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How The Montreal Canadiens Have Generated Offense In The Playoffs

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Coming into this semi-final series with Vegas, the Montreal Canadiens have not trailed in a game for 7 hours, 17 minutes, and 53 seconds or 437:53 of hockey. It’s the second-longest streak in NHL Playoff history and the longest since 1961. The Habs have scored first in nine of their 11 playoff games and went on to win eight of those nine, and they have outscored their opponents 24-12 on their current seven-game playoff winning streak.

The Golden Knights have earned their position as heavy favorites in this series, but this is not your ordinary underdog, this is a confident team that is as hot as any team has been all year and they haven’t seen a deficit, let alone a defeat, in more than two weeks.

So, how are they doing it? Glad I asked and you read it so thus now you asked.

First off, they’ve done it with a combination of excellent goaltending coupled with strong defense. The Habs allowed just 87 scoring chances in their four-game sweep of the Winnipeg Jets with just 33 of them coming in high-danger situations. That’s 22 chances per game and about 8 high-danger. Compare that to VGK who just got off a tough series over Colorado where they allowed 28 chances per game and 11 per night at high-danger.

They have allowed plenty of goals though, so it’s not like they are unbeatable. You can read more about how those goals got through and what the Golden Knights need to do to create offense here.

In this article, we’re focused more on stopping Montreal’s attack.

The Habs have scored 28 goals this postseason in 11 games, or 2.55 per game. Since they fell behind 3-1 in the series to Toronto, they’ve scored 24 in seven games, or 3.43 per game. They clearly can score and they’ve been doing it in a variety of ways.

There are three main avenues the Canadiens usually take to score their offense. The three are (1) capitalizing on turnovers in the neutral zone or their own zone to quickly transition, (2) using a strong forecheck to create o-zone turnovers, and (3) winning battles right in front of the net.

The good news for the Golden Knights is that Montreal is not nearly as lethal in transition as Colorado, so they don’t have to be as safe with the puck as they were last series, but they can’t get sloppy in any of the three zones as the Habs are built to pounce. Montreal plays an aggressive style in all three zones trying to break plays up quickly and forcing good fast reads. Then, once they get the turnover, they usually have a straight-line approach trying to score immediately.

The forecheck is where they can be most dangerous as they have a good combination of physical and crafty forecheckers. Phillip Danault is one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL and his linemates Arturi Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher can both be a pain in the butt trying to break out against. The line of Tyler Toffoli, Cole Caufield, and former VGK draft pick Nick Suzuki forecheck with their sticks and speed more than their body, which can be just as dangerous. The remainder of the group is a mix of both, but all 12 forwards, and the six defensemen who chip in to help, forecheck in layers forcing the opposition to break out with precision.

Like Minnesota, the Canadiens are a handful when the puck is loose in front of the goal. Vegas learned a lot from that series and got better and better as it went along dealing with that style of attack. They’re going to have to be ready to once again take the safe route, especially when players like Corey Perry, Joel Armia, or Jesperi Kotkaniemi are on the ice. If the puck is loose to the front, the best play is to swat it to the corner as quickly as possible, rather than making an attempt to collect it and transition to offense.

Finally, the Habs definitely have some good finishers, which has made them dangerous on both special teams. From Caufield’s dangerous release to Suzuki’s spectacular hands to Shea Weber’s booming shot to Erik Gustafsson’s elusiveness at the blue line to the handful that is Perry, the Golden Knights have to be as disciplined as they were last round to keep Montreal off the power play. And when Vegas has the man-advantage, they cannot fall asleep when the Canadiens get possession of the puck, because no one in the NHL has scored more shorthanded goals than Montreal.

Vegas’ defense and goaltending have been nothing short of spectacular thus far in the postseason. The same is to be expected in this series against the North Division champions. But that doesn’t mean Montreal isn’t capable of forcing mistakes and then capitalizing on them.

However, if the Golden Knights are sharp, they should have the firepower to keep this team at bay most of the time.

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25 Comments

  1. Howard

    Ken – you should demonstrate what you are saying with videos, else most VGK fans won’t understand what you are talking about. – my 2 cents.

    • The series hasn’t even started. We’ll get there. (Also, VGK fans aren’t as stupid as people make them out to be.)

      • Ken – “VGK fans aren’t as stupid as people make them out to be” – your right they probably are not but they have a difficult time dealing with reality and can’t decipher the difference between objectivity and negativity and hence comes across as appearing stupid unfortunately. We are all loyal Vegas fans , (you included) despite what some think, when you call out problems they refuse to see or agree with. Vegas is going to have their hands full against Montreal and to think other wise is being very short sighted – that’s being objective not negative which many will disagree with as they can’t tell the difference.

  2. THE hockey GOD

    Habs are team of legends of yore. When they get into the semi finals and finals they have players who think they can play like
    patrick roy
    gump worsley
    larry robinson
    guy lafluer
    the rocket
    the pocket rocket
    jean belliveau
    Ian Laperrière
    frank mahovlich- the big M
    peter mahovlich
    Yvan Serge Cournoyer
    Serge Savard
    Bob Gainey
    ken dryden
    doug harvey
    jacques plante
    guy lapointe
    jacques lamaire
    Bernie ‘boom boom’ Geoffrion

    and a whole bunch more before the 1960s that I can’t remember.

    • jinklu

      thg -I did see the incomparable “Saint Patrick” Roy play. I wish I was old enough to have seen the others on that list. If today’s Habs think they can compare or are channeling those Legends they are delusional IMO, but it does make them dangerous. I’m hopeful the Knights can/will bring them back to reality.

  3. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Lots of “loyal Vegas fans”, all of a sudden.

    That’s great!

    Things always change as the playoff wins/hope go up.

    A lot of us have there from the beginning. Join us!

    • Jake

      It would be so cool if more fans were like you!

    • Tim

      Doc I realize your always a Knights fan sometimes to a fault. You for some reason think anyone that has a different opinion is not a fan. My wife and I are fans and we have the history to back it up. My wife has been in the Vegas Valley since 1958 and I’ve been here since my Army discharge in 1965. I have no idea how long you’ve been in town but we have a combined 119 years. To insinuate we or other posters are fair weather fans because we may not agree with some of the moves the Knights have made is a little over the top. Lets beat Montreal and get to the finals for the second time in 4 years.

      • Tim – that’s way to logical for people who see the world thru rose color glasses. Very sad

        • Howard

          I think in Doc’s case is that as he has seemed to indicate many times before, he’s physically not doing well. He mentioned in one post, ” this might be my last chance” in reference to VGK winning it all, so that could explain why he seems to be over rosy. Can’t say I’d be different in his shoes so all good – I wish him good health and a turn-around for whatever may be ailing him.

          • Julie

            One might think that would be a reason not to call others racist or idiots because they have a different opinion. I pray for him anyway.

      • DOC (Go Knights Go)

        To a fault? HOW can a person be a fan to a fault? Sorry Tim, doesn’t make any sense to me.

    • jinklu

      I hope you are not counting me among the “new” fans. I’ve been a fan since before they ever played a game.

  4. Richard Santomauro

    I think Montreal has won 7 straight games and they’re on a roll right now, but the same could have been said about Colorado. I don’t think the Knights are going to underestimate any club, especially one that has made it to the semifinals. Montreal is going to be a dangerous team and a great test. The good news is that VGK has been tested in both of the first two rounds and they have been found to be worthy.

  5. jinklu

    Ken, Thanks for the most recent post and analysis of the Habs ’ game. I appreciate it as I’ve not seen them play for several years.

  6. david raines

    Seems like all four lines are producing and our blue liners are not only blocking shots like the hulk but scoring. Petro was a bust most the year and now has showed why he’s a multi million dollar player with no trade contract! VGK looks resilient and relatively healthy now, of course the Flower is key to our success and he is lights out!!

  7. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    SEMI – FINALS !

    TB/NYI ………. The defending champion Lightning will be tuff to unseat. They have their best player back (after missing the reg season), have fire power throughout their lineup and have the best goalie on the planet. ….. BUT:

    The Islanders are tuff as nails. Have a solid defensive system and hungry to beat TB. IF goalies get hot, they could make things interesting. (My hope is that they beat & bang the shit out of each other and go 7 games). A Islander upset would be a bonus.

    VGK/Mon ………. Our Knights are huge favorites, but, the Canadians are playing well, 7 in a row in playoffs. They have some capable vets and some speed. Their most important weapon is Carey Price. He is playing great.

    Our boys just simply have to continue to play relentless. Montreal had a couple more days off, but one day consumed by that long plane ride cross country to get here. If the Canadians are allowed to get a win in either gm 1 or 2, their confidence will grow, Can’t allow that to happen.

    So it’s old man Flurey vs older man Price. ( maybe we see Lehner in one of first two games)? We’ll see.

  8. Perhaps someone can answer this question I have (I wondered this also last year at the start of the playoffs). My question being: Why did the Canadiens and Islanders both finish the season in 4th place in their division, and NOW are playing in the semi finals? With the way they have both been playing since the start of the playoffs, WHAT THE HECK WAS GOING ON WITH BOTH OF THESE TEAMS DURING THE SEASON? Why weren’t these 2 teams playing all season like they are now? I am sure that many factors come into play, but it doesn’t seem like it matters much if you finish the season in 3rd or 4th place in your division,; you still make the playoffs and it’s a whole new ballgame! Is it a sudden change in the team’s skill set and mindset at playoff time?

    • THE hockey GOD

      rhonda
      i blame it on covid and jacked up division only schedule.

      Note tampa bay came in THIRD.

      islanders in tough division with caps pens and bruins, only two points behind Bruins.

      Canadians’ division was all messed up with covid delays, they were still paying regular season games when the playoff began. And Cory Perry’s injury to the Toronto CAPT. did in the LEAFS in my opinion. they are not same same without Tavereres, not to mention they don’t have a goalie.

      Both the islanders and HABS were leading their divisions , for awhile, at various points in the season. Then they hit slump. Islanders are very streaky team.

  9. knights fan in minny

    what happened to the guy who said he was a realist said there was no way vegas would beat the lanche man up chump explain yourself

    • DOC (Go Knights Go)

      He’s disappeared! ha

    • Billy

      COVID shortened season whoever wins the cup there will always be a Asterisk by the winner. Not a real season

  10. Sam

    COVID shortened season whoever wins the cup there will always be a Asterisk by the winner. Not a real season

  11. This was a really excellent analysis, Sir Ken. Kudos.

    Here’s hoping 75 gets glued to the VGK bench.

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