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What are the margins for victory for the Montreal Canadiens?

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The Canadiens have been skirting disaster with the way they play for a very long time, but it's become an even worse situation late in the season.

Eliot J. Schechter

In the month of March, Carey Price has a record of just 4-4-2, essentially, four wins and six losses. He has that record in spite of stopping 94.1% of the shots on his net, allowing just 1.9 goals against per game. Of his four wins, three of them were shutouts, while the other was a 35 save performance where his shutout was broken by an errant Max Pacioretty pass to Josh Bailey in the slot with under three minutes left.

Essentially, in order for Price to win games right now, he has to be perfect. Not good, not even great, perfect. That's too much to ask.

The Canadiens have had their share of poor shooting luck over this stretch, scoring on just 5.2% of their even strength shots, which is very tough to weather, but good teams can do it with a goaltender like Price behind them.

The bigger factor is that during March, the Canadiens have dropped from a 49.1% even strength possession team that got 48.7% of the scoring chances, to a 44.9% even strength possession team that gets just 42.3% of scoring chances each game.

Heading into March, the Canadiens had a poor, but not deadly scoring chance differential of -66 on the year at even strength, and -144 in all situations. In March alone, the Habs have a scoring chance differential of -79 at even strength, and -105 in all situations.

What this means is that through 62 games, Montreal gave up on average 1.06 more even strength scoring chances than they got, and 2.32 more in all situations than they got. Over the last 12 games, they're giving up 6.58 more scoring chances per game than they're getting at even strength, and 8.75 more in all situations. The only team worse over that time is the Buffalo Sabres.

If we assume that Price continues to play at his season average in the playoffs, and the Canadiens don't bounce back closer to what they were doing earlier in the season (which for the record was still awful and far below their talent level), they would need to score on 11.1% of their shots on average in order to win games.

For argument's sake, we can look at how often the Canadiens have maintained a shooting percentage that high this season over seven game periods, since we're talking about the playoffs.

Rolling SH%

As it turns out, the odds aren't so good.

But we know that as bad as the tactics deployed by the Canadiens coaching staff are, this isn't the norm for them either. This is worrying though. The Canadiens can talk about good puck placement, quality shots, and point to the record all they'd like, but the way they're playing even record shattering goaltending can't overcome. There needs to be changes made, and quickly, to turn this boat around.

The bottom line is that the way Carey Price has played has little to nothing to do with the 18 skaters in front of him on any given night, but they still have huge impacts on wins and losses. They owe him a lot more than they've given him all season. Wasting one of the best goaltending performances in history would be inexcusable. The skaters and coaches need to step up.