Are the Canadiens Contenders?

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Photo credit: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The past few years have been nothing but regular season success for the Canadiens, baring their meltdown last year when Carey Price was out of duty. Some fans might wonder if this team is still capable of contending in a strong Eastern Conference. With a few key additions this off-season, the Canadiens were off to a dominant 13-1-1 start, but are slowly starting to fall.

17.

That is the number of wins the Canadiens have in their last 40 games (17-16-7). Before Montreal fans come after me, I am well aware that Montreal is still first in the division. However, take a look at the division itself, Ottawa and Toronto are behind with 60 points, which nobody expected. Teams like Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Florida have been huge letdowns due to injuries (Stamkos, Huberdeau, Barkov, Eichel) and haven’t given much competition to the Habs. The Bruins are going nowhere but downhill after firing head coach Claude Julien and the same can be said about Detroit.

Montreal wouldn’t be leading any other division at this moment.

They will most likely make the playoffs, but how good is this team?

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Credit: Sportsnet

For one, Shea Weber has been very good for the bleu, blanc, rouge, but is currently on his worst points per game pace since the 2009-2010 season.

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Credit: hockey-reference.com

Despite being an elite defenseman with the hardest shot in the NHL, Weber is not much of an even strength force. What most people don’t realize is how Weber is only deadly on the powerplay. 10 of his 12 goals and 18 of his 31 points this season have been on the man advantage.

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Credit: Sportsnet and SportlogiQ

When you look at this graph, the main thing it tells you is how involved in the play Shea Weber is compared to other top defenseman across the NHL. The average number of plays is ~75 per 20 minutes, Weber is at 69. When compared to the highest amount of plays (Victor Hedman), it is easy to see that Shea Weber isn’t very active when it comes to even strength play.

Weber is also posting a 25:36 average time on ice per game, which is a lot for a 31 year old. He had similar numbers last year in Nashville and when it was post-season time, he collapsed. This was shown by his low Corsi and Fenwick number (48.3 – 47.4) and his overall bad play.

Now let’s take a look at the backbone of this team, Carey Price. He has been the best goalie in the NHL for a few years now and has lead Canada to multiple gold medals in the Olympics and at the World Cup of Hockey. But as of now, he is in a slump. In his last 31 starts, Price only has 13 wins to go with a horrible 2.71 GAA. He has also lost his last five starts on the road, allowing nearly 3.5 goals against per game. In addition, Price has only won three games in his past 12 road starts. Much more is expected from a Vezina-caliber goaltender.

Offensively?

Pacioretty has found his scoring touch, but is very inconsistent at times. A team that has Paul Byron as their fourth leading scorer isn’t much of an offensive threat, but somehow Montreal manages to be top ten in goals for and goals for per game.

Alexander Radulov has been excellent (13G, 28A), but how will he fare when the post-season rolls around?

As it stands, Montreal have lost four in a row and have been shutout in back to back games. The Habs have been struggling all season against the top-half teams in the NHL and are now dropping games against bottom-tier teams like Colorado, Philadelphia, New-York (Islanders) and Buffalo.

If they want a shot at the Cup, they are going to need much more from their star players.

 

By Brandon Murphy – @2murphy8

 

 

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