Daily Hab-it: When good is great
By Arpon Basu
Published Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:08AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:11AM EDT
It was pointed out to Mike Cammalleri after this 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators that with his goal and another by Brian Gionta, the Canadiens have four players with nine goals each.
The suggestion was that it represented the balanced attack the Canadiens have had this season, but Cammalleri took it a completely different way.
"I think that's one of the reasons we've had success this year," said Cammalleri, voted the first star of the game by the fans, quite astutely in my opinion. "I've said it all along whenever people asked me why we have some wins or things of that nature, my general answer has been that we've kind of been good throughout. There's kind of a consistent goodness to this team, and there's the result. I don't think any of those numbers are great by any means, but they're all kind of good."
Fine, having four nine-goal scorers is not great, and it might only be good.
But to say there are no great numbers associated with this team is quite an oversight, one I don't blame Cammalleri for making because his eyes are pointed squarely at the opposing team's net at all times.
If he looked in the direction of his own for a change, he'd see a series of great – not good – numbers.
Such as their goals against per game sitting at a stingy 1.93, second in the NHL to the Boston Bruins. Or their penalty killing at a league-best 89.3 per cent. Or their shots against at a shade over 30 per game after practically the exact same team allowed 33.7 per game in last year's playoffs, by far the most of any of the Conference finalists. Or how about 5-on-5 goals for and against ratio? Tied for third this year at 1.33, the Habs were 22nd in this category last season at 0.90.
Those are all great numbers, so while the scoring has indeed been unspectacular, the defensive awareness of this club has become its identity. And Carey Price has been the backbone of that identity.
Which is why it makes it a little easier to understand why P.K. Subban was scratched after the game against Edmonton, not only because of his poor decisions in that game, but because of an overall reluctance to buy into the team's identity.
And it is that identity that is making this team win. And win often.
Jacques Martin has been criticized to no end among Canadiens fans ever since he's been hired as being a boring coach who stresses defensive, unentertaining hockey above all. He was hired by a man, Bob Gainey, who believed in the same hockey principles.
And while a lot of people refused to give Martin much credit for last year's run to the Eastern Conference final, pinning it all on the deserving shoulders of Jaroslav Halak, the 2010-11 version of the Canadiens are an infinitely better-coached team than last year.
The players buy what the coaching staff is serving them, and they go out and execute the game plan. It may not be thrilling hockey, but it works.