Silver Nuggets: Are the Montreal Canadiens a Paper Tiger?

Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

Could the Senators actually catch the Habs before the season is out?

Paper tiger is a literal English translation of the Chinese phrase zhǐlǎohǔ, meaning something that seems as threatening as a tiger, but does not withstand challenge. - Wikipedia

Mostly predicted to be a bubble team competing for a wild card position going in to the season, the Canadiens have so far exceeded the expectations of those outside their fanbase by competing with the Bruins for the top spot in the Flortheast for most of the season.

But how stable is that success?

Last year Montreal succeeded in large part thanks to their solid possession game. Their #fancystats were quite good - they had better possession stats than their opposition in 30 of 48 games, significantly so in 21 of those, and were only significantly out possessed in 9 (several of which could be put down as due to score effect).

This year, it started out looking almost as good. At the 10 game mark their average Fenwick % and Corsi % were only lagging slightly. But what's this?

Habs201314_medium

Oh... That's, uh, not so pretty. It's like they dropped off a cliff or something. Just how bad is it? Well, if we look at the 10 game rolling averages, we can get an idea.

Habs201314_10game_medium

Right there, as soon as the 10 game average doesn't include the entire season (I've conveniently added a line at game 11) it drops below 50%. In fact, you can go up as high as a rolling 30 game average before their numbers as of today find positive territory.

But they've so far been holding on somehow, and that somehow is goaltending. They've received a 93.5% 5 on 5 save percentage from Carey Price and Peter Budaj so far this season. It's high, it's tough to sustain, but it's not impossible...

Habs201314_sv_medium

Well then. Not quite as ugly as the possession charts, the overall save percentage average has been in almost steady decline starting with game 14, and is now at it's lowest point since game 3. The rolling 10 game is uglier, and is currently well below the league average.

Basically, their skaters have been underperforming and their goaltenders have been posting career highs to bail them out. But Budaj peaked in his second game and has been in steady decline since then, and Price is posting numbers far above his career average or career best. For some perspective, the only goaltenders that have posted a SV% similar to what Price is posting right now over a full season with a similar percentage of games played are Tim Thomas in 2008-09 and 2010-11, Domink Hasek in 1997-98 and 1998-99 and Marty Turco in 2002-03.

So which gives more in the long run? The underperforming skaters, or the overperforming goaltenders? If it's the goaltending, Montreal could end up a bubble team before the season is out despite their strong start, and with some luck Ottawa could yet pass them.

Sens Links

  • Recaps! Get your recaps! [S7S] [Bonk's Mullet] [Sens Extra] [Nhl.com]
  • Melnyk is talking to Bryan Murray about an extension [Sens Extra]
  • There are far more players who have worn 44 for the Senators than I expected [S7S]
  • Gord Wilson sat down with Melnyk for a 1 on 1 chat yesterday [Sens TV]
  • Sportsnet talks about Cody Ceci's first NHL goal, and hits it spot on when they say "you couldn’t draw it up any better" [Sportsnet]

NHL Links

  • Shawn Thornton is appealing his 15 game suspension [TSN]
  • Friedman's 30 thoughts talk about the price the Jets have paid for their easier travel schedule [CBC]
  • Looks like Rogers is only giving Canadians the bleeped out version of 24/7 [The Province]
  • Milan Lucic got into a bar fight on Saturday night in Vancouver [Yahoo]
  • Remember that video of Leafs fans watching the game 7 collapse? They're being featured in Sports Illustrated [Toronto Sun]
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