The Montreal Canadiens are off to a fantastic start. After eight games, they’ve only lost once and sit at the top of the NHL standings. So they must be doing a lot of things really well, right?
Let’s take a look…
Goals per game: The Habs rank 12th in the NHL, at 2.88. So it’s not really an explosive offense.
Goals allowed per game: They rank 17th, at 2.75. So it’s not a super stingy defense either.
Is it special teams then? No, not really. The power play ranks 23rd and the penalty kill 11th.
What about goaltending? Montreal’s team save percentage is .914, tied for 13th. So while not bad, not exactly great either. (Ditto for team shooting percentage.)
Is there a “fancy stats” explanation? Not exactly. The Habs have been a mediocre possession team, according to their Fenwick ranking.
So what is it then?
Best theory we can come up with: the Canadiens have been extremely…timely.
As in, when they needed a goal, they got one. Like in their season-opener, when they scored with 43 seconds left to beat the Leafs. Or last Tuesday versus Detroit, when they tied it late in the third and won in overtime.
Likewise, when they needed Carey Price to play well in goal, he has. Like Saturday versus the Rangers, when he stopped 34 of 35 shots and was named first star. For Price, it was his third straight strong outing after a so-so first four games.
Is there a statistic that captures the Habs’ “clutch” play in 2014-15? How about this: of their seven victories, three have been by a single goal and two have come in the shootout. The most they’ve beaten a team by is two, which they’ve done twice. (Their only loss was a big one, 7-1 to Tampa Bay.)
Is winning that way, and that often, sustainable? Probably not. But it’s been a good ride for the Habs and their fans.
Montreal kicks off a three-game trip to Western Canada tonight in Edmonton.