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Game #71 – Hawks vs. Canadiens Q&A: Andrew Berkshire of Sportsnet

We went big-timing for this one. A Saturday night in Montreal calls for that. Andrew Berkshire is the analytics dude for Sportsnet north of The Wall. Follow him @AndrewBerkshire.

Metrically, the Canadiens are one of the better teams around. Claude Julien has transitioned them to a pretty quick team that plays that way. Their PDO is fine, they get decent goaltending. So why is this team barely scratching away for a playoff spot?
There’s a few things that the public data misses about the Canadiens, the first thing is that they’re one of the league’s worst pass defence teams. Opponents don’t have much trouble zipping the puck through lanes in the Habs’ end, and even if the Canadiens aren’t giving up a ton of chances, the ones they do give up are of high quality.
The other factor is that while their metrics look great at 5-vs-5, they’re godawful on special teams. Price had phenomenal penalty killing numbers for most of the season, even while he was struggling, and that hid their ineptitude there. Most of the focus is on the powerplay, but the penalty kill has been nearly as bad. Those are the issues currently holding them back.
At the time of the trade, we thought the Have got the worst of the Domi-for-Galchenyuk trade. Um…whoops?
I think at the time of the trade that was a relatively logical assumption, Galchenyuk was being traded at his lowest value, and Domi had always seemed a little lost offensively in Arizona after his rookie season. There’s something in the water in Arizona that just prevents goal scoring. Galchenyuk is having a pretty awful offensive season, and the only Coyotes forward with more points is Clayton Keller, and he leads the team in goals with 15. How is Arizona in a playoff position? (watch a Western Conference game sometime -ED)
Domi was taken from what looks like a situation that is the death of offence, and was dropped into a system that appears to be tailor made for his playing style. Lots of attacking off the rush with speed, and he has free reign to skate the puck through the neutral zone. I think it might be the perfect situation for an underrated player. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also playing secondary minutes now too. The Gallagher line is the primary one, and Domi can focus on secondary matchups.
We’ve tried making the case that Jesperi Kotkaniemi should be a Selke candidate. Even if he’s not now, how many will he win before he’s through? 12? 15? 27 as they give him bonus ones?
I loved this article by Olivier Bouchard on Kotkaniemi’s defensive play. He certainly looks like a budding star defensive forward, but between the tail end of Patrice Bergeron‘s career and the rise of Aleksander Barkov, we might be waiting a long while for him to win one.
Has Victor Mete finally broken through with Julien?
I think Julien’s usage of Mete has been pretty strong since he broke into the league, he didn’t want to overload him and probably still doesn’t. As much as Mete has improved, I think the reason he’s used a bunch right now has more to do with the cavernous hole Montreal has on the left side defence than anything.
Seriously, how do you give up eight to the Ducks?
A great question! I’m not sure if the emotional rollercoaster the Habs were riding the first 50 games of the season has broken down or if that 3-0 blown lead against the Maple Leafs broke their confidence, but they’re playing pretty awful lately. Somehow, awful enough to give up eight to the Ducks.


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