Canadiens vs Rangers: Shutout and shut down

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadiens hit a new low with last night's loss, as they're below 50% Fenwick close for the first time under Michel Therrien.

Where would the Montreal Canadiens be right now without Carey Price? Price has a 7-8-2 record on the year with a .936 save percentage, which ranks him third among starting goaltenders. Above him are Tuukka Rask, who has a 10-5-0 record, and Josh Harding, who has an 11-2-2 record.

Seems like an awful waste of perhaps the best stretch of hockey Price has played in his career, and it looks even more ridiculous when you break his stats down:

In his losses this season, Price has a .921 save percentage, higher than his overall career average. In his last 6 losses, Price has a .936 save percentage. In his last two losses, he has a .975 save percentage. There's nothing more that could possibly be expected from a goaltender, yet here the Canadiens are.

As good as Price has been, Montreal's shooters have been the opposite. After scoring on 8.9% of their even strength shots last season, they're chugging along at only 5.8% this year. What's changed? Exchanging out Michael Ryder for Daniel Briere has hurt, but that's the only major difference among the scoring forwards, and Briere currently is outside the top-9.

What it really comes down to is puck luck, and the Habs aren't getting any right now. While the score is tied it's even worse, with Montreal converting just on just 4.9% of their shots. The natural reaction from fans in this situation is to try to look for things that aren't there. "The Habs aren't going to the tough areas", "They're playing on the perimeter". Neither of these things are true.

The scoring chances are there, the effort is there, things just aren't working. Over the past 7 games, Montreal has scored on just 3.4% of their even strength shots over the past 7 games, struggling in a way that they never did last season.

They're also beginning to crash from a possession standpoint, as they somehow managed to outdo their terrible performance against Tampa Bay against New York last night.

Against Tampa Bay, the team was sunk without the top two forward lines and top pairing defensemen on the ice, but against the Rangers, everyone was bad. Not a single player was above 50% Fenwick, and only one player managed to be even, and that was Alexei Emelin in his first game back.

Speaking of Emelin, one of the first things he did in the game was make essentially the exact same hit on Chris Kreider that put him out of action for months, and he bounced off the same way, fell the same way, but didn't catch his foot and twist his knee.

Michel Therrien remarked after the game he loved seeing that, because it showed that Emelin wasn't going to play scared, and if anything it was probably the best thing for him. And I have to agree with Therrien there, as if anyone other than Price could have been said to have a good game, it was Emelin.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of fans are pinning the loss against the Rangers on Therrien, but watching the game I couldn't see how that makes any sense. Looking over the stats after the game, I still don't see how it makes any sense.

Fans were mad that David Desharnais' line got more ice time than anyone else. Well they were the best line in the game. Fans were mad that the kid line's ice time was cut. Well Brendan Gallagher could barely skate he was so sick. People were mad that P.K. Subban wasn't used in the last minute of the game when he was on the ice for 3 of the last 5 minutes on the second half of a back to back. The man is still human, even if he doesn't seem like it.

And the complaining about Subban's ice time needs to stop. It was valid when he wasn't being used enough, that's no longer happening. He's been used for 27.14 minutes per game over the last 5, which would rank him around 5th in the NHL if he were to keep that average the rest of the season. So enough.

Perhaps Therrien's system has been adjusted to by opposing coaches and he has to tweak it, but if he does then I'm sure that tweak is coming. I'm not even sure that's what's happening though.

If the Canadiens were shooting at the league median rate of 8% at even strength, they'd have 62 goals on the season instead of 52, which would be good for 3rd in the Eastern conference, and give them a goal differential of +17, the best in the conference.

This team is not bad, it's not mediocre, it's damn good, and so far, damn unlucky. See the forest for the trees.

For all your Habs and hockey apparel needs, check out True Rivalry.

Don't forget to drop into Blueshirt Banter for a PHYSICS lesson, but play nice, they're happy after their first win in Montreal in 4 years.

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