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Jacques Martin apparently got enough of being the favourite and then losing during his time in Ottawa, and for the second series in a row guided his team to victory despite being heavy underdogs and once again losing the territorial battle.

 

A lot of the credit, deservedly, goes to Jaroslav Halak, who has been the best goaltender in this year’s playoffs (at least to date) and I’ll acknowledge that the Canadiens as a team have devoted themselves to Martin’s defensive system with the fervour of one of John Foxe’s martyrs.  That said – and as Kouleas hints at toward the end of his segment – I still have trouble believing that Montreal is for real.

 

My disbelief extends past the Canadiens playoff seeding and regular season performance, and past scepticism that Halak can continue saving shots at the rate he has.  A good portion of that scepticism comes from where Montreal has generated its offence.

 

Mike Cammalleri is the poster boy for the point I’m about to make.  He has 12 goals in 14 games, and while there’s no denying he’s played very, very well, he can’t maintain that pace over the long haul.  Right now, his shooting percentage is an incredible 25.0%; last year in the playoffs it was 6.3%.  His career average is 12.3%; half of his current pace.  So while I give him credit for his goals and his strong play, I wouldn’t bet that he can keep it up.

 

It isn’t just Cammalleri, either.  As a team, the Canadiens have a 10.65 shooting percentage, a number which would have placed them second in the league during the regular season.  The league average over the course of the season was 9.12%, and the Canadiens were actually below league average at 8.95%.  If we assume they’re a league average team that underperformed during the regular season, we’d still expect their goal totals to drop by roughly 17%.  If their regular season performance reflects their true shooting ability as a team, that number jumps to 19%.  Given that this team has just squeaked out two series wins over the course of seven games, they can’t afford to lose one fifth of their offence and it isn’t likely they’d progress if they did.

 

So I remain an unbeliever in Montreal.  But then again, everything I’ve just said was as true after the first round – more true, actually, since the percentages played a bigger role in the Canadiens win over Washington than over Pittsburgh, and the Canadiens still ended up coming out on top.

 

And now, a moment for the Penguins, who had some very real problems.  This was a flawed team entering the playoffs, and I think we saw those flaws in the playoffs.  But while there’s a lot of talk right now about whether the Penguins are wise to devote so much money to their centres, I think the biggest problem this season was the performance of Marc-Andre Fleury.  Fleury’s numbers over the course of the season were backup calibre (indeed, he was outplayed at times by Brent Johnson) and they sunk in the postseason.  He got away with a lousy performance against the Senators, but not against Montreal, and he deserves some heat for that 0.891 SV%.  Pittsburgh could have played tighter defence, but re-watching the goals scored against him he let his team down.  A slightly stronger performance could have won this series for Pittsburgh.

 

Comments (12)

  1. I agree with most of what you say and as a Habs fan, it’s nearly impossible to believe this team is as good as the results. Even though as a fan, it’s incredibly hard to separate rational thought and emotions…

    One thing I want to add though, in regards to team sh%, is that so far, the Habs have faces average-at-best goaltenders, from day 1. Theodore was pretty bad in Game 1 of the WAS series, terrible in game 2 before getting yanked. Varlamov wasn’t great but wasn’t bad – a tad better would’ve won the Caps the series.
    Now Fleury was up-and-down in this series, but as you say he clearly let them down. So overall, combine the fact that both those teams had suspect defense at best, and ordinary goaltending, and that can contribute to upping team sh% over those 2 series.

    Whether we play the Flyers or Bruins in the conference finals, I expect our team sh% to go down – both these teams have terrific defenses and Boston has an excellent ‘tender too.

  2. Anyone else excited for the Western Conference/Stanley Cup Championship?
    Seriously though, Chicago or San Jose will crush anything that comes out of the East.
    Looks like a anti-climactic cup final… Although Colorado had a bit of success against San Jose playing dead and letting the Anderson get bombarded so maybe Montreal or Boston/Philly(not likely with whatever plug flyers have in net) can do the same.
    I am on the record as saying not a chance though.
    Cup goes back West, not a bold statement at this point admittedly.

  3. James:

    That’s a great point about the goalies Montreal has faced and I think there’s a lot of truth to that. If they end up playing Philly, that trend might even continue.

    The nice thing from a Habs perspective is that the third round is going to feature an opponent a good deal less capable than either they faced through the first two rounds.

  4. “Are they for real” is such a tired question and is particularly infuriating after a playoff win (or two). All that matters is that those two series wins are for real. Caps and Pens fans, and Ovie and Sid for that matter, know that they really lost to the Habs. That is real.
    Are they swinging above their weight? Damn right but that’s why they have to play the games. Will the team that wins the west be better on paper than the team that wins the East. Damn straight but they still really have to play the games.

  5. Simon:

    I see where you’re coming from, and regardless of underlying numbers, scoring chances or shot rates they did beat the Capitals and Penguins.

    I suppose what I mean is more or less what you said: they’re punching above their weight right now, and I don’t think it’s going to continue.

    I do know if I were a Canadiens fan I’d be loving life right now, though.

  6. “Jacques Martin apparently got enough of being the favourite and then losing during his time in Ottawa”.

    Ottawa was a top-4 team 3 times in 9 years under Martin. Out of those times, they lost in the first round twice (the first time they were still up-and-coming and overachieved in the regular season). The third time was when they won the president’s trophy and made it to game 7 of the East finals.

    So only once (maybe twice) was he the favourite and lost early. I guess losing once is one time to many for a competitor, but your comment implies that they were constantly favoured and lost. Maybe I’m being a little over-sensitive about a seemingly unimportant part of your article, but I was surprised that someone such as yourself who is really precise and data-driven would make such a comment.

    Cheers!

  7. Rob:

    I stand corrected ;)

  8. Nice to see your giving them a chance to win a round. After they put the two best teams in their conference out. I hate the fact that everyone is saying Washington and Pittsburgh choked. Nobody is giving Montreal any credit.

  9. @wesley Guppy:

    Washington and Pittsburgh BOTH choked… NO execution. Montreal really doesn’t deserve to be here at all, they got lucky from a good goalie and very lucky/timely scoring. when/if they get to the cup, they WILL get crushed,

    they really don’t deserve the credit.

  10. @ Giovanni:

    Funny you’re saying this because it reminds me of all the things people kept on saying before we started the playoffs: “Montreal has no chance against Washington”, “Washington will crush Mtl in 4″, bla bla bla…) all that b.s.(Yes. the habs were heavy underdogs but they were 2-2 vs washington in the regular season, analysts shouldn’t completely overlook this kind of things) Well 3 weeks later Montreal wins in 7. and all of the sudden Washington’s offence is not so scary after all and Ovie is suddenly not so great…) couple days later, same story, “Pittsburgh is not like Washington, they’re more organized. Montreal will lose in 5″, “Montreal won’t be able to stop the stanley cup champions They have The the 2 headed monster, with a well balanced defence and a good goalie”. Well 3 weeks later MTL wins in 7, all of a sudden Pittsburgh wasn’t that good after all. People do not understand, This IS the Montreal Canadiens. They are a good team with a good system + a heck of a lot of heart, skill and speed up front, a solid defence, amazing goaltending (as it turned out) and a fired up Cammalleri who has something to prove. I do not care about these ratio stats, the habs are for real. threy’ll do w.e it takes to win

    P.S: Cammalleri won’t necessarily need to score a goal per game for the habs to be successful, Gionta, Gomez, Plekanec and/or one of these supporrt guys could still realistically raise their game to another level and provide some offensive magic of their own.

  11. It’s called NHL history folks and the Montreal Canadiens have been writing it ever since both their inceptions. I’m a Habs fan that believes winning the Stanley Cup this year can be done.

  12. @ Nely
    There is absolutely no way that montreal can make it, with just cammalleri, He’s the only reason theyre afloat besides halak, and even halak is showing his mortal side with a shalaking of 6-0 from philly… and philly is another average team. Montreal is gone in the east finals. plan and simple, with only cammalleri keeping them up, they will faulter.

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