The Habs have an 8-8-0 record this season when they register at least 30 shots on goal, as they did in Sunday's 1-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. When they don't reach that magic mark, it's 13-12-3. Does that make any sense to you?
Back when the Habs were stealing games left and right thanks to Jaroslav Halak, who was getting pelted with well over 40 shots a game, I joked that Jacques Martin had finally found a winning game plan. Well, maybe it wasn't such a joke after all. Maybe the Habs need to be outshot badly to actually win a game.
While they're at it, why not simply play the rest of their games on the road as well? Sunday afternoon's loss dropped Montreal's record at the Bell Centre to 9-10-2, while it's 12-10-1 on enemy rinks. Why is that? I remember Mike Cammalleri once admitting that perhaps the Canadiens were so intent on giving their loyal fans a good show at home that they diverted from their game plan. But that definitely wasn't the case Sunday because that was a horribly un-entertaining contest, yet the Habs still lost.
Perhaps a power play goal might have helped, but that too shows little respect for reason. The Habs went 0-for-2 on Sunday, and for only the 10th time this season Montreal had more power plays than the opposition. Over the seven-game road trip, when the power play hummed along at a 50 per cent clip, two power plays would have statistically been enough to produce a goal. Yet at home that dominant power play becomes downright pedestrian, producing a goal only 16.4 per cent of the time, good for 24th in the NHL. Again, does anyone have any reasonable explanation for this?
Then there's Carey Price, who for the sixth time this season allowed only one goal in a game with 29 saves. Yet he lost for the fifth time in his last six starts, playing just good enough to not win, again. His record dropped to 10-14-3 on the season, and many of those losses could be filed under the category "Not his fault, but..." Jaroslav Halak, meanwhile, has an 11-6-0 record. Their other numbers are nearly identical, with Price holding a minor edge in GAA at 2.62 to 2.64, while Halak has an equally slim lead in save percentage at .922 to .916. Those stats tell a story of a battle for the number one job, but the statistic that counts most, wins and losses, has a clear leader.
The positive for the Canadiens in this game is that they had a clear advantage in scoring chances over an elite team in the Conference, one that makes a habit of winning games like this. They came out for the start of the game with guns blazing, spending nearly the entire first four minutes in the Sabres zone to draw a penalty. But no goal came despite a number of good chances on that power play, and it appeared to deflate the Habs.
"I think our energy tapered off after that," said Mike Cammalleri after the game. "In the first period we took the game to them, we had a lot of energy, that sense of desperation that seems to be so key for us. In the second and third, for whatever reason, it didn't continue that way."
Tuesday night in Washington, the Habs will need to find a way to make it continue. The emergence of a legitimate second line should help in that regard, as the trio of Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Benoit Pouliot was consistently dangerous all night. Pouliot in particular had two fantastic opportunities for a goal in his first Bell Centre game, but he couldn't beat Miller.
All his teammates told the same story.