Here is what we know about the 2009-2010 Montreal Canadiens through 42 games:
1) They have accumulated 43 points as a .500 team, winning one more game than they have lost.
2) They have scored 109 goals, which represents a mean of 2.60 goals per game.
3) Among games in which they have scored four goals or more, their record is 9-1.
4) Among games in which they have scored exactly three goals, their record is 5-3. Hence, scoring three goals or more gives them a combined record of 14-4. In 77 % of their games, they have won when scoring three goals. Yet, the team's style of play rarely reflects a more open-ended approach, but rather a defensive minded close checking philosophy.
5) Among games in which they have scored fewer than three goals, the Montreal Canadiens' record is 5-17, or roughly speaking, they have won 22% of their low scoring games, which, paradoxically, appears to be the type of game they want to play.
7) Their highest-paid forward, Scott Gomez, who earns a salary of approximately $ 7 million a year, has scored five goals so far. This projects to about a 10 goal season for their prize acquisition.
8) Goalie Jaroslav Halak has a record of 10-6 as a starter, and goalie Carey Price has a record of 10-13. Price also has three overtime appearances, and Halak one shootout. Halak has a goals agianst average that is 0.13 lower than Price.
9) Tomas Plekanec leads the team in scoring, and this year is immediately antecedent to his free agent status.
10) The team is 6-1 when defenseman Andre Markov has played, 14-18 when he has not.
11) Defenseman Paul Mara has the worst plus/minus on the team at minus-12, and forward Maxim Lapierre is close behind at minus-10. Not surprisingly, neither Mara nor Lapierre will be representing their countries at the upcoming winter Olympics.
12) Forward Tom Pyatt has played in 19 games for the team without registering a single point. I did not know this was possible.
13) In 13 of the team’s victories, Montreal has scored first, and in 16 of their losses they have surrendered the first goal. Yet, in seven games, Montreal has not scored the first goal and still won.
What does all of this mean?
For one thing, it means that the Montreal Canadiens are pretty much an average team that is not going anywhere fast. They do not score a lot of goals, but do win nearly 80 percent of their games when they score three goals or more. Their goaltending is decent, above average, we will say. Fifteen teams have given up fewer goals, which essentially puts Montreal halfway down the pack.
What the numbers mostly show us is that Montreal plays a close-checking, low-scoring style that leaves them just as likely to lose as to win. Whoever gets the first goal has won the game about 75 percent of the time, which means that if a Montreal fan turned his television off after Montreal gave up the first goal, there is only a 25 percent chance it was a bad move.
The paradox here is that the team's style of play generally does not lend itself to high scoring games.
Some people I know have criticized Head Coach Jacques Martin, and the criticism I have heard is that Jacques Martin does not, in fact, have a pulse, that 9,000 camera shots cutting to his mug behind the bench show the exact same lifeless expression, a kind of ambulatory zombie making a token gesture to styling mousse.
While it is true that I personally have not seen any medical evidence confirming that Jacques Martin has a pulse, I tend to think of him more like an owl blinking mutely at the field of play. Is that owlish expression a poker face?
That is the million dollar question. As for the answer...
I honestly don’t know, but based on the performance of his players, there is a fifty-fifty chance either way.