Daily Hab-it: Re-setting the season
Published Monday, February 7, 2011 12:37AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
The number of negatives one could pick out of the Canadiens 4-1 Super Bowl Sunday loss to the New Jersey Devils are really too numerous to list off here, and the reason I won't bother is because it's not necessary.
The Canadiens lost. Boo hoo.
It happens, especially when you've played two matinees in as many days and four games in just under six days.
But, as Jacques Martin made great pains to point out after Sunday's game, it was only the third time the Canadiens failed to pick up a point in 16 games dating back to New Year's Eve.
The team's 10-3-3 record from that point is still an astonishing accomplishment, essentially erasing the 10-game run that preceded it where the Canadiens picked up points in only two games.
I get the feeling that by the end of the season when we're looking for a turning point, we will look to that Dec. 31 overtime win in Florida – where the Canadiens erased a 2-0 second period deficit to win 3-2 on an overtime goal by James Wisniewski, his second of the night in only his second game.
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire was saying before the game that when he took over the team on Dec. 23, he erased all the team's stats and began tracking them anew. He said the players really only look at those stats now, and it motivates them to improve because they're not all staring at double digit minus figures all the time.
So what if the Canadiens did the same thing, using Dec. 31 as that starting point? Here's what we would see.
Sudden change from fragile to tough
First of all, a few team stats.
The Canadiens were a pretty respectable 7-4-2 in one-goal games going into the game in Florida, but since they are 8-0-3. When trailing after a period they were 0-11-0, but since they are 4-2-1. Opponent scoring first? They were 3-12-0, but since they are 7-3-2. Also, back then the Canadiens had been outscored 32-26 in the third period, but they've won the third period battle 12-8 ever since.
Each of those numbers suggest a distinct change in culture on the Canadiens, one that was best described as fragile during that brutal December stretch, but one that now exudes mental toughness.
The special teams over this 16-game run have been problematic, if only because they've been inconsistent.
The power play is humming along at 19.7 per cent since Dec. 31, but that includes an 0-for-22 drought over the past five games. The penalty killing is an inadequate 77.2 per cent over the same span, but that's a bit misleading. Of their 13 power play goals against, 11 of them came in only four games. Over the other 12 games, the penalty kill was successful 94.7 per cent of the time.
Also of note, the Canadiens were averaging 4.2 penalty killing situations per game back on Dec. 31, but it's dropped to 3.6 per game over the past 16. On the power play, an average of 3.4 per game has been upped to 3.8 per game over this span. The big difference? The Canadiens were on the power play more often than they were shorthanded.
Plekanec leading the charge
On an individual basis, the team's most consistent player is still leading the charge offensively, as you'll see on this scoring list since the start of the New Year's Eve game.
Plekanec 16 GP -- 7-6-13 +7
Wisniewski 15 GP -- 2-11-13 -1
Subban 16 GP -- 4-8-12 +1
Pacioretty 16 GP -- 4-6-10 +1
Gomez 16 GP -- 2-8-10 -3
Darche 16 GP -- 3-5-8 even
Gionta 16 GP -- 7-0-7 +2
Kostitsyn 16 GP -- 3-3-6 +2
Desharnais 15 GP -- 3-2-5 -2
Hamrlik 15 GP -- 1-4-5 even
Weber 15 GP -- 0-5-5 +6
Pouliot 14 GP -- 3-1-4 +1
Halpern 14 GP -- 2-2-4 -1
Cammalleri 7 GP -- 1-3-4 +1
Spacek 16 GP -- 0-3-3 +3
Gill 16 GP -- 0-3-3 +1
Eller 13 GP -- 1-1-2 even
Moen 16 GP -- 0-2-2 even
Pyatt 12 GP -- 0-1-1 -1
Picard 4 GP -- 0-1-1 -2
In goal, well, no surprise this is the backbone of the team.
Price 7-3-3 2.29 GAA .925 SP
Auld 3-0-0 2.38 GAA .916 SP
Overall, you look at this team playing every one of these 16 games without Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges, playing nine of them without Michael Cammalleri, and facing 10 teams in playoff position, the Canadiens looked extremely good.
It remains to be seen if this kind of pace can be maintained. But really, with all the factors playing against them over the past six weeks, I see no reason why it can't.