Friday, March 28, 2008

The SK74 Era: Lions Reader Sheds Light on Habs Stats Since December

Not sure I've ever done this – post a reader's comments in an article – but, as we say there's a first time for everything, even Brisebois goals wobbling in...

Yesterday I wrote that despite the Habs success, the team was still not competing for the league title. I cited many specific reasons I thought might explain this, the main crux of which is that this story is developing and the Habs may indeed be on the path to a good decade, but that only time will tell.

One of you dedicated readers (thanks all), wrote in to tell me (through a link to ForumIce) that based on statistics we already stack up nicely against Detroit. His optimistic and confident sign off is that we are already Detroit.

Well, I responded a little bit on the forum, but I thought it was interesting enough to those of you who may not follow every link from every comment to post a bit on this main page.

Enter the stats then. DiscoLafleur first breaks the season into parts:

Habs First 17 Games
GF 52 - 3.05 - 250 year
GA 42 - 2.35 - 192 year

Next 13 Games (yeah, if you are guessing, I'm on a post Sergei/no more 8 D's direction)

GF 31 - 2.38 - 195 year
GA 44 - 3.38 - 277 year

In a nod to a pet theory of mine (and some others recently), he chooses game 31 as the start of the new era:

In comes Sergei Kostitsyn, out goes Chips, out goes our 8 D system, Pleks and company start to gel, maybe AK is inspired by brother SK...Koivu hangs in there no matter who his wingers are.

Habs have played 47 games since.
Rolling along decently. Few injuries.
3rd liners rotated in and out.
Koivu lines still not super productive but better.

The good stuff - Habs last 47 Games - (SK74 Era is what I like to call it)

Injury free, this is our new Habs team my friends.

GF - 159 = 3.38 G/G = 277/Year
GA - 124 = 2.63 G/G = 215/Year

This is where it gets into the interpretive bit. Basically, showing what would happen if we wiped out the first 30 games. What it shows that we would be top by quite a significant margin in terms of offense:

3.38 G/G average is a good bit stronger then the top offenses of this season.

1 252 3.23 OTTAWA
2 247 3.21 MONTREAL
3 244 3.17 DETROIT
4 242 3.14 BUFFALO
5 239 3.06 PITTSBURGH

Next, Disco looks at the other end of the ice, because we all know that scoring 400 goals isn't any good if you let in 450. The picture gets pretty rosy in Disco's eyes as he discovered the following:

Top 10 in defense?? We are already there.


Here's another, very interesting aspect of our Habs development...

Enter the Carey Price/Halak Era...

Since February 26th....14 Games played

GA 38 = 2.28 G/G = 186 year

That 2.28, my friends, is top 3-5 in the league, right there with Detroit and friends.

GA* GA/g
1 167 2.17 DETROIT
2 175 2.24 ANAHEIM
3 174 2.29 SAN JOSE
4 177 2.30 NEW JERSEY

And then the clincher, where Disco lays down the friendly gauntlet:

...the answer to Topham at Lions in Winter is...

We pretty much already are Detroit.

Where to begin?

I think the first thing that needs saying is that when I said the Canadiens are not Detroit, I was not really referring to Detroit 2008, but Detroit 1995-2008. I want the Canadiens to be a dynasty again. I want the nonsense of worrying about the playoffs to be relegated to the lesser teams. So, in that context, no matter what stats anyone can show, the Habs just can't be there yet. They must earn that tag with several years of success.

I suppose as a secondary point, I do also disagree with the assertion that we are as good as Detroit 2008. Ultimately, this comes down to the reality that we have 12 less points than them, and, critically, 8 fewer wins.

No stats can spell out winning other than wins. Sure there is correlation, but while one team could win 60 1-goal games, another may pad stats with 8-0 wins, all the while losing 40 1-goal games. If I use Detroit as the example, I would suggest that they simply have a superior ability to win games than the Canadiens at the moment. Their ability also stretches over the entire length of seasons, something which the Canadiens have yet to show. While my feeling is that this is indeed the path the Habs seem to be on, I simply cannot make the declaration of a consistently dominant team on half a season's worth of games, casting off all the results from pre-SK74.

My final objection to the data shown us by Disco, was the bit about the Carey Price era, which began after the trade deadline in his post. I do believe in Carey Price and I would be a fool if I denied his remarkable improvement over these 6 months. However, from one scientist to another, you simply can't cherry pick like that. First of all, Carey Price had been with the team all season, so statistically speaking, how can we throw out all his previous games, how do we know he's not just on a hot streak? (anyone believe Conklin is the next coming??). Secondly, if we commit to the idea that SK74 day was the critical change in Canadiens philosophy, then I think we must adhere to that for all stats.

First 30 games:
85 GA = 2.83 GAA

Next 47 games:
128 GA = 2.72 GAA

With SK74 era as the defining moment when the Canadiens turned to offense (that's my allegation now), we observe that they remained consistent at the back, but did not see remarkable improvement. I suspect that this will be the continuing trend as the GM looks at the upcoming assets and considers how offense can win games after all. In other words, I don't expect a reversion to 8 D, nor a push for the Jennings trophy anytime too soon.

That said, the goal differential is still up and most importantly the Habs have also shown that they have learned to win (even in tough situations). These changes should help the team progress as we all hope they will.

Thanks DiscoLafleur for doing all that work and providing the impetus for more debate. Please don't take any of this disagreement harshly. As you know I do think the Canadiens improved the day of that promotion, we just disagree slightly at the moment as to how to prove it all.

Incidentally, what a luxury to be discussing how the Habs could be teetering on something so positive on the dawn of the Leafs first day on the lottery trail...

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