, uh? And those are the splits for december for each period:

1st : +34/-79
2nd: +55/-75
3rd: +44/-48
4th: +1/-2

They just look like a sinking team.

TK said...

Thanks Olivier. Your blog is very interesting for the hockey fan who wants to look past the standard SOG statistics. Yeah, an ugly December in terms of scoring chances. As Arpun says, somethings gotta change.

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