Canadiens-Leafs: A Goaltending & Special Teams Win...By Design?

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IDecember 26, 2009

TORONTO - DECEMBER 26: Andrei Kostitsyn #46 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his overtime winning goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during their NHL game at the Air Canada Centre December 26, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
Montreal 3 Toronto 2 OT (Air Canada Center)

posted by Rocket
All Habs

The game statistics should no longer shock us. The Canadiens will be outshot in most games played. They rank 29th in the league in shots against. Only Florida is worse. The Habs are 28th in the NHL in shots for.

By giving up shots and taking few, the Habs will spend a disproportionate amount of time in their own end. It goes hand-in-hand that the Habs will heavily rely on their goaltenders to steal games for them. Both Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak have done so.

The Canadiens will take more penalties than their opponent. They rank 29th in the number of minor penalties. Philadelphia is the only team in the league that heads to the box more for two-minute infractions.

Given that the they spend so much time in the own end while five-on-five, the Habs will need effective special teams to win games. The Canadiens have the No. 1 power play in the league and are seventh in penalty killing.

If the game is time after regulation, the Habs have a very good chance to win the game. They have the best overtime/shootout record at 10-3.

It should come as no surprised that the Habs won tonight. They were outshot 49-23. The game was decided in overtime. The Canadiens took twice as many penalties as the Leafs but the penalty-killers were perfect including enduring a lengthy five-on-three by Toronto. The Habs' power-play was successful on 50 percent of their opportunities.

This is the anatomy of a Jacques Martin coached win. After 40 games, if he wasn't happy with the results, he would have made changes. Yet, game after game there are similar themes. A valid conclusion is that these characteristics are part of a coach Martin game plan.

By design, the Canadiens are a passive team that sit back and let the opposition dictate the play. They are very undisciplined but rely on their goaltending and special teams to bail them out.

Tonight, the Habs were able to get an early 2-0 lead before the game was five minutes old. Then, they sat back for two and a half periods while the Leafs ran up the shot count.

Halak wasn't tested in the first period despite facing 16 shots. The Leafs are the number one team in the league in shots on goal and are not very discriminating. Very few were serious scoring chances. But with Toronto outshooting Montreal 33-13 in the final two periods, Halak came up with a number of big saves.

Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn continue to lead the team offensively. Each got a goal with Kostistyn fooling Toronto netminder Jonas Gustavasson with a quick release for the overtime winner.

Mike Cammalleri is struggling especially on the road. Cammalleri has one goal in his last nine games.

Don't look now but Scott Gomez has five points in his last two games. Without Brian Gionta, Gomez had 12 points in 14 games in the month of December.

Sergei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot will be difficult to move off the second line. Sergei Kostitsyn has been excellent when shorthanded and although it's early, Pouliot shows glimpses of his potential.

The Canadiens' fourth line is going nowhere fast and is in need of an overhaul.

Andrei Markov had another two points tonight. Jaroslav Spacek may have benefited from the time without Markov to take a defensive leadership role. Ryan O'Byrne brings a simple, physical game and helps us to forget Mike Komisarek.

On Monday in Ottawa, the Canadiens will have a chance to score the 20,000th goal for the franchise.

Rocket's three stars

1. Jaroslav Halak
2. Jason Blake
3. Andrei Kostitsyn

Special mention: Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, Scott Gomez

Material from wire services was used in this report.