Habs Third Quarter Review - Part 3 - Right Wingers

Mar 24, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Montreal Canadiens right wing Erik Cole (72) reacts to the play on the ice against the Philadelphia Flyers during the 3rd period at the Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Szagola-US PRESSWIRE

Since everything was explained rather exhaustively in our previous reviews as well as part 1 on this review, I'm going to forgo the long intro and jump right into the analysis.

In case you need a refresher however, here are links to the original primer on advanced stats, the first quarter review, the half season review, and part 1 of the third quarter review which contains the table explaining what stats we're looking at for this quarter.

All statistics used are gathered from timeonice.com, behindthenet.ca, NHL.com, enattendantlesnordiques.blogspot.com, and boucherscouting.com

If you would like to follow the people involved in this project (either directly contributing or by supplying statistics) on twitter you can follow Chris Boyle (@ChrisBoyle33), Olivier Bouchard (@oli_bou), Christopher Boucher (@chrisboucher73), Gabe Desjardins (@behindthenet), and myself (@AndrewBerkshire)

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Erik Cole has performed way beyond fan expectations this year, no doubt part of that is due to him taking on a role with fewer tough minutes to play than he did in Carolina, but this has still been a career year for him. Cole ranks just behind Max Pacioretty in possession numbers, although he had less of an uphill climb as far as zone starts go. Most strikingly for Cole though, is that he had the best scoring chance numbers of any Habs player. This likely lead to him also having the highest true +/- on the team. Cole's one weakness at even strength was his risk reward rating, which was below the team average and placed him 3rd among the team's right wingers.

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While it took some time for Jacques Martin to give Cole powerplay minutes for some unbeknownst reason, he flourished there this season. Only Desharnais and Subban were on the ice for more scoring chances on the powerplay this season. Cole's 11 powerplay goals are 6 more than the next best player on the team (Tomas Plekanec and P.K. Subban tied with 5). Cole ranked 3rd among Habs forwards who played regularly during the year in scoring chance differential, which should put him back on the first wave of the PP next year.

First Quarter Grade: 9/10

First Half Grade: 9/10

Third Quarter Grade: 9/10

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Brian Gionta has been injured throughout all this time, but we can still look at his special teams work.

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The most striking thing about Gionta's shortened season is the absurdly horrible luck he had on the powerplay. It's not shown in the graphic but Gionta had an absurdly low 4.17 on ice shooting percentage on the powerplay. Even if Gionta got bumped up to the very low team average shooting percentage the Habs managed this year, he would have an extra 4 points on the powerplay, which would have him on a respectable 50 point pace overall. He has the best scoring differential on the powerplay of any Canadien, and the 2nd best risk/reward of any winger after Max Pacioretty. Gionta's scoring chance differential on the powerplay was also the best among any Habs forward who played over a minute per game. Where Gionta really struggled this season was on the penalty kill. Among those who played enough time to measure, only Yannick Weber was worse on the PK, and he barely played there. Gionta's lack of efficiency on the PK may be one positive of the Rene Bourque/Mike Cammalleri trade. As we discussed in the review for left wingers, Bourque is surprisingly excellent on the PK, which could potentially cut Gionta's responsibilities and allow him to focus on offense.

First Quarter Grade: 5/10

First Half Grade: 6/10

Third Quarter Grade: 6/10

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Andrei Kostitsyn is gone but not forgotten. His season was really falling apart under Cunneyworth and his advanced stats tell that story as well. Kostitsyn's possession numbers continued to dive in the 3rd quarter, even though the competition he faced dropped drastically (so did the quality of his linemates, but still). Based on his usage it's very difficult to tell if the decline all around for Kostitsyn was actually his own poor play, but it doesn't look flattering. The only place Kostitsyn improved in the third quarter was his penalty differential. I can't help but think if Kostitsyn would have been placed on Lars Eller's wing instead of Nokelainen's for this period, that we wouldn't see this sharp decline.

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On the powerplay Kostitsyn really wasn't a great option for Montreal this year. Again, it's unclear if this was based on usage but his powerplay numbers have been on the decline for 3 straight years. Either way, Kostitsyn's powerplay spot wouldn't be safe on the Habs if he were still with the team going into next year, even though his risk/reward rating on the PP is very solid.

First Quarter Grade: 9/10

First Half Grade: 7/10

Third Quarter Grade: 6/10

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Louis Leblanc has been one of the biggest surprises of the year. A lot of us thought Louis would struggle to earn an NHL spot next year, but he's acquitted himself well enough that he's likely in a position to have to play himself off the team next season. While Leblanc's raw possession numbers are negative all around, relative to the rest of his team he's actually in the positives. He's meshed will with every player he's put with and plays a cerebral game that makes up for his lack of foot speed. Leblanc has been fairly unlucky from a shooting standpoint, but his positive scoring chance differential in a quarter where almost all players were in the negatives is a very good sign for his future as an NHLer.

Leblanc didn't play enough special teams in order to evaluate him there.

First Quarter Grade: N/A

First Half Grade: 7/10

Third Quarter Grade: 7/10

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Aaron Palushaj still isn't racking up points at the NHL level, but his confidence is getting there and he's looking like an NHL regular. He will likely be Leblanc's toughest competition next year for a roster spot. Palushaj is one of those players that casual fans just don't appreciate. He hasn't found a way to get points at the NHL level yet, but he dominates opposing third and fourth lines in possession to the degree where he has the highest relative Corsi score on the Canadiens. He also has a team low 4.76 on ice shooting percentage, which should change drastically if he's ever provided with better linemates. Palushaj also doesn't get much sheltering in terms of zone starts, which is another good sign. Palushaj is still negative on the scoring chance count, but he should improve without having to carry players like Petteri Nokelainen and Brad Staubitz.

Like Leblanc, Palushaj didn't play enough special teams to evaluate him.

First Quarter Grade: 5/10

First Half Grade: 5/10

Third Quarter Grade: 6/10

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Mike Blunden is still a Cunneyworth favourite for reasons unbeknownst to anyone. Blunden isn't quite as bad as we like to make him out to be on EOTP, but he is at the very best a fourth line player, and shouldn't be used the way Cunneyworth uses him. It's actually quite remarkable that Blunden put up a near even scoring chance differential given how he rarely ever started a shift in the defensive zone. There's really not much to say with Blunden other than the fact that he shouldn't be on the roster if the team wants to compete for a championship.

Blunden didn't play enough special teams to evaluate him there.

First Quarter Grade: N/A

First Half Grade: 4/10

Third Quarter Grade: 4/10

Expectations and Perceptions

Just like with the centers we'll throw in the zone adjusted Corsi ratings. As stated in the comments in the previous post, we know that they're flawed to a certain extent but they're interesting nonetheless, and changing the methodology halfway through one review would be odd.

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