The Montreal Canadiens never fail to make things interesting. The Habs sit 1st in the Atlantic Division, 4th in the Eastern Conference and 6th in the National Hockey League (NHL).
Through 53 games this season, the Habs have the 7th most goals scored and the 8th least goals conceded. Only five other teams have a better goal differential than our beloved team.
The captain Max Pacioretty already has 25 goals, Carey Price and Alexander Radulov are Montreal Canadiens and Alex Galchenyuk has nearly a point per game. Also, rookie Artturi Lehkonen is on pace for 18 goals in his first year on North American ice.
On the surface it looks like there is nothing to worry about… and there might not be. But what if there was?
Last year in the 2015-16 season, the Canadiens were 13-2-1 through their first 16 games of the season. Even more impressively, they were 17-4-2 through 23 games. This record would be remembered for the rest of the season because November 25th’s game against the New York Rangers would be Carey Price’s last for the season as the team lost him to an unfortunate injury. The remainder of the season would see one of the best teams in the NHL turn in to one of the worst as the Habs went 21-38-4 without their prized goaltender. The only real good news that the Montreal faithful got out of this season was selecting Mikhail Sergachev with the 9th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Let’s fast forward to this season. Again, Montreal starts off the season hot and goes 13-1-1 in their first 15 games through November 12th, 2016. But since November 12th the Canadiens have gone 17-15-6.
I mean, this still isn’t horrible or a cause for absolute panic and chaos. But sustaining that kind of record over the full course of an 82-game season would see a team go approximately 37-32-13 for 87 points in a standard season.
At this moment, the Philadelphia Flyers who hold the last Eastern Conference Wild Card spot is on pace for 91 points. The Boston Bruins, who hold the third Atlantic Division playoff spot but are not in a Wild Card spot by benefiting from the weak division are on pace for 88 points.
Last year in the 2015-16 season, the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers earned the two Wild Card spots and had 100 points and 96 points respectively. Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings’ 93 points were good enough to secure the third Atlantic Division playoff spot.
It is obvious that 87 points isn’t enough. But to move away from theoretical statistics and back to reality, the 30-16-7 Canadiens team are on pace for 103.6 points this season. This is easily enough to clinch a spot in the playoffs and makes it very likely that the Habs will win the division as three of the teams are in the last three spots in the conference.
Not to take anything away from a hard working and talented team, but it can not be denied that the 30-16-7 record is severely inflated from a 13-1-1 start to the season. Let’s take a look at the numbers in the two time spans.
November 12th, 2016 13-1-1: 27 Points 51 Goals For / 21 Goals Against (+30 Goal Difference) 1st in the NHL (5 points more than anybody else)
February 4th, 2017 30-16-7: 67 Points 158 Goals For / 133 Goals Against (+25 Goal Difference) 6th in the NHL (8 points behind 1st)
November 12th – February 4th 17-15-6: 40 Points 107 Goals For / 112 Goals Against (-5 Goal Difference)
The purpose of this article is to show the Habs haven’t been more than average for the past 12 weeks. It isn’t time to hit the panic button, but we can not be ignorant either.
The Metropolitan Division has been incredibly strong this year. The Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers have more wins and goals than anybody in the Atlantic.
It is nothing like last year where the Habs ended up in the lottery draft. Barring a historic collapse in the NHL’s 100th season, the Habs should be making the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Canadiens have 29 games left to play in the regular season and a lot can happen in that time frame (preferably a winning streak). 17 of their remaining 29 games are against opponents who are not (currently) in a playoff position. The journey to the end of the regular season is not a major concern but the Canadiens will need to hit the gas sooner than later before the playoffs begin.