Habs as Predicted Under Claude Julien?

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When you want something really bad and you have been extremely vocal publicly about it, it is a normal tendency to refuse to see the negative effects once you get what you desired. After all, saving face after repetitive harsh words is quite important, particularly if you want to be taken seriously by your peers… on Twitter of all places! 

The #FireTherrien hashtag has been floating around for a few years already, and got stronger last year after the Montreal Canadiens’ monumental collapse in the second half of the season. Fans and media were leading a witch hunt campaign with torches and pitchforks to chase the head coach out of town in spite of a show of confidence by General Manager Marc Bergevin. The “fox hole” comments by the GM got quite the run amongst those wanting both of them out and it only got worse when the team traded fan-favourite P.K. Subban this past summer.

And when finally, on February 14th, Bergevin did let Michel Therrien go to replace him by Claude Julien, recently fired himself by the Boston Bruins, that crowd felt like all of the Canadiens’ problems were finally behind them. Personally, while I wasn’t in full support of Therrien and some of his decisions, I felt like his system of pressuring the puck in all three zones, particularly his two-men forecheck in the offensive zone, was a wind of fresh air after coming out of the offense-smothering, five-men back check in front of your net system of his predecessor Jacques Martin. For that reason, while I wasn’t doubting Julien’s track record, it raised some concerns in my mind about the team going back to that boring style of defensive hockey.

Bruins find their offense

One of the biggest issues this season with the Bruins has been scoring goals. While the team is 10th in the NHL allowing 2.59 goals per game, they are 16th in goals score per game at 2.73, which includes the games post-Julien. Since Claude Julien was fired and was replaced by Bruce Cassidy back on February 7th, the Boston Bruins have a 7-2-0 record. Since then, the team has found an offensive jolt, having scored 34 goals (3.78 goals per game) while only allowing 19 (2.11 goals per game). Nine games is a small sample, no doubt about it, and it’s unlikely that they will keep that tendency over the long run, but Cassidy has found a way to get the offensive juices flowing with his team which, let’s admit it, doesn’t have a lot of big names on it, something Julien had no answers for this season prior to his firing.

Habs are winning games

Since Julien replaced Therrien at the helm, the Canadiens are also showing great results, with a 5-2-0 record. The 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators was Julien’s first win in regulation time since taking over the team, with three of the wins coming in overtime and one in a shootout.

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Carey Price has found his game

Carey Pricewho had been horrible since mid-December, has found his mojo. Under Julien, Price has a saves percentage of .947 and he has not allowed more than two goals in a game since then. The jury is divided when it comes to deciding if the change is due to the system or if Price had refused to play under Therrien for the past couple of months.

So everything is good, right? Well not if you follow the game watching the #Habs hashtag on Twitter, where fans and media alike (particularly one from The Gazette who shall remain nameless), are chastising them for their lack of goals’ scoring.

The Julien effect?

The Canadiens, like the Bruins, are in the middle of the pack in the NHL, averaging 2.72 goals for per game, good for 17th in the league. That stat includes the seven games played under Julien where the team has only scored a grand total of 13 goals, or 1.86 goals per game. For the season, the Habs are 23rd in the NHL averaging 29.2 shots per game. Since Julien took over, they manage on average 27 shots per game. For the amateurs of fancy stats (which I’m not), the team is 3rd in the NHL for SAT% at 52.35%. Since Julien, they are at 51.7%.

That said, it’s defensively that we were hoping to notice the biggest difference. For the season, the Canadiens rank 20th in shots against per game with 29.9 and they average exactly the same average under Julien. Price has just been much better, which resulted in fewer goals against, as the team has only allowed 15 goals since the change (2.14 goals against per game), compared to the season average of 2.49, which puts them 6th best in the NHL in that department.

So aside from Price, what exactly is the biggest difference since Julien has taken over? The penalty kill has been outstanding. The Habs are 20th overall on the PK with a success rate of 80.1%, but since February 14th, the team has successfully killed 15 out of 17 penalties, with a success rate of 88.2%. To give you an idea of what this means, the Bruins lead the NHL with a 86.0% success rate. The Canadiens are also more disciplined under Julien. For the season, they have been short-handed 221 times in 65 games (3.4 times per game) but since Julien took over, they have been short-handed 17 times in seven games (2.4 times per game).

So as you can see, Price picking up his game and the penalty kill not allowing as many goals are the biggest improvements so far since Claude Julien has taken over. The offense has, in fact, suffered and that, in spite of the team getting back on his winning way. Obviously, we need a bigger sample of games before jumping to conclusions but let’s just hope that the tendencies change soon, as this team might not make it out of the first round of the playoffs if they don’t. Go Habs Go!

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What If The Sky Was Falling?

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Have you ever wondered, in your life, what would your world be if something different had happened? Everything as you know it would be different for the most part. What if you won the lottery? What if you could go back in time? What if there really is a boogeyman? What if the cow really jumped over the moon? What if the world ends tomorrow? What if hockey was just a sport instead of a matter of life and death? What if the sky was really falling? What if there were no hypothetical questions?

Let’s take some time to reflect on what would our world would be if some things happened with your beloved Montreal Canadiens, and how it would affect you and what it would do to the Twitter world, your favourite blogs, the media.

What if… Claude Julien doesn’t find a way to improve the Canadiens and they keep on sliding in the standing?

What if… Marc Bergevin doesn’t complete a substantial trade before the March first trade deadline because the asking prices are too high?

What if… Bergevin does pull the trigger and jeopardises the future of the organisation by trading, let’s say, Mikhail Sergachev?

What if… Max Pacioretty, who has been carrying the biggest part of the offensive load this season, turns cold?

What if… Alexander Radulov and Claude Julien don’t see eye to eye?

What if… Carey Price can’t find his Mojo and return to the goaltender that we know he is?

What if… Alex Galchenyuk‘s antics off the ice are truly affecting his on-ice performances and ultimately, the team?

What if… Shea Weber is truly on the down side of his career or at the end of the roll?

What if… Andrei Markov decides to retire at the end of this season or… if he asks for too much and/or for too long of a term on a new contract?

What if… David Desharnais becomes Claude Julien’s favourite player and overplays him at the eyes of Michel Therrien‘s detractors?

What if… the pundits surrounding the Habs decide to turn on Julien and realise that he’s much like Therrien in their eyes?

What if… the Canadiens don’t make it past the first round of the playoffs, perhaps even eliminated by the Boston Bruins?

What if… the rumours are true and Carey Price doesn’t want to re-sign with the Canadiens after his current contract?

What if… the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup this season?

 

A Canucks and Canadiens trade?

All we keep hearing about these days in the trade rumours surrounding the Canadiens is the talks about Matt Duchene and, to a lesser level now, the names of Martin Hanzal and Brian Boyle. Yet, it is well known that Marc Bergevin believes in defensive depth and that while Alexei Emelin is having a pretty good year playing alongside Shea Weber, Bergevin would like to get an improvement over the rugged Russian defenseman.

People who follow me know that while I am a die-hard Habs’ fan, I have developed a soft spot for the Vancouver Canucks since the good days of King Richard Brodeur way back in the 80’s. They also know that I live in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and that I do get to see most of the Canucks’ games.

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Alexander Edler

Folks, if he agreed to waive his no-trade clause, I can pretty much guarantee that the Canucks would be happy to part ways with left-handed defenseman Alexander Edler. The Canucks are tight to the cap and Edler has two years remaining after this season, at a cap hit of $5 million per season.  On a team offensively challenged, the 30 year-old defenseman who stands at 6’3″ 214 lbs, has 14 points so far this season and he has had seasons anywhere from 20 to 49 points per season in his career.

Edler, for those of you who don’t get the chance to watch him play, is a smooth skating defenseman, shoots from the left and usually makes good first passes out of his zone. He is somewhat physical, averaging 1.8 hits/GP, which is exactly like Jeff Petry and Shea Weber on the Canadiens. He is a going point man on the powerplay and he has a heavy shot, although not always accurate with it. He is also prone for the odd “brain cramp” with a bad pass at the wrong time, but those are rather few and far between.

He would be a good policy for ageing Andrei Markov and an ideal partner for Weber. While wild rumours circulated about the Habs having a scout in Vancouver looking at Alex Burrows, Edler is the guy who, for me, makes the most sense on the Canucks. At the very least, Marc Bergevin should give Jim Benning a call as they would probably take a salary dump in return as well as a good prospect.