One common misconception is all-star Carey Price is the only reason the Montreal Canadiens are where they are in the standings, three points out of first place in the Atlantic Division at 29-13-3. In reality, he’s only about 99% of the reason. The other 1%? In recent games it’s been the power play.
It’s definitely a weird thing to say about a special teams unit that for most of the season was “special” the same way a patronizing parent tells their child they are so as not to hurt their feelings. In fact, even now, it’s not even out of the bottom third in the league in terms of efficiency, clocking in at just 17% (ranked 21st).
To put that in perspective, the Toronto Maple Leafs, each of whom probably couldn’t hit the broad side of, let’s say, the field containing a barn right now, have a 19.4% successful power play.
However, Leafs fans know this sudden streak of scoring ineptitude, during which Toronto has been shut out in three of their last five games, scoring just twice in that span, is only a recent development.
In much the same way, the Habs power play has only recently come alive, scoring seven times in 18 opportunities (38.9%) over the last four games… well three of the last four if you take away the Ottawa Senators debacle from last week.
Montreal has just 23 power-play goals all year, meaning the ones scored in the past four games—or under 10% of the team’s 45 games played—make up about one third of their total output with the man advantage. That right there is some crazy excrement… or math, if you prefer.
Price vs. the Rest of the Canadiens: Head to Head
Some more crazy statistics? Montreal only has power-play goals in 15 games this year, with multiple goals coming in just six games—all wins, five of which were with Price in nets (Dustin Tokarski beat the New York Islanders last Saturday). They are:
- 6-4 over the Boston Bruins at home on October 16 (2 power-play goals)
- 6-3 over the Philadelphia Flyers at home on November 15 (3)
- 6-2 over the Los Angeles Kings at home on December 12 (2)
- 3-2 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road on January 14 (3)
- 2-1 over the Nashville Predators at home on January 20 (2)
So, in only one of those remaining five games would Montreal have won without their power play: against the Los Angeles Kings. On the five other occasions, without Montreal’s power-play clicking, the Habs would only have scored enough to either tie or fall short. Look to the game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, when the Habs scored twice on the power play and won 2-1, for example.
The takeaway here is simple: Montreal’s power play is responsible for no more than four of Price’s 24 wins this season (16.7%). It’s undeniably a tad higher than the above-estimated 1%… but… still… pretty, what’s the word? Sucky?
Of course, there’s also a very good chance Montreal wouldn’t have even been in a position to win any one of those on the power play without Price (like, again, against Nashville), so… call it an even 90-10 split? And admit 10% is probably being generous?
The bottom line is Price is undeniably the main reason the Habs are contending for top spot in the Eastern Conference. There’s just no debating it.
However, if the power play continues to connect, by putting a body in front to screen the opposing goalie—like the 5’7” David Desharnais of all people for some reason—there’s every other reason to believe one day, someday, eventually, the Habs will win a game in which Price plays badly. Probably.
It’s just a matter of pinpointing when he will. It’s been a while.
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.