James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Galchenyuk carries the puck.
Puck possession is not an official stat kept by the NHL, but if it was, you can be sure that the Montreal Canadiens would not rank very well.
Any casual hockey fan watching a Montreal Canadiens hockey game is able to notice that they simply aren't in control of the puck very often.
In their own end, opponents are able to sustain pressure for lengths of time with relative ease. The Canadiens are often caught chasing the other team around for entire shifts.
On offense, the Canadiens are often a "one-and-done" team, where they muster just one shot before the puck is carried down the ice by the opponent.
In the world of advanced statistics, the Fenwick Close percentage is one indicator of a team's puck possession.
As explained by Bleacher Report's Jonathan Willis, the Fenwick stat measures a team's shots on goal and missed shots together. It can then be expressed as a percentage compared to the total Fenwick number for both teams.
Fenwick Close only measures one-goal games in the first or second period, so that the statistic isn't skewed by the style of hockey that happens when teams play to protect a lead.
In hockey, you need the puck in your possession to shoot it. Therefore, by measuring a team's Fenwick Close percentage, we can have a pretty clear view of its puck-possession rate.
The Montreal Canadiens currently have a Fenwick Close percentage of 49.0, according to Extra Skater. This ranks them 19th in the league, meaning they aren't even a playoff team in terms of puck possession.
In this case, advanced stats support what we observe when we watch the Habs each game. They are not a very good puck-possession team, which is why they are usually outshot and need to rely so much on shot blocking.
Winning teams in the NHL dominate puck possession. In fact, the top five teams in terms of Fenwick Close percentage as of January 2 are Chicago, L.A., San Jose, St. Louis and Boston. Pretty much the class of the NHL.
The Canadiens need to improve their puck-possession game in the second half of the season. If they don't, they will find themselves sliding down the standings as we move deeper into the 2013-14 year.