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Offensive expectations: How Canadiens players stacked up at the midway point of the season

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Which Habs are meeting their projections, and who are the surprises?

Montreal Canadiens v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens dealt with a large number of injuries in the first half of the season, but came out of it with a record of 25-10-6. Last season they were 22-16-3 through 41 games.

Let's take a look at the team's offensive numbers that have allowed it to get off to such a good start.

GP Shots/GP Shots pace Goals-for Pace Sh%
2015-16 82 30.46 2498 216 8.65%
2016-17 (Projected) 82 30.49 2500 225 9.00%
First quarter 20 29.20 2394 258 10.79%
First half 41 30.95 2538 248 9.77%

In the first quarter of the season, the team was 100 shots behind the expectation. They improved that and are now a little over the projected mark of 2500 on the season.

Shots are not everything, but the overall team shooting percentage was unsustainable in the first 20 games, so an increase in the shot volume was welcome. They are still scoring at a better pace than expected; at a contender level in the league. I don't discuss special teams in much detail in these posts, with the numbers being for all situations, but there is still a lot of room for improvement on the power play, and that's encouraging.

Now let's look at the players’ individual numbers:

Forwards

PLAYER GP G Pace G Exp. G P Pace P Exp. P iSF iSh%
Max Pacioretty (C) 41 19 38 30 34 68 55 128 14.8
Alex Galchenyuk 25 9 30 25 22 72 60 45 20.0
Brendan Gallagher (A) 39 6 13 28 17 36 56 112 5.4
Artturi Lehkonen 32 8 21 14 11 28 28 67 11.9
Tomas Plekanec (A) 41 4 8 17 18 36 52 76 5.3
Alexander Radulov 39 10 21 18 31 65 55 90 11.1
Daniel Carr 26 1 3 15 7 22 25 37 2.7
David Desharnais 25 3 10 10 9 30 30 23 13.0
Andrew Shaw 29 6 17 14 15 42 35 58 10.3
Torrey Mitchell 41 7 14 8 13 26 14 37 18.9
Phillip Danault 41 7 14 5 20 40 12 68 10.3
Paul Byron 41 12 24 7 24 48 12 52 23.1
Sven Andrighetto 10 0 0 13 2 16 25 12 0.0
Brian Flynn 30 4 11 6 8 22 10 30 13.3
Michael McCarron 12 1 7 8 4 27 14 15 6.7
Chris Terry 13 2 13 6 5 32 10 16 12.5
Charles Hudon 3 0 0 12 2 55 30 3 0.0
Nikita Scherbak 2 1 41 8 1 41 14 3 33.3
Bobby Farnham 3 0 0 4 0 0 - 4 0.0

The stars

Let's start with the surprise of the season: Paul Byron. He tripled my prediction and I'm very happy to see him excelling. Many thought he was bottom-six material and he's doing everything to prove us wrong. Last year he saw some top-six minutes, but this year he plays more regularly and he's meeting the requirement. He still has a well-above-average shooting percentage, but he's contributing in every zone and in every situation.

The second star goes to Phillip Danault. I projected him to pivot the fourth line and put up offensive numbers to match. He’s now seen time on the first trio, and not looked out of place while doing so. His production jumped accordingly, and he’s very close to the production of a true second-line centreman. He might become the next Tomas Plekanec for the team.

The third star is Artturi Lehkonen. Fellow writer Patrik Bexell was warning us and was very enthusiastic about the rookie (yes, it is just his rookie season). I was more cautious with him, and anything between 10 to 15 goals would have made me happy. I'm now convinced about his abilities; he's clearly top-six material.

The metronomes

Max Pacioretty went from looking at a season of 16 goals to a pace of 38; another 30-plus-goal season. He doubled his shooting percentage during the second quarter. We are only halfway through, and he might fall into another slump, but as long as he keeps generating shots, the opportunities will come.

Of course it depends on with whom he plays. Let's talk about the player on his opposite wing. Alexander Radulov is a welcome addition this year. He is constantly contributing to the offence. Some wish he would score more, but when he doesn't score he creates plays for his teammates, and therefore is one of their most consistent offensive players.

The deceptions

It's been a tough year for Brendan Gallagher. He is injured once again, but even before being on the receiving end of Shea Weber’s slap shot, he wasn't rewarded for his efforts.

Daniel Carr, who has a similar style, has had his difficulties, too.

Andrew Shaw is having relative success, but his meagre 15-goal pace isn’t due to the same type of slump for Gallagher and Carr.

Let's conclude with Plekanec. It has been ugly for the veteran. He had a bit of a boost lately with a three-game goal-scoring streak, so let's hope he can catch up a little bit, because his contribution will be needed in the home stretch.

Defencemen

PLAYER GP G Pace G Exp. G P Pace P Exp. P iSF iSh%
Nathan Beaulieu 35 2 5 5 14 33 30 57 3.5
Shea Weber (A) 41 10 20 10 26 52 40 100 10.0
Andrei Markov (A) 31 2 5 7 21 56 40 44 4.6
Jeff Petry 40 8 16 7 21 43 36 96 8.3
Alexei Emelin 39 1 2 3 4 8 10 43 2.3
Greg Pateryn 19 1 4 5 5 22 16 19 5.3
Mark Barberio 17 0 4 4 2 10 22 23 0.0
Zach Redmond 8 0 0 4 4 41 14 4 0.0
Joel Hanley 7 0 0 2 0 0 10 5 0.0
Ryan Johnston 6 0 0 2 0 0 10 2 0.0

The star

Jeff Petry has seen a major boost in his production this season, and is making his name known around the league.

The deceptions

All the rookies called to replace injured veterans have been rather quiet, except for Zach Redmond who has no goals but a few assists. While the sample size is very small, the team will very much appreciate the return of The General.

The others

Weber started strong with eight goals in his first 20 games, but has just two in the last 21. His conversion rate may not stay like that, but don't get discouraged if the second part of the season is more quiet than the first. Other teams (Eastern Conference clubs haven’t seen a whole lot of him in his career) have adjusted to his game. With Alex Galchenyuk back in the mix, penalty-kill units won’t be able to key solely on Weber anymore.

Nathan Beaulieu is meeting the low expectations I outlined for him, thinking that he would stay on the third pair. The injury to Andrei Markov gave him the opportunity to shine, but except for a three-point game, it was rather quiet for him.

Alexei Emelin is ... well, Emelin. More minutes while moving into a top-pairing role doesn't equate to more points. Would Beaulieu produce more given those minutes alongside Weber?

Conclusion

Some players are having challenges, but I have to give credit to Michel Therrien and the coaching staff. Despite the injuries, they have found a way to produce more goals than last year.

Therrien has trusted rookie Artturi Lehkonen. He tried Beaulieu with Weber, even if it was for too short a time. He gave Nikita Scherbak time to use his skills on the power play in his first NHL game. And Michael McCarron was given a good shot in his time with the team.

Marc Bergevin didn't go for a trade to patch up the team. He's giving the kids opportunities (except for the unlucky Charles Hudon, I suppose) to get some NHL experience.

A lot of players are performing near the peak of their abilities, while the ones who aren’t have done so in the past, and the team will need everyone on the edge as they go on a charge toward a Stanley Cup.