Daily Hab-it: Chronic homesickness
By Arpon Basu
Published Monday, February 21, 2011 1:17AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
That was a pretty big stage the Canadiens flopped on Sunday in their 4-0 loss in the Heritage Classic, but it only further demonstrated what kind of Jekyll and Hyde team this is.
Earlier this season, between Nov. 16 and Dec. 2 to be precise, the Canadiens flip-flopped wins and losses in nine straight games. Two of the losses in that stretch were by shutout, as were two of the wins.
But really, the reason this team is so difficult to read is because it becomes totally unrecognizable away from the friendly confines of the Bell Centre.
Sunday's loss dropped the Canadiens to 12-15-1 on the road, the worst record among the 16 teams currently holding down a playoff spot and eighth-worst in the league overall.
At home, the Canadiens are 19-7-6, tied for third-most home wins in the NHL.
We didn't see this kind of disparity from this team last season, when the Canadiens had nearly identical 20-16-5 and 19-17-5 records at home and on the road.
Of late, the Team 990's Mitch Melnick has been harping on the fact that Tomas Plekanec disappears on the road.
I thought he was being unduly harsh, considering Plekanec leads the team in scoring both at home and on the road, but I figured I would check it out.
I decided to run a quick survey of the leading scorers of each team in the league and see how many points they get at home for every point they score on the road, thinking this would put Plekanec's road performance in perspective.
Well, it has.
Plekanec ranks second-to-last on the 30-player list in terms of his ratio of points at home and on the road.
It should be noted this kind of disparity is new for him. In fact, in each of the last three seasons Plekanec has actually produced more on the road than he has at home.
In his breakout 2007-08 season, he had 8-19-27 totals in 41 home games, but 21-21-42 in 40 road games. His dreadful 08-09 season followed the same pattern, 9-7-16 in 41 home games and 11-12-23 in 39 road games. Finally, last season Plekanec was 12-22-34 in 41 home games and 13-23-36 in 41 road games, a picture of consistency.
But this season he has 15-14-29 totals in 32 home games, with a big drop to 4-13-17 in 28 road games after he was obviously held off the scoresheet Sunday.
Here's where that disparity ranks among the leading scorers of the 30 NHL teams in terms of points per game at home and on the road, with the final number representing the ratio of home points for every road point (in other words, the lower the ratio the better the road player):
Alex Ovechkin, Washington – 0.9/1.14 = 0.79
Ales Hemsky, Edmonton – 0.86/1.05 = 0.82
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver – 1.23/1.33 = 0.92
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa – 0.54/0.59 = 0.92
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit – 1.07/1.13 = 0.95
Rick Nash, Columbus – 0.93/0.93 = 1.00
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo – 0.86/0.86 = 1.00
Corey Perry, Anaheim – 1.11/1.09 = 1.02
Matt Duchene, Colorado – 0.84/0.81 = 1.04
Martin Havlat, Minnesota – 0.87/0.83 = 1.05
Brandon Dubinsky, NY Rangers – 0.79/0.75 = 1.05
Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta – 0.77/0.73 = 1.05
Patrick Sharp, Chicago – 0.94/0.89 = 1.06
Patrik Elias, New Jersey – 0.83/0.76 = 1.09
John Tavares, NY Islanders – 0.96/0.86 = 1.12
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles – 1.00/0.88 = 1.14
Brad Richards, Dallas – 1.2/1.04 = 1.15
Jarome Iginla, Calgary – 1.0/0.87 = 1.15
Steven Stamkos, Tampa – 1.37/1.17 = 1.17
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh – 1.73/1.47 = 1.18
David Backes, St. Louis – 0.87/0.7 = 1.24
Patrice Bergeron, Boston – 0.9/0.72 = 1.25
Stephen Weiss, Florida – 0.79/0.61 = 1.30
Eric Staal, Carolina – 1.11/0.85 = 1.31
Clarke MacArthur, Toronto – 0.87/0.66 = 1.32
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia – 1.07/0.77 = 1.39
Shea Weber, Nashville – 0.74/0.53 = 1.40
Keith Yandle, Phoenix – 1.0/0.7 = 1.43
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal – 0.91/0.63 = 1.44
Joe Thornton, San Jose – 1.15/0.59 = 1.95
Well, Joe Thornton is just in a whole other world when it comes to this discussion, but Plekanec's number is not all that flattering either, especially since it is such a marked change from his consistency of previous years.
But is he penalized by playing for a team that is just as un-productive as he is on the road? After all, he does remain the Canadiens leading scorer away from home, though on a point-per-game basis that honour goes to James Wisniewski (2-8-10 in 10 road games) followed by David Desharnais (3-3-6 in eight road games).
I guess there's a whole chicken and egg debate we can have here, but Plekanec is far from being the only member of the Canadiens whose production slips away from home.
In fact, the only forwards who have maintained and even improved their production on the road this season are Desharnais, Benoit Pouliot (5-7-12 at home and 8-4-12 on the road) and Scott Gomez (3-12-15 at home and 4-10-14 on road, and yes, I know this only proves he has been consistently bad).
But when you see PK Subban is a plus-4 at home and minus-11 on the road, or that Max Pacioretty has 13 points in 15 games with a plus-4 at home, but drops to six points with a minus-9 in the same number of road games, you start to see this is more of a team-wide malaise and not solely pinned on Plekanec, especially considering his past history of consistency.
So here are the team home and road goal ratio rankings, using the same calculation as above:
Edmonton – 2.32/2.75 = 0.84
Atlanta – 2.67/3.0 = 0.89
Minnesota – 2.43/2.72 = 0.89
Boston – 3.03/3.21 = 0.94
Chicago – 3.0/3.19 = 0.94
Ottawa – 2.17/2.28 = 0.95
Nashville – 2.52/2.56 = 0.98
Columbus – 2.66/2.69 = 0.99
Toronto – 2.47/2.48 = 1.00
Philadelphia – 3.31/3.27 = 1.01
Buffalo – 2.79/2.76 = 1.01
Dallas – 2.73/2.66 = 1.03
New Jersey – 2.17/2.1 = 1.03
Detroit – 3.41/3.23 = 1.06
Los Angeles – 2.74/2.56 = 1.07
Phoenix – 2.93/2.7 = 1.09
San Jose – 2.86/2.63 = 1.09
Florida – 2.79/2.41 = 1.16
Vancouver – 3.6/3.07 = 1.17
Colorado – 3.09/2.63 = 1.17
Washington – 2.90/2.48 = 1.17
Pittsburgh – 3.13/2.66 = 1.18
St. Louis – 2.97/2.52 = 1.18
Anaheim – 3.07/2.48 = 1.24
Carolina – 3.19/2.55 = 1.25
Montreal – 2.81/2.21 = 1.27
NY Rangers – 3.0/2.32 = 1.29
Tampa – 3.37/2.52 = 1.34
Calgary – 3.37/2.48 = 1.36
NYI – 3.17/2.2 = 1.44
These numbers aren't quite as telling, because a team like Ottawa that can't really score goals anywhere gets rewarded because the ineptitude is universal. But it does show that the Canadiens are actually a slightly above average offensive team at home (2.81 goals per game, NHL average for total goals per team, per game is 2.76), but on the road only the Islanders (2.2) and the Devils (2.1) score fewer times per game than the Canadiens (2.21).
I have no idea why this is as black and white as it is.
The Canadiens shots per game dips slightly on the road to 32.2 from 34.8 at home, which would represent a total difference of about 106 shots on goal over 41 games (rounded down from 106.6, because you can't have six-tenths of a shot).
However, the Canadiens are on pace for a goal disparity of about 24 goals (rounded down from 24.6, same reason), so even if they had those extra 106 shots on goal on the road they'd have to connect at a 22.6 per cent success rate to even up the goal total. Considering the Canadiens currently score on 7.7 per cent of their shots on goal, 6.9 per cent on the road, that's a pretty ridiculous number.
Obviously, Montreal is susceptible to line mismatches on the road when your defence is thin and you have a second line that's not producing while the third line is physically challenged. But can that alone explain this total lack of offensive punch on the road? Better yet, should it? After all, every other team has to deal with the same circumstances.
Whatever the reason behind it is, it needs to be figured out in pretty short order.
The Canadiens play 12 of their final 19 games on the road, and the seven home games are against Boston, Washington (twice), Tampa, Buffalo, Atlanta and Chicago.
I don't think they can slide so far at this point that they would miss the playoffs altogether, the Canadiens need 22 points in their final 22 games to pass the 90-point mark while ninth-place Buffalo needs 30 points in 24 games to reach 90 and the Rangers (2-7-1 in last 10) and Carolina (3-5-2) would also need to pick it up to knock Montreal out.
But it appears to be a pretty safe bet the Canadiens will start the playoffs on the road, and they will need to win at least once in enemy territory to advance.
A pessimist would take the Canadiens road performance to this point as proof that the playoffs – if indeed they get there – will not be a long ride. The optimist would see the road-heavy end to the schedule as a prime opportunity to identify what ails the Canadiens and fix it in time for the playoffs.
Which camp do you belong to?
Your optimism would have to be legendary for that decision to be a difficult one.