The Warmup - "Montreal can't win without the powerplay"

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There is a common trope among Habs fans about the limitations of their team, and it's time to put that to rest.

For a long time, a really long time, the Montreal Canadiens got by in the NHL on the strength of their special teams and goaltending. This was the case essentially from when Rejean Houle and Ronald Corey dismantled the championship club of the early 90's up until Jacques Martin began to build towards a winning strategy in the 2010-11 season.

We had the blip of 2011-12 where everything fell apart and management panicked, but stability in new management has the Canadiens back where they were building towards two years ago, with an influx of new, young talent.

Yet still, the shell shocked nature of Habs fans reverts to this trope time and time again. It's even begun to creep onto EOTP as we get bigger and draw more eyes.

The last two games the Canadiens have played, they've drawn just two powerplays, and not for lack of infractions. A chorus of "get used to it, this is how it'll be called in the playoffs" soon comes out, along with "the Habs can't win in the playoffs because they won't get powerplays".

I know many Habs fans are used to this being the case, but the problem is that you're dead wrong. These Canadiens are not reliant on the powerplay, they just have a very good one.

The Montreal Canadiens score 2.56 goals at even strength per 60 minutes of play. That ranks them 5th in the NHL. They allow 1.93 goals against at even strength per 60 minutes of play. That ranks them 4th in the NHL. 57% of all goals scored at even strength in Habs games are in favour of Montreal. That differential is 3rd in the NHL.

The two teams that rank ahead of Montreal in that department are the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins. Those two teams are the ones most people predict to meet in the finals, mostly because they lead their respective conferences. Those two teams are also two of the five teams who've had better luck than Montreal this season.

Montreal is actually well ahead of Pittsburgh by both Fenwick Close and Fenwick Tied measures, and ahead of Chicago by Fenwick Tied.

This team isn't okay at even strength, they're not good, they're actually phenomenal. Take powerplays out of the game entirely, and the Canadiens are cup contenders.


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