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The Montreal Canadiens continue to play inefficient hockey

The Habs are actually a positive possession team in the playoffs, but their possession advantage hasn't translated. Why not?

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens have been a flat out bad possession team for the last two seasons. Their 47.6% share of shot attempts at even strength over that time ranks 25th in the entire league, better than only Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado, Toronto, and Buffalo.

Given that information, the fact that the Canadiens have a 51.6% possession rate (shot attempts) through eight playoff games, against two very strong possession teams down the stretch in the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning, is impressive.

The problem is that the way the Canadiens are playing is essentially the exact same as the regular season, they're just slightly more aggressive, executing plays at a higher success rate, with certain players putting up incredible individual performances (specifically Torrey Mitchell and Lars Eller). There hasn't been a shift in tactics, and the extra shots the Canadiens are generating? Well they're not of the high quality variety.

To explain what I mean, watch this video from Steve Valiquette at MSG:

If while watching that video, the first thing you think is "The Habs never seem to pass or skate across the royal road", congratulations, you've identified the biggest problem the Canadiens have in terms of scoring.

In fact, if you take a look at the three goals Montreal has scored in their series with Tampa Bay, I don't think any of them are what Valiquette dubs 'green shots'. You could argue that Bishop was screened on the goals by Jeff Petry or Tom Gilbert, but from that far out and with that little traffic, I think he just got beat by good shots from bad areas.

The Canadiens' attack off the rush is almost always the same, and since we have the luxury to do so, let's let Michel Therrien explain it himself.

What Michel Therrien is explaining in that video, is that the goal of the Canadiens upon entering the zone should be to bring the puck wide, and take a low percentage shot from the boards hoping for a rebound for another player driving through the middle of the ice. Sound familiar?

That kind of play can and does work from time to time, but when you're playing against the same team over and over, it's easy enough to adjust. As long as Tampa Bay can outnumber the Habs in the slot, or Ben Bishop can control the rebound on a red shot, the chances of scoring goals that way is around four percent. Low and behold, the Habs' shooting percentage over their last six games is 3.26%.

Are the Canadiens still getting unlucky in terms of goal conversion? Of course they are. There are good chances sprinkled in every game, but nowhere near what you would expect when you look at the number of shots they're putting up.

The Canadiens aren't catching any breaks, but they aren't helping themselves either, and that has to change if they want to win even one game against the Lightning.