There’s always something to complain about, isn’t there? A 50-win season for the Canadiens, one of the most dominating goaltending performances we’ve seen by a Habs backstopper ever and a second round playoff loss many felt hard done by.
Certainly no reason to have a parade, but not too shabby either.
Heading into the offseason, two glaring needs were to be addressed; add goals and fix the power play.
We’re midway through summer and the search for goals remains, while it appears new strategies are being developed for the man advantage.
The Brandon Prust/Zack Kassian trade could be that move. Kassian has more scoring upside and could slot into a top-six right wing position with Brendan Gallagher. This is assuming Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk line up at left wing with Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais at centre.
In my eyes, the Kassian trade was smart business wise, but if that’s the top-six scoring winger that they’re going to have next season, I’m starting to worry.
I may be jumping the gun on looking over some young talent in the juniors, but barring a sensational preseason, I see stints in the AHL first before coming up to the NHL for all talent at right wing down there (yes, Nikita Scherbak and Michael McCarron).
The Canadiens were the 11th worst goal per game (GPG) scoring team in the NHL at 2.61 per game. For the record, the Chicago Blackhawks scored 2.68 GPG, and they did okay. Nevertheless, when the Habs goaltenders are giving up a league-best 2.24 GPG, the math is simple, yes?
Of the 50 wins the Canadiens had this past year, 36 wins saw them score three goals or more (two of those 36 wins had the fourth goal as the shootout winner). Of their 32 losses, they only managed to score over three goals in six of those games.
In the playoffs, their GPG dropped to 2.08 where three of their six wins saw three goals or more – only one of those games was in the Tampa Bay series, and that was at a 3-0 series deficit. In their six losses, GPG against inched up to 2.42 with three losses seeing three or more goals scored against. Again, the math is simple.
While their scoring punch wasn’t prolific during the regular season, it was good enough based on the quality goaltending they got. Assuming Carey Price puts up similar numbers and with Marc Bergevin further solidifying the blue line, I can’t imagine a sharp correction with GPG against stats next season.
But what I’m getting at is I don’t see a sharp correction for GPG scored either, which as the numbers above show, a dicey offence can dry up and leave you exposed at critical times.
Realistically, all the top-six forwards (I’m including Kassian in there as of now) would need career years in goal scoring to see a significant bump in team scoring stats. The bottom six will chip in, but aside from Galchenyuk and Gallagher likely (hopefully) challenging for 30 goals, do you really expect offensive explosions from Desharnais, Plekanec and Pacioretty? Kassian?
(In Pacioretty’s case, I’m saying I don’t see him hitting 50 goals – he’s a perennial 35-40 guy in my mind.)
As I read through this, I realize the negativity I’m driving at, but look at it this way. With the current roster, you’d need all your top-six forwards to have career years while your goaltenders need to match one of the best statistical seasons the club has seen.
Add to that some bulked up offensive stats from the blue line.
I mean, it’s not impossible but it strikes me as a planets aligning scenario, rather than one supported by more concrete evidence. One way to make their chances next year more realistic would be to add a top six forward. It needed to be done before and still needs to be done now.