The Montreal Canadiens are off to a 9-8-1 start to the 2013-14 season, and some impressive stats have helped get them there.
Despite all the injuries the Habs have endured this season, the Canadiens still sit in a playoff position through 18 games. The best news is that help is on the way.
Max Pacioretty is back and appears to be shaking off the rust that comes with a leg injury. Daniel Briere looks set to return against the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 12, as Canadiens.com reports, and Alexei Emelin should suit up this weekend. Brandon Prust should also be back soon.
All things considered, coach Michel Therrien should be pleased with where his club sits after 18 games.
Here's a look at the five most impressive stats that have helped the Montreal Canadiens early in 2013-14.
For the first time in many, many years, Habs fans have reason to be excited about the future of the Canadiens forwards. And for the time being, we get to witness them grow as a line.
When Michel Therrien decided to unite the three youngsters as a trio to start the 2013-14 season, he was likely hoping for some offense. He surely wasn't expecting this:
With an average age of 21.3, it would have been a bold prediction in September to say that the Kid Line would be Montreal's best night in and night out. But that's exactly what has happened.
The line brings energy each and every night by doing it all on the ice. They skate. They hit. They crash the net. They control the puck. They shoot. And they score.
Galchenyuk's 14 points lead all Montreal forwards in scoring, and he is just three off P.K. Subban's pace of 17. Gallagher and Eller are tied for fourth with 12 points apiece.
The line's best night of the season came in Montreal's most recent game against the New York Islanders on November 10.
The trio were named the game's three stars, with Galchenyuk (1G, 2A) taking home the first star, Gallagher (1G, 1A) the second and Eller (1G, 2A) the third.
The Kid Line has taken Montreal by storm, and there's no reason to think they'll be letting up anytime soon. These youngsters are here to stay.
The Montreal Canadiens are enjoying some stellar play from both of their goaltenders early in 2013-14.
Carey Price needed a bounce-back year after his horrendous finish to 2013, and he has responded in a big way.
The 26-year-old netminder has 7-7-1 record, but his accompanying stats show that he probably deserves a few more wins. He currently has a 2.20 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage to go along with one shutout.
Backup Peter Budaj has enjoyed his minimal action in 2013-14 as well. The 31-year-old Slovak sports a 1.34 GAA and a ridiculous .953 save percentage. He has only played in three games, of course, but he's done the job when called upon nonetheless.
Perhaps their success can be attributed to Stephane Waite. The former Chicago Blackhawks goalie coach, who had incredible success tutoring Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford, was hired by the Canadiens this past offseason. Waite's presence has certainly had an effect on Montreal's goaltenders.
Both are playing calmer between the pipes and are relying more on positioning than ever before. They are rarely caught out of position and always seem to be square to the shooter.
It was crucial that Montreal's goalies step up in 2013-14, and so far they have. The Canadiens give up a lot of shots against and they need their goaltenders to be solid each and every night.
The Montreal Canadiens power play is firing on all cylinders as we approach 20 games played of the 2013-14 season.
While up a man, the Habs are scoring at a 24.6-percent rate, good for second-best in the NHL (behind Washington's 26.7 percent). They have totaled 17 total power play goals on 69 opportunities through 18 games.
There is little secret as to how Montreal succeeds with the man advantage. P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov run the show from the point and there isn't a better back-end duo in the world right now.
Subban is tied for the lead league in power-play points by a defenseman with nine (2 goals, 7 assists). Markov has a goal and four assists and seems to be instrumental in just about every goal Montreal scores while up a man.
Tomas Plekanec leads the forwards with three goals and four assists, while sophomore Alex Galchenyuk has five points (all assists).
But it's all about Subban and Markov once the opposing team gets two minutes or more. Markov's incredible vision teams up perfectly with P.K.'s lethal one-timer to anchor one of the most exciting power plays in the league.
Montreal's power play will likely go as far as Subban and Markov can take them this season. Assuming they both stay healthy, there's no reason the Canadiens shouldn't finish in the top five in power-play statistics in 2013-14.
After stumbling to an ugly 79.8-percent penalty-kill rate in 2012-13, Michel Therrien surely went back to the drawing board in the offseason. The changes he made are definitely working so far this season.
The Canadiens' much-improved penalty kill is a big reason for their moderate success in 2013-14.
Through 18 games, the Canadiens are killing off opponents' power plays at an 85.1-percent efficiency, good for 10th overall in the league. They had even reached the fifth-best mark in the NHL as recently as November 6, before allowing two power-play goals to the New York Islanders.
The Canadiens are even scoring while short-handed—their three goals while at a man disadvantage are three more than they had all of last season.
Personnel choices and shot blocking seem to be the biggest reason for Montreal's penalty-killing success so far this year.
Therrien has decided to allow his more skilled forwards to help while short-handed this season, which is a stark contrast from last year.
Both Max Pacioretty and Brian Gionta have seen their short-handed time-on-ice increase this season, replacing some not-so-skilled players like Jeff Halpern and Colby Armstrong.
This has added speed and puck control to Montreal's penalty kill. The Canadiens' forwards are able to put more pressure on opponents as they try to break out. They're also much better at holding the puck when they get possession, which helps them take precious seconds off the clock.
Shot blocking has also helped Montreal take a giant leap in their penalty kill. The Habs lead the league in total shots blocked this season, a stat so impressive that it needs its own slide.
The Canadiens knew they would have to make an extra effort on team defense when some impact players were hurt early in the season. Michel Therrien asked his players to commit to shot blocking, and they certainly listened.
Through 18 games the Canadiens lead the entire NHL with 350 blocked shots. That's 38 more than the next-best team in the league, the Edmonton Oilers.
The Habs are averaging 19.4 blocked shots per game, and there have been a handful of games this season where they blocked more shots as a team than their goalie made saves. They even set the NHL record for blocks in a game with 38 against the St. Louis Blues on November 5, as reported by Brenda Branswell of The Montreal Gazette.
From an individual standpoint, Josh Gorges leads the club and is third in the league with 47 blocked shots. Fellow defender Andrei Markov is second (T-4th in NHL) with 46, while Raphael Diaz is third with 43 (T-9th in NHL).
While the shot-blocking total of the Canadiens is very impressive, it does show that as a team they're giving up far too many shots.
Adding the 19.4 blocks to the 30.7 shots against per game means the Habs are allowing their opponents just over 50 attempts at the net on a nightly basis. And that's not even including shots that miss the net.
The Canadiens are going to need to clean up their defensive play in order to be successful moving forward. The opposition has had far too much puck control in the Canadiens zone and that has led to an insanely high number of shot attempts.
Opposing teams have been able to direct far too many pucks at Carey Price and Peter Budaj so far in 2013-14. They Canadiens have done a nice job in helping out their goaltenders with blocks to date, but reducing the amount of shots attempted by their opponents will be key in moving forward.