The Montreal Canadiens have struggled this season to score goals, especially on the power play. They currently have the 24th best power play in the league, at a 12.7 per cent clip. To add to that, the Canadiens have allowed important shorthanded goals this season, including in their last game against the Edmonton Oilers.
But is the issue with the power play incurable? It depends. One of the things to look at on the power play is the amount of shots taken. The Canadiens are 10th in the league with 55.4 shots per 60 minutes with the man advantage, well above 24th. Another reason to look for optimism is their shot percentage. The Canadiens currently are 29th in the league hitting on 4.8 per cent of their shots on the power play. The only team behind them? The Chicago Blackhawks. They are shooting 4.7 per cent on the power play and their power play percentage is dead last in the NHL at 8.8 per cent.
Shooting percentage is very luck driven, and one can imagine a team near the bottom to come back towards the top and a team from the top coming back to the bottom. This is evident when you look at the teams at the top and bottom of the shot percentage tables.
Worst shot percentage (PP % rank in brackets)
1. Chicago 4.7 (30)
2. Montreal 4.8 (24)
3. Columbus 5.3 (29)
4. San Jose 6.4 (7)
5. Anaheim 8.0 (27)
Best shot percentage (PP % rank)
1. Colorado 21.6 (1)
2. Ottawa 20.0 (4)
3. Washington 18.3 (3)
4. Philadelphia 18.1 (11)
5. Vancouver 17.7 (2)
Now, there are the two outliers: San Jose’s power play is good despite the low shot percentage and Philadelphia’s stagnant despite a high shot percentage, but still in the top half of the league.
I believe that teams do make their own luck to a certain extent. Placing Mathieu Darche and David Desharnais on the power play instead of Andrei Kostitsyn or Lars Eller has gotten many a Canadiens fan angry this season, but it doesn’t account for all of the team’s struggles this season. They have had chances that have been stymied by goaltenders. They have hit more posts than they usually do – and that doesn’t even count in the shot percentages above because they are not shots on goals.
Right now all numbers with the Canadiens are bound to regress over the season. It is a poor start, yes. They are falling behind, yes. But the numbers indicate that there is room for improvement even if they stay the course they are on right now. Nevermind the players who will return from injury in the coming weeks – among them Andrei Markov, Scott Gomez, Chris Campoli and Ryan White. That will give the Canadiens even more of a boost (well maybe except for Gomez for the haters out there) and instead of a December swoon, it may just be December that allows the Canadiens to make their run. It is a whole other story whether their fan base will allow them the time.