Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Lion of October

The Real Player of the Month

It's not Carey Price's fault that the Molson Cup system is flawed, but it is. One has to retain the Molson Cup as a goalie, rather than win it, because the points work that way.

A forward has to win the accolade, and a defenceman would have to raise heaven and earth to get the nod.

The last 12 years in Montreal saw ten goalies get the annual prize, only interrupted by Koivu in 05-06 and Kovalev in 07-08. The last defenceman to win in Montreal: Larry Robinson, 1981.

This isn't unique to the Habs. Such luminaries as Martin Gerber, Ottawa, Vesa Toskala, Toronto and Alex Auld, Vancouver have won the Molson Cup; they're in the net for 60 minutes and are making 90% of saves in most wins, they are top of mind for star selectors.

I don't have a mission to change the Molson Cup. The fans seem to like it (all 200 that vote each game). Rather, I think it only fair that when a player misses out for the recognition he probably deserved over a given month, that he be recognized somewhere.

So, there you have it: Lion of the Month.

With all due respect to Carey Price, who did earn his three star selections, a 4-4-2 record with a 0.900 save percentage and a 2.59 GAA doesn't flatter the team. It leads me to think that perhaps someone was better.

The other candidates: Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec


Pacioretty jumps out as a choice because we've taken note of his play on this site. 3 times he was named player of the game by us (without significant disagreement) and 5 times he made the dome. A case could have been made for more domes, which is not necessarily the case for Carey Price (who had 7).

His success was recorded in more than our own observations. Max led the team in almost every offensive category in October. He is tied for first in goals (4) and points (9) with Pleks for a start. He's second on the team in total goals created since the start and is first if you pro-rate by minutes played. he's also by far and away the leader at creating goals at even strength.

And for all those who believe that shots drive the whole game, it's worth noting that max is leading the team with shots on net and scoring chances, and is second in overall attempts on net.

In short, he's been "the" offensive catalyst for the team most nights.

Plekanec has quietly crept up the rankings in most of the statistics as well. He currently sits tied for the lead in points and goals as mentioned and leads the team in goals created. Though he was slow off the mark (or a bit unlucky) to start, he now leads the team in goals created on the PP and is showing he might get used to controlling the point of the PP given enough chance to settle in.

Of course we know that in addition to leading the PP, he also takes tough checking assignments and plays a lot of PK. This might not be a plus for him at this point, however.

Pleks has scored more important goals than anyone also. 2 gamewinners of 4 and last game's empty netter saved some blushes that looked to be around the corner.


My low down on Price is that he has had 3 excellent games, 1 very good game, 3 average games and 3 below average ones. This averages out to above average in games, and that's why he led in star points, of course.

However, 10 starts in 11 games gave him much more ice time to get these nods than anyone else, and if this use level continues, pretty much regardless of results, he'll win the Molson Cup.

Because I keep some deeper stats, I know that Price has allowed a goal by the time the other team has had a mere 3.7 scoring chances on average. Knowing how the team in front of him has trouble coming back (not recently), allowing a goal on the first or second scoring chance on net on 6 of 10 occasions counts as a minus for me.

Lion of October: Max Pacioretty

A close race, but on balance, I'd have to rate Pacioretty as the player of October. This is entirely on the merit of his play on the ice and his production of offense for the team. It's entirely reasonable that people want to focus on the recent wins, but Pacioretty as the strongest player in all the losses represented October's positives better than anyone else.

Remarkable to think then that he is also coming back from a broken neck and concussion. Remarkable also that he carried his streaky form from January and February of last season, when such an injury could have easily seen him revert to Max 1.0.

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