OTTAWA, ON. — Well, will you look at that! Just five games into the 2015-’16 season and the Montreal Canadiens have made history starting the year with a 5-0 record for the first time in franchise history. After what I thought was a sluggish looking season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Habs have looked fantastic.
They look like the Canadiens we saw in last year’s playoffs, pushing the pace, controlling the puck and most importantly playing every game like it means something.
There are a couple things of note through the first few games.
- Carey Price Still Rules
Not much to say here that you all don’t already know, but it needs to be said. Carey Price still rules. This off-season there was never a doubt that Carey Price is one of the best goalies in the world, but there was doubt that he could repeat his performance.
I would argue, and I hope you will agree, that Carey Price can very much repeat the season he had last year. In his four starts he has displayed his poise, positioning, flare and leadership. He is ready to bring this team to the next level and may have a bit more help this season if my next point holds true…
- Therrien Warming Up to Puck Possession
Don’t look now but from a puck possession perspective, the Montreal Canadiens are looking like an analytic dream through five games. This week, Michel Therrien mentioned the importance of puck possession in an interview, noting that the team has been working on controlling the puck more.
His words have been a big topic of discussion amongst fans and media as Michel Therrien’s “dump & chase” tactics has been criticized at great lengths. It’s refreshing to hear the coach talk about puck possession. Therrien has a reputation of being a stubborn, set-in-his-ways coach, but the Habs seem to be opening their minds to a new style of play that better suits the skill-set of the team.
Last season, the Canadiens had a 49.1 per cent Corsi For (CF), placing them in the bottom half of the league. It’s no secret that the Habs struggled to score goals and were often criticized for relying on Carey Price far too much. With these criticisms came suggestions to improve, one of which being puck possession.
Through five games, the Habs have a 53.6 per cent CF. Although just a small sample size, this is an encouraging sign as it’s a huge improvement over last season. Last year, only one team had a higher CF% than 53.6 per cent. It’s important to note that puck possession doesn’t necessarily translate to more goals, but it does translate into more pucks towards the opponent’s net. Here’s hoping the Habs continue their puck possession trend and it translates to more goals.
- I’m Sorry Alexei Emelin
I need to apologize to Alexei. I have been an Emelin “hater” for a while and even wrote an article heading into last year’s playoffs that he should be in the pressbox. Fans have been calling for him to be traded since he signed his current contract averaging $4.1M.
Emelin has been great thus far and may have found himself a comfortable partner in Jeff Petry. He is posting a CF% over 50 and leads the team in high-scoring-chances-for percentage (HSCF%). It’s extremely early in the season, and it’s unrealistic that Alexei maintains his status leading the team in HSCF% but it’s positive to see Emelin feeling more comfortable with the puck.
Emelin isn’t shying away from the physical component of his game either as he leads the team with 14 hits.
I’m sorry Emelin, please keep this up.
- Powerplay Still Stinks
Two powerplay goals with twenty-one opportunities, that’s 9.5 per cent success rate.
- Galchenyuk – Eller – Semin Need a Bit More Time
The Montreal Canadiens are rolling four strong lines. The Desharnais line has been getting pumped in the Corsi column, but has contributed some key goals. Historically, Desharnais has been deployed in the offensive zone to create offence playing with Pacioretty. But with the emergence of Galchenyuk at centre, that has changed.
This Galchenyuk, Eller and Semin line is going to be fun, they just need a little more time. Through five games, Galchenyuk and Desharnais are averaging the same amount of ice time per game, but there has been one major shift in their deployment from previous years. Galchenyuk is now being used primarily in offensive situations whereas Desharnais is being deployed in all areas of the ice.
Therrien is using the Galchenyuk line to generate offense. Though I think he could use them more, his deployment of this line is spot on and once chemistry blossoms, it should be lethal.
The Habs are rolling through the first five games, let’s hope they keep it up!