Thursday, April 15, 2010

Habs vs. Caps

More Reasons To Be Positive

Numbers to consider:

46 games: 24-15-7, 55 points

That is the record of the Montreal Canadiens since December 17, 2009. It happens to coincide with the return of Andrei Markov. Prorated over 82 games, that's 98 point pace. That's 6 points less than the total the Habs posted 2 seasons ago to win the East. Many of these games were played with Pyatt on the first line.

What's my point?

Not sure. But I just want to point out that these numbers are as relevant as the whole season record, the record against the Caps, the record against playoff teams, the playoff record over the last 15 years. In short, not that relevant, certainly not predictive, but numbers.

This number doesn't only reflect Markov's return, but also finding the balance with goaltending starts, finding the right line combinations and the acclimatization of the newbies (notably Gomez). Is this the real Habs? As I said, the number can't predict that. All I'd say is that it's as least as relevant for me.

As the Canadiens skate for the last time ahead of the game in washington tonight, they'd do well to remember this. Ottawa did, Philly did, Colorado did.

Matching up well

Sometimes a team’s mix of players doesn’t work against the average opposition but is extremely well suited to facing a given team. Such was the case for the 2005-06 Canadiens (with Koivu) against Carolina in the 2006 playoffs. Losing Koivu created the necessary shift in the ground to make it the blowout it was predicted to be. If Koivu doesn’t get high-sticked, who knows – I’d wager the Habs would have won at least another game.

The Canes, of course went on to win the Stanley Cup. However, until they met Edmonton (another skating team) they didn’t face a test as stern as the Koivu-led Canadiens. What was true in 2006 may be true again with the Capitals. Like the Hurricanes, the Capitals play the game Montreal likes. Like the Hurricanes (going in with Gerber, anyway), the Caps are beatable at the back. The Capitals must be favourites for the Cup, but where they’d love to play Boston who can’t score and would struggle to use goaltending first as a strategy against the Caps firepower the Canadiens can score against undisciplined defences.

Another straw for Has fans to clutch at is that this team has been best at teams that open up at the back. Counter-attack offense is not built for the Devils who outwait the counter. It is built for teams like the Caps who go all in on offense and expose the last D-man for a break.

The Habs won't win if Pouliot and Cammalleri don't sort out their shooting. But if they do, the Caps will have a lot to think about.

Go Habs Go.

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