The Engels Angle: Martin's group is evolving
Published Sunday, October 17, 2010 2:34PM EDT
The regular season is supposed to be a steady progression as you learn to shore up the areas in which you have obvious weaknesses.
On the whole last season, the Montreal Canadiens boasted the second best powerplay in the league, but as Arpon Basu mentioned in his game summary, they were the league's worst at 5-on-5.
The Canadiens operating at a paltry 1/17 with the man-advantage could certainly be concerning, but it hardly inspires major worry with news that Andrei Markov is on his way back to the lineup.
As for their play at 5-on-5, they're tied with the Leafs and Blackhawks for the league lead, with 12 goals.
So imagine where the Canadiens will be if they continue to get the goaltending that Price has offered thus far; if they continue to offer a balanced attack at even strength; if they get the powerplay going?
Speaking of Progress:
The Canadiens allowed more than 40 shots on net on countless occasions last season, and after doing so for the first time this season against the Tampa Bay Lightning they held the Sabres to 23 and the Senators to 19, respectively.
Jacques Martin has to be more than pleased with the outcome.
No matter how many shot-blowouts Jaroslav Halak rescued them from last season (all of them) you can't argue with the Canadiens boasting two wins in five games having allowed less than 25 shots against. That's more likely a better recipe for success.
Price has steadily progressed with each game, and even though he allowed a weak goal last night, you have to figure it was a massive relief for him to see the Canadiens mount a comeback from down 3-1, eventually leading to his first win at the Bell Centre since February.
A big part of that comeback was the play of P.K. Subban.
Sticking with our theme, Subban had a brutal game against the Lightning and came back tenaciously despite his demotion to a pairing with Alex Picard.
P.K. went from -1 against the Bolts, exhibiting indiscipline that eventually cost the Canadiens the game, to +1 in Buffalo and +3 against the Senators.
Most importantly, he didn't spend a minute in the penalty box for those two wins.
Jacques Martin had a simple explanation for the disparity in Subban's performance:
"I think the fact that he doesn't have to face the top two lines anymore--that's a big help."
Kostitsyn Commits to Working Harder:
Andrei Kostitsyn's play couldn't possibly be any more progressive. Here are some crazy stats for you:
In the first 20 games of last season, Kostitsyn had 5 points.
In the first five games of last season he had 1 goal, 0 assists and was -2.
In the first five games this season, he has 2 goals, 2 assists and is +3.
Every reporter in the room last night tried to find out from Kostitsyn what it was that was affording him much greater success.
As it's been noted by virtually everyone watching the Canadiens, Kostitsyn's been a force in both ends of the rink, and has consistently played well since opening night.
Kostitsyn couldn't muster an answer that gave any further insight than "hard work."
Here's the difference:
Through the Canadiens first five games last season, 20 shots came off Kostitsyn's stick: 8 were on net, 9 were blocked and 3 missed the net.
Through the first 5 games this season, 30 shots have come off Kostitsyn's stick: 16 on net, 6 blocked, 8 missed.
A Breath Before Jersey:
The Habs will take the next couple of days away from the rink, before preparing for the Devils arrival in Montreal on Thursday.
Whether that'll be to their benefit is up for debate, after stringing together consecutive wins for the first time this season.
If Andrei Markov is given medical clearance on Wednesday, I'll say the extensive rest can be deemed a benefit to the Canadiens.