Andrei Vasilevskiy was the difference in a game the Habs deserved to win
The Canadiens played very well, but the opposing netminder allowed them just a single goal.
If you watch enough science fiction, you’re familiar with the Multiverse Theory. Basically, for every possible outcome of any event, a parallel universe is created. That means that there is a world where the Montreal Canadiens won last night. There is a world where they capitalized on at least two more of the scoring chances that they had.
I would even argue that Montreal won in more universes than they lost due to their commanding lead on the stats sheet. That being said, the theory would also suggest that there’s a universe out there with a Detroit vs. Buffalo Stanley Cup Final in which I’m a Leafs fan, so let’s not go too crazy.
Last night, in all situations, Montreal had 67 shot attempts, 43 shots on goal, and 35 scoring chances. The Tampa Bay Lightning mustered 25 scoring chances. That’s why it cannot be overstated how well Vasilevskiy played.
With moral victories and sci-fi tropes aside, there’s a very tangible thing called “regressing to the mean.” Basically, you can only outperform the average for so long. But with Andrei Vasilevskiy as the X-factor, what’s his average?
Last night he played so well that he outperformed his expected goals against by two. If we’re waiting for that to regress then we may have to keep on waiting. During the regular season, Vasilevskiy had 20.8 goals saved above expected over the course of 42 games. Denying the opposition of goals they should have scored is just what he does.
At the opposite end, Montreal’s goalkeeper had an NHL-average night in net. If you take away that last goal off of the Edmundson turnover, then you get two goals allowed on 1.8 expected goals.
This isn’t meant to be critical of Carey Price, but goaltending like that isn’t what got the team to the Stanley Cup Final. Of all the goalies that were in the playoffs this year he’s in second place in the goals saved above expected category for a reason. And of course, Vasilevskiy is number one.
So, here’s where I see the team after last night. Price certainly wasn’t the problem, but could have played better. to hold the Lightning to fewer goals The Habs’ offence was great at creating opportunities but still needs to find inefficiencies in Vasilevskiy’s game to start capitalizing on more of them. And Montreal’s defence was overall fine, only allowing seven high-danger shot attempts against, but did make a couple of critical mistakes that ultimately cost them the game.
I guess at the end of the day there’s a world out there where Montreal won. And it can’t be far removed from this one.