In the lead-up to Game 6 between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, hockey fans may be bombarded with a ton of stats in the guise of proper analysis.
Some may be helpful. Some not so much. You be the judge as to which category the following five fall under:
First to Avoid a Sweep with a Four-Goal Road Win Since 2012
It’s not exactly clear what this particular stat is meant to imply, but The Canadian Press made a specific point of mentioning it. So, chances are it’s accurate. However, seeing as it’s in reference to Game 4 (which Montreal won 6-2) and only made it into the post-Game 5 report, it’s probably not critically important.
Really, since the last team to accomplish this supposed “feat” was the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2012 against the Philadelphia Flyers and they won 10-3, by seven goals (by at least four goals on the road), you can probably call it manufactured instead.
The Penguins also won Game 5 in their series by one goal (3-2) to extend the series only to lose in six, so maybe that’s the brilliant idea being peddled here, that Pittsburgh lost in six despite winning Game 4 decisively like Montreal did. So, “obviously” the Habs are going to lose in six too.
For the record, the New Jersey Devils avoided a sweep by the Los Angeles Kings on the road in the Stanley Cup Final that same year, but with only a two-goal victory (they lost in six as well).
The thing to focus on instead might actually be Montreal scoring six goals in Game 4, when they have just six in the other four games in the series. Or that Tampa has scored just one more goal this series than Montreal and that the teams are evenly matched, regardless of how much any one team scored in a single game.
But that narrative wouldn’t really allow CP to incite readers into drawing arbitrary conclusions from completely unrelated past playoff results, now would it?
Lightning Have Never Lost Three in a Row
What is perhaps just a tad more relevant to the current series is how Tampa Bay has never lost three games in a row this season.
The takeaway here is clearly Montreal will not win Game 6, because it’s not possible that a behemoth like Tampa won’t have righted the ship in time. They have experience in such matters, you know, having lost two consecutive contests 10 times before (which is coincidentally the exact same number of losing streaks Montreal had this season).
Also of note, the Canadiens lost three in a row on five separate occasions (never four straight). Twice they won just once before losing again, which doesn’t apply to the situation at hand. Once they proceeded to win six straight immediately afterward, which in theory could. And twice they won three straight… once losing immediately afterward (a potential Game 7) and once to end the season.
Fyi, the Habs won at least four straight games five separate times this season, in case you’re wondering.
First Time Canadiens Have Forced a Game 6…
… When initially down three games to none. This is the eleventh time Montreal has faced a sweep, and never before have the Canadiens gotten this far, which at the very least serves as a worthy counterpoint to the previous stat. Just because a precedent has yet to be set, doesn’t mean one never will. These Canadiens are obviously hoping to become the first Montreal squad to come all the way back from three games down.
Canadiens Have Just Two Power-Play Goals
Only the New York Islanders have fewer power-play goals this postseason (zero) relative to the Canadiens.
Montreal is ranked 15th overall with 5.9%, having scored twice in 34 attempts. In this particular series, Montreal is 1/14, which translates to 7.1%. So, baby steps?
Joking aside (and crying, thinking about those one-goal losses in Games 1 and 3), the Habs may be on the verge of turning it around on the man advantage, after switching to a 1-3-1 setup. It may just be a matter of time before all those goal posts translate into goals… or at the very least shots on goal.
Canadiens Have Outshot Lightning 173-127
While the Lightning were possession monsters this past season, earning 53% of all shot attempts at five-on-five (Corsi), it’s really not factoring in to how this series is shaking out.
The Canadiens, despite placing significantly lower in that category (48.5%), have been largely dictating the tempo of play this series, outshooting Tampa by nearly 10 shots per game (9.2).
Ben Bishop is far from a bad goalie, but Carey Price was expected to be the one to steal games for his team, being a frontrunner for the Vezina and Hart Memorial trophies. Instead, through the series’ first three games, the Habs seemingly ran into a near-impenetrable 6’7” brick wall, boasting in the process a PDO (shooting + save percentages) of .910, indicating a correction towards 1.00 was in order. In Games 4 and 5, they had one of 1.05.
As such, it would seem, the Canadiens are finally getting their bounces.
For the sake of comparison, in the regular season, they had one of 1.017, the same as Tampa. So, one could interpret that figure as an indication the Habs can stand to get even luckier (or that their months of tempting fate are finally catching up to them).
The bottom line is: While possession metrics tend to serve as great indicators for playoff success, not only has Tampa far from dominated as many expected, but the team that is actually holding the edge in play right now is also holding the short end of the stick currently.
It just goes to show anything can happen (even a reverse sweep).
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.