The Montreal Canadiens put forth a valiant effort, however they had been merely outmatched by a way more gifted staff within the Tampa Bay Lightning, who managed to grow to be simply the second staff to win back-to-back Stanley Cups within the cap period.
Regardless of the disappointing last end result, it was an exciting season for the Habs; they stumbled halfway by way of the season, which price Claude Julien his job, and stumbled into the playoffs and fell to a 3-1 lead within the opening spherical earlier than flipping the script. It was a shocking efficiency, and now that the season is over, there’s one thought lingering in everybody’s minds: Can the Habs do it once more subsequent season?
The turnaround was so swift GM Marc Bergevin went from being rumoured to being on the chopping block to garnering 13 first-place votes for the Jim Gregory Normal Supervisor of the 12 months Award, another than eventual winner Lou Lamoriello. Clearly, some luck was concerned within the Habs’ magical run, however there have been two distinct options of this Habs membership: staunch defensive play led by 4 strong strains led by key signings by way of free company and superhuman performances from Carey Worth. Bergevin may have some powerful selections to make once more this offseason and cross his fingers they’ll rekindle the magic.
One of many keys to answering the repeatability of the Habs’ efficiency lies within the destiny of Phillip Danault, who completed top-seven in Selke Trophy voting for the third season in a row. He turned down a six-year, $30-million deal in the course of the season, in accordance with the Montreal Gazette, and time will inform if that was the precise determination, but when the Habs need to preserve their present fashion of play, they should discover a strategy to hold him. He was instrumental in limiting Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Level to simply two factors within the last 4 video games of the sequence.
Based on Pure Stat Trick, over the previous three seasons amongst forwards with no less than 2,000 minutes performed at 5-on-5, Danault ranks fourth with a 58.08 CF%, fifth with a 57.90 xGF% and fourth in xGF and xGA differential at 36.38. He’s been probably the greatest even-strength ahead duos within the league with Brendan Gallagher, and after they’re not on the ice, the Habs’ CF% drops by 7.93 p.c.
Translation: Danault has been one of many large explanation why the Habs have been such a great puck possession staff – sometimes a great indicator for playoff success – for the previous few seasons, and when paired with Gallagher they create much more shot makes an attempt than they permit.
They do that with their potential to maneuver the puck up the ice, drive the online and retrieve free pucks. Together with Tomas Tatar, who had been a fixture on the Habs’ high line up till this season and performed in simply 5 playoff video games, just one different trio can declare to have made such an affect: Boston’s Perfection Line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
Danault and Gallagher’s scoring fell off within the playoffs – as did many of the staff, particularly the blue line – posting possession numbers nicely under their regular requirements and mustered simply three objectives, however Danault was nonetheless a key a part of the Habs’ depth down the center, an enormous purpose why they had been in a position to defeat the Maple Leafs, Jets and Golden Knights, all of whom had top-six facilities who missed time attributable to harm or suspension.
Of the 491 faceoffs the Habs have taken within the defensive zone within the playoffs, Danault had taken 301 (61.3%) of them and was additionally the one common to win over 50 p.c of his attracts general. It wasn’t till the Habs confronted the Lightning, who additionally boasted high quality depth down the center, did the Habs actually wrestle.
Danault was central to the Habs’ identification as a defensive staff, and his departure may also disrupt his budding bromance with Cole Caufield, who has been effusive about Danault’s contributions regardless of his lack of scoring.
If Danault leaves, that leaves Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who’s an RFA, as their high two facilities, who’re stylistically very completely different from Danault. It’ll power the Habs to doubtlessly have a extra conventional setup with two scoring strains and two checking strains with Jake Evans as one of many bottom-six facilities. That’s not saying the Habs can’t succeed with Suzuki and Kotkaniemi, however they’ll actually be a really completely different staff and will should play a unique kind of sport, and likewise discover somebody who they’ll deploy within the defensive zone.
Utilizing hockey-reference.com’s Point Shares, which calculates the variety of factors a participant contributes to his staff over the course of a season, we are able to quantify how a lot the Habs’ potential roster turnover could affect the staff. Including the Level Shares of every participant who suited up for his or her respective staff ought to add as much as the staff’s level complete within the standings with a mean absolute error of 5.05 factors per 82 video games. The Habs’ gamers amassed 57.4 Level Shares in the course of the 2021 season and the staff completed with 59 factors within the standings.
Dropping Danault means shedding their high ahead by Defensive Level Shares (1.3), and Danault (1.9 PS complete), Corey Perry (1.9), Joel Armia (1.6), Tomas Tatar (3.0) and Eric Staal (-0.3) mixed for 8.1 PS, which is equal to roughly 4 wins. Suzuki and Kotkaniemi alone can be hard-pressed to make up that distinction, and people Level Shares would’ve meant the distinction between making or lacking the playoffs within the North Division.
The opposite large query is Carey Worth, who was very pedestrian in the course of the common season however ranks first in save share (.928) and second in objectives towards (2.13, behind solely Andrei Vasilevskiy) over the previous three seasons amongst goalies with no less than 10 video games performed within the playoffs. When the chips are down, Worth continues to be able to shutting the door and this 12 months’s playoff efficiency reinforces his sterling fame across the league.
Worth’s superior numbers had been superb, with a .878 Sv% in high-danger probabilities and .934 Sv% general at 5-on-5 getting into the Stanley Cup Finals, although these numbers fell to .843 and .921 getting into Recreation 5. Sustaining that sort of elite stage is troublesome, and Worth had actually obtained sturdy assist from his top-four defensemen, most of whom had performed harm. He was not notably sharp within the first three video games, and when he did handle to show it round it was already too late towards a supreme Lightning squad. The Habs’ possibilities of profitable the Cup had been instantly tied to Worth’s efficiency, and something under elite simply wasn’t going to chop it.
Might the Habs make the finals once more subsequent season? Hypothetically, something can occur, however with out Danault they’ll should forge a brand new identification and depend on Suzuki and Kotkaniemi to repeatedly enhance and be dependable playmakers.
They’ll want Worth to be adequate to clinch a playoff berth, and after that play at an elite stage for a gruelling two months. With the Lightning, Bruins and Panthers in the identical division once more, the Habs’ highway again to the finals appears a lot, a lot more durable.