Habs Off to Record Breaking Start
After Saturday night’s 4-1 win, the Montreal Canadiens have extended their franchise best start to the season to 6-0. While the record itself is an impressive feat, there is more than just six out of a possible six wins that Habs fans have to be happy about.
It’s not that the Habs have won six straight, it’s how they’ve won.
This team looks nothing like the squad from the 2014-15 season. This team looks like one who is always hungry for the game’s next goal. Marc-Antoine Godin of La Presse pointed out early into the 2015-16 season that it took the Canadiens 18 games to finish the first period with a lead during the previous season. The Habs managed to finish ahead after the first frame in each of their first four games.
Not only that, but it took six games before they found themselves trailing after Dylan Larkin put the Red Wings ahead in the Canadiens’ most recent win. The Wings win lasted all of 2:57 minutes before Brendan Gallagher tied things up with his first marker of the season.
Jeff Petry, Tomas Plekanec and Brian Flynn each added goals in the third period. A period in which the Canadiens fired 20 shots on Wings’ goaltender, Petr Mrazek. Three goals in the final period is impressive enough (albeit Flynn’s was an empty netter), but 20 shots? This is a team that has made a habit of sitting back the second they would find themselves with a lead. This is a team that was better known for finishing a game with 20 shots for an entire game, let alone reaching that amount in a single period, let alone in the third period.
The Canadiens currently sit second in the league in shots per game, with an average of 34.
Reasons behind the Habs early season success:
Four Lines Rolling
- Through six games, the Canadiens have averaged 3.33 goals per game, mainly with the help of their top line. Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher and newly appointed captain Max Pacioretty have combined for 10 of the team’s 20 goals.
- Though Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller and Alex Semin have only tallied three goals as a unit, the trio shows lots of promise. They combined for a total of seven points in the 4-2 win over the Bruins and Galchenyuk has not looked at all out of place playing up the middle.
- David Desharnais is hardly the most popular player with Habs’ fans. His role as the team’s top centre and his constant power play time without any execution had many in the city trying to drive him out. All that aside, he has thrived in his role as the team’s third line centre between Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weiss. DD must feel the pressure is off him to produce offensively and, in turn, has started the season with a goal and four helpers. Fleischmann has fit right in, notching two goals of his own along with one assist and Weiss has earned 1 and 1 as well.
- The fourth line, while only producing two goals, has quite possibly the best chemistry on the team. Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn and Devante Smith-Pelly have proven tough to play against, have created quality scoring chances, and will likely cash in on plenty of them if their play continues. Smith-Pelly is playing more like the player he was expected to be when brought to the team and is not expected to be the same type of player as Jiri Sekac, who was shipped to Anaheim in the trade.
In short, aside from the season opening 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens haven’t had to lean on Carey Price. Instead, they’ve outplayed every team they’ve faced and taken advantage of their chances.
Sure, they haven’t had to rely on Price, but he has shown that when called upon he is still more than capable of making highlight reel saves, including a jaw dropping beauty on none other than Sidney Crosby.
One game is not enough to get a real feel for Mike Condon, but he looked calm and poised in a solid start against the Ottawa Senators, leading the Canadiens to a 3-1 win. Again, it’s still early, but he seems to be a solid upgrade from Dustin Tokarski.
5 on 5
Okay, so not everything about their game is perfect. Their power play is still struggling (only 4 goals in 26 opportunities), but breaking that down is a whole other article in itself.
What is working is their even strength play. The Habs have the best even strength goals ratio with 16 scored and only 4 against. As long as their 5 on 5 play keeps up, their lack of production with the extra man won’t hurt them as much as during the 2014-15 campaign.
The 2015-16 Canadiens seem to be a hungrier group, their more aggressive approach has found them early season success and they get a chance to extend their record breaking start tonight against the St. Louis Blues who sit second in the league behind the high flying Habs.
(Photo credit Canadiens.nhl.com, Featured image: PAUL CHIASSON / The Canadian Press)