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Montreal's hot start: Lucky, or deserved?

The Montreal Canadiens are currently sitting at 6-1. But are they riding a wave of luck, or do they deserve to be sitting near the top of the league?

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

There was great deal of optimism surrounding the Canadiens heading into the 2014-15 regular season. They ditched their anchors on defence, managed to convince the Avalanche to add a pick in the Parenteau-Briere trade, and made a few analytics-approved signings during the off-season.

With the addition of Tom Gilbert, Manny Malhotra, Jiri Sekac, P.A. Parenteau, Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi to the lineup, replacing players like Francis Bouillon, Douglas Murray, Josh Gorges, Daniel Briere and Brian Gionta, it really shouldn't come as a surprise that the Canadiens are playing better as a team.

Not very special teams

Of course, like any sports team, there are aspects of their play that can improve. Montreal's powerplay is currently sitting at 21st in the league, with a sub-par success rate of 14.3%. Considering Montreal possess one of the best offensive weapons on their blue line in P.K. Subban, this should be looked upon as a major area where the Canadiens can improve.

The Habs penalty kill is slowly improving, but is still in the bottom half of the league (16th), and several percentage points lower than their results last year.

The special teams are clearly struggling, albeit showing signs of improvement. Both the powerplay and penalty kill have been reorganized since the beginning of the year, in what can only be seen as a huge step forward by a coaching staff that traditionally has difficulty adapting their game plans.

Carey's numbers

The biggest struggle in this young season has come from netminder Carey Price. His save percentage is nothing to write home about. At .902, he finds himself in an unfamiliar scenario, at 41st overall in the league.

Is it time to panic about the gold medalist? Absolutely not. It's way too early into the season to pull any legitimate conclusions from the current save percentages around the league. If Carey Price produces a 30-save shutout in his next outing, his save percentage will immediately jump to just below his career average (.917).

Deserved, or luck?

Despite their shiny record, the Canadiens have only managed to win a single game by more than a one-goal difference, and that was thanks to an empty-net goal versus Boston. Given that they've allowed the first goal in the vast majority of the games, and have counted on several heart-attack inducing third period comebacks, one would be inclined to say the Canadiens are currently riding a fantastic wave of luck.

However, unlike last year, the Canadiens aren't winning solely thanks to Carey Price and some timely scoring.

In fact, they're sporting a positive Fenwick % (50.17), and their PDO isn't inflated whatsoever (100.1). If you dig a little further and find their score adjusted PDO, it jumps to 101.1, which again isn't worryingly high. Once we take a look at the numbers, it becomes clear that the Canadiens aren't just winning due to luck, but rather thanks to a solid roster that isn't playing over it's head. Rather, there are several players that are producing stellar analytics, but aren't hitting the score sheet with regularity, most notably Lars Eller and Jiri Sekac.

Room for improvement

There's no guarantee that the special teams will continue to improve, although if the coaching staff continues to concentrate on this aspect, there should be a steady, if slow, improvement.

Carey Price on the other hand is still playing well below his career average, and there's no doubt that he'll raise his numbers to a more respectable level.

His mediocre play has revealed at least one major positive aspect to the team. Whereas last year the Canadiens counted on Price to steal points on every occasion, this year's team seems to be talented enough to win games without needing Price to save the day.

It's still very early in the year, and the standings will surely change as the Canadiens inevitably hit some lows during the year, but as it stands the team looks poised to elevate themselves to the level of a true contender. We're only seven games into the season, but it seems like this year's edition of the Montreal Canadiens have most of the ingredients in place to produce something special.