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"Quasi GM"
Moncton, NB • Canada • 37 Years Old • Male
Montreal scored a whole four goals in four games.

It's only four games in, surely! They're generating 38.8 shots per game! By my calculation, that leaves the team with a collective ~2.5% shooting percentage. So if stats guys are right, then their gambler's fallacy will tell them that this shooting percentage will shoot up to about 9-9.5% soon enough and they'll be scoring 3 or 4 goals per game after beating a team something like 12-1 to make up for all the goals that didn't happen in the other four games!

(Just ignore the preseason, where omitting that fiasco against the Senators, it was more of the same).

Maybe (but your record is still not going to look so great if you save all your goals for one game).

For those who still use the good ole eye test, you can clearly see where that offense is anemic.

Watch the first ten minutes of the Vegas Golden Knight home opener vs. the desert dogs and then compare it with the four games the Canadiens have played, and you'll see a clear difference. Or even, (heaven forbid!), watch the Maple Leafs and see the difference between a team that has a 16.5% shooting percentage and one that has a 2.5% shooting percentage. You'll get to on Saturday night. (Though I may have just jinxed them like I jinxed Nashville vs. the Penguins).

If the game continues trends, it'll go like this: Montreal will establish 5 minutes of dominant zone pressure, and then Toronto will come back and score. Boom, one nothing. Then Montreal will get a 5-3 power play, do nothing, and as soon as the penalties are over... Matthews gets the puck off a pretty feed in the high slot and then boom, two nothing. The game will then end up 6-2, Montreal having outshot Toronto 42-22, but still getting the bad result.

So having watched NJ a lot, I can immediately diagnose the problem. Too many defensive defensemen. In baseball, when teams get on base but then get to three outs before those runners hit home, then you "strand the runners"; similarly, in hockey, if your defense is not offensive enough, you "strand the offense".

In hockey, though this won't show up on many stats sheets except those guys who calculate xGF% vs GF%, the "kinds" of goals scored are just as important as the quantity. Some of those kinds of goals are the following: slap shots, one timers, tip-ins, turnovers, rush, individual effort, outskating, outtempo, and quick release to name most of the broader categories. Each of these types of goals involve your defensemen to some extent, other than turnovers. When you're scoring off of turnovers, that's all energy players and centers who are really good at forcing them. Most of these are generated on zone pressure, such as slaps, one timers, tips, and sometimes turnover and quick release. Some are generated from the rush.

Now just like the NFL, if your goals all come in the same way, the defending teams adapt to the offense and limit chances generated in that particular fashion. If all of your goals come off the one-timer, they're going to do man-on-man coverage. If all your goals come off of individual effort, they're going to stick their best shadows on those guys, the Keslers, the Kadris, etc. In the NFL, if you only throw and never rush, your throw offense will be punished because it's being adapted to: if both are a threat, it keeps the defense guessing.

Montreal's defensemen put together barely have a hundred assists from last year. Karlsson alone had more than fifty. When you have Karlssons, your 20 goal scorers become 30 goal scorers. When you have Alzners, your 20 goal scorers become 10 goal scorers, because they're always forced out of scoring positions.

So why did the General Manager (Bergevin) let Markov walk and pick up Alzner when the scoring woes had deeply afflicted the Habs in the playoffs? Why did he let an energy guy like Radulov go? Unfortunately, free agent casualties are not always the GM's choice. Being prudent at this job can sometimes mean saying no to next year for the good of the organization perennially, but what exactly was his plan going into this year without picking up suitable replacements? Victor Mete?

And he gave up some of the team's future in order to get Drouin, who's a lot like Radulov, but sending a high end defensive prospect away to get him, leaving them a little dry in the D-partment.

How are you going to generate, for example, goals on the rush, when your defense has a hard time accruing assists? There are some guys who can generate a lot of offense on the rush, like Galchenyuk... who'll sadly be neglected if he's playing wing on a team that can't transition and plays dump and chase hockey only.

Now you're that NFL team that plays a running game (zone pressure hockey) because its quarterback is a liability. Except they're almost always going to stop the run, and half your drives will be three and outs, while the other half will run 10 minutes off the game clock and result in a field goal. If you happen to fall early to the other team, now you get to play from a position of discomfort, where your defensive team has to somehow muster up a great deal of offense to do anything.

I hope Victor Mete scores 40 assists for Montreal, but if he doesn't, them I'm afraid that icing Jordie Benn, Karl Alzner, Mark Streit, and Jeff Petry every game isn't going to cut it. And as long as your offense from the D is as static and politically correct as it is, it's going to be a long year of hoping for fluke goals and praising the individual efforts of Phillip Danault stripping the puck from the defender and scoring.

GM Bergevin gets an F for his offseason for not only failing to address the team's scoring woes, but putting it in the terrible position of making it even worse and forcing their D to work on their offense.

As for the Canadiens, after getting off to what will probably be a really bad start to the season, something like 5-13-2 (but who knows?), the defense will settle in and they may end the season strong on the back of about 50 straight 2-1 grindy games.

NJ did that for like ten years! Good luck, Montreal!
Filed Under:   Montreal   offense   defense   Bettman   Canadiens  
March 9, 2021 8:55 AM ET | Delete
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