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Canadiens Analysis

Lessons The Montreal Canadiens Can Learn From Playoff Teams

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With the Montreal Canadiens preparing to take the next step in their rebuild it’s important to keep a close eye on the teams that are already finding success in the NHL.

Of course, elite talent plays a big part.

It’s very difficult to qualify, let alone make noise in the playoffs if your team lacks star players.

There are a few exceptions to the rule here and there, but for the most part, it’s rather simple. Teams with four or more stars tend to be those who are labelled as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

Team Benchmarks

Beyond the individual stars, it’s also important for teams to have healthy underlying numbers. The two basic statistics used to determine the form of a team tend to be shot share (CF%), and expected goal share (xGF%).

Shot share is self-explanatory. If you control more than 50 percent of the shots, you tend to score more goals than your opponent. And as we all know, goals are rather important in hockey.

As for the expected goal share, it’s a little more involved than shot share, but to keep it simple, it uses shot quality among other statistics to anticipate which team is expected to score more goals in the future.

Why are those statistics important?

Well, there’s a strong correlation between teams that control both the CF% and the xGF% throughout the regular season and playoff success.

To give you an idea of how it’s working out in the 2024 NHL playoffs, we can simply list the top 10 teams during the regular season and cross reference their current status.

There will always be outliers, but as you can see in the table below, having a strong share of the shots during the regular season correlates quite well with playoff success.

The two top CF% teams have already advanced to the second round, whereas the top six teams have either advanced or are currently involved in playoff hockey.

You’ll note two significant outliers on the list: the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers. However, it should also be noted that both the Devils and the Flyers were among the bottom five teams in the NHL in team save percentage.

In other words, a strong share of the shots is important, but at the very least, you need a goaltender who can provide average numbers throughout the season if qualifying for the playoffs is in the cards.

Expected Goal Share (xGF%)

If we repeat the exercise by listing the top 10 xGF% teams, we can see that for the most part, strong numbers in the regular season tend to lead to springtime hockey.

Of the top six teams during the season, two have already advanced to the second round, whereas the other four managed to qualify for the playoffs.

top xgf teams compared to Montreal Canadiens

 

Once again, the Devils and the Flyers stand out as outliers, and there’s one team that is suspiciously absent on our lists, despite having a very good regular season.

The New York Rangers are quite the anomaly from a statistical analysis perspective. They ranked 19th in shot share (50.1 CF%) and 22nd in expected goal share (49 xGF%).

This flies in the face of our theory, at least to a certain extent.

But a closer look at the Rangers’ numbers reveals they’re also one of the best special teams clubs in the league, not to mention they have five stars in their lineup.

Keeping an eye on shot share and expected goal share gives us a good idea of how teams will do, but there are always other factors at play in hockey.

Montreal Canadiens Brass Tacks

The Habs had a much better second half of the season, at least from an underlying numbers point of view. But despite the improvements, they finished as the fourth-worst NHL club in shot share (45.6 CF%).

They improved their overall ability to control the expected goals, but they still finished 26th in the NHL (46.4 xGF%).

This doesn’t necessarily mean they have no chance to qualify for the playoffs next season. As Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes explained, the upcoming summer will be a crucial phase in the team’s rebuild.

The Canadiens will have more than 15 million in available salary cap space, not to mention an embarrassment of riches when it comes to their draft capital.

But it does serve as a good reminder that there is certainly a lot of work left to do before we can suggest the Montreal Canadiens are ready to compete for a Stanley Cup.


All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via Natural Stat Trick.

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Peter

The stats make them better players.

Rick A Robinson

I believe they are 1left winger from playoff if everyone stays Health … so let’s say 2. Wingers 1 right 1 left trade 2. Defensemen left side

morrisk

Not sure I agree with this…at least half anyway.

It is NOT necessary to have elite superstars on your team to win/make it to a Cup.

Vegas and FL were testament to that last season.

So was STL in 2019.

Heck, so were the Habs in 2021…

And this season, nobody on FL or CAR or DAL or Vegas had 100 pts – and I can’t name anyone on these teams who is a flat-out elite superstar. Yet each of these 4 teams has a legit shot at winning the Cup.

So it can happen – and it does happen…and reasonably often.

Last edited 24 days ago by morrisk
Captain Kirk

Car, Dallas, LV all have good depth. Dallas has 6? 20 goal scorers? FL less so and FL is now out. Eichel may or may not be a superstar but he would be a #1C on at least 29, 30 teams.

morrisk

FL is not out…still in.

Also, Eichel would be the top C on half the teams in the NHL…at most. Not even on the Habs – Nikki would still be #1.

Very good players across the board means depth…depth and effort and a hot goalie is what it takes. That’s why CAR advanced and Tampa did not.

Greg

Florida is out? Funny, thought it was them who eliminated Tampa.

Greg

Why. Do. You. Writers keep using Corsi? It’s a bs stat, and it means nothing. Since when does 5 on 5 plus minus mean anything? Call it Corsi For% all you like, it means nothing.

Call it what it is: 5on5 +/-. Then drown Fenwick, NOBODY understands that dreck stat.Dont get me started on Corsi-Fenwick.

Stat names should be RELEVANT. Not named after some geek who decided +/- needs to be put in smaller packets. How do you expect a child to understand Fenwick? I doubt even the people who quote it know.

I think the only value expected goals has is in overpaying 30 point players because they “drive play.” Contract negotiations and nowhere else.