Monday, January 07, 2008

Halfway there: Where do the Habs go from here?

Amazingly, the Canadiens turn around for the home stretch with exactly half the number of points I asked them to get before the season even started.

This guy I used to work with had a favourite shirt which read: "Same same" on the front and "But different" on the back. That's exactly what i feel about the second half for the Habs. I want to see the same number of points (or more), but know that it will have to be done differently.

For one thing, I think 16 OT losses might be stretch, so they might need a few more wins. In addition, they'll have 22 home games and 19 road games to end the season, so they'll have to find a few more points at home than they've been able to so far.

Finally, the teams they play will differ. We've played the majority of our games against Carolina, Toronto, Buffalo, Tampa and Florida; which feels good as a couple of those teams are underachieving and could surge. The teams we have more games against, however, are the Rangers, Devils and Senators, so relief may not be in sight. In terms of Western teams, we play them 7 times and must do better than 1 point evry 3 games. On the bright side, we have cleared Detroit, Dallas and Nashville from the schedule and get to face some teams that may be selling players rather than buying come late February, like LA, Phoenix and Columbus.

In other words, it'll be tough. But, getting 48 points in 41 games will always be tough, as the last 3 months have shown. A few more wins against Ottawa and New Jersey and not only will we get the 48, but we could start to feel pretty good about our chances in the playoffs too...

In terms of individuals, I thought it would be fun to look at statistics to this point and give an opinion on whether I think each player will outpace or underpace his first half.

The Canadiens are currently an improbable 5th in the league in goals scored, so being realistic, I didn't think total goals would rise. Therefore, I figure some players will have to score less in order for others to score more. Unkind as it may seem to players on 4 or 5 goals, I think we'll be looking at some pretty subpar stats for a few of the vets at the end of this year. So, without further ado:


Tomas Plekanec
13 G 23 A 36 Pts
Second half projection: Less goals, same points
I think it will be more of the same in terms of points from Plekanec. I do foresee some his goals going to Kostitsyn in the coming weeks and months, though.

Andrei Kostitsyn
11 G 12 A 23 Pts
Second half projection: More goals, more points
He's coming on strong and asserting himself. I see more of his latest form carrying through to the end thanks to new-found confidence, particularly in his shooting.


Alex Kovalev
18 G 20 A 38 Pts
Second half projection: Same goals, same points
Alex doesn't rely as much as others on his linemates for points. His new attitude this year should carry him right through to his best season with the Habs and one of his best ever.

Saku Koivu
7 G 24 A 31 Pts
Second half projection: Same goals, more points
Koivu comes alive in important games, and there are bound to be plenty along the way. Never really a goalscorer anyway, I'd expect something in the neighbourhood of 15 goals and 70 points from Saku as he is now a passer, not a shooter on the PP.

Guillaume Latendresse
11 G 3 A 14 Pts
Second half projection: Same goals, more points
Assuming he stays with Koivu, he won't be able to help but come in with 22 goals or so. I also foresee more of his errant shots being shovelled in by the better players now surrounding him.

Sergei Kostitsyn
2 G 4 A 6 Pts
Second half projection: More goals, more points
Sergei, too won't be able to help beating his 2 goals, 4 assists if he stays with Koivu. He'll get a few more, but I wouldn't expect him to have double digits come April. Also, he is still a likely candidate for demotion if injured players return, so his season may be limited to 20 or so games in any case.

Maxim Lapierre
1 G 3 A 4 Pts
Second half projection: More goals, more points
Called up late and put on a scoring line like Sergei, you can only improve. Again, there may not be many more goals here, as he may be back in Hamilton when Begin returns.

Chris Higgins
15 G 15 A 30 Pts
Second half projection: Same goals, same points
Always a hard worker, he's not quite a 40-goal man yet – though he should be one day. 30 goals and 30 assists would be a very nice natural progression from the young New Yorker though.

Michael Ryder
6 G 8 A 14 Pts
Second half projection: More goals, more points
Ryder has got a bit of the luck back, and it means his shots are starting to go in. Given his talent and ability to streak, I think he will surpass 15 goals and even tease us with 20. As Tobalev said, that would make him a second-half 15-goal man (just about), giving us scoring momentum into the playoffs.

Kyle Chipchura
4 G 7 A 11 Pts
Second half projection: Same goals, same points
If his role were to broaden, you'd see Kyle respond with more, but I don't see that happening this year, so he'll probably chip in (excuse that one) about the same again.

Tom Kostopoulos
3 G 4 A 7 Pts
Second half projection: Same goals, same points
As his role has diminished, so have his opportunities. I think 3 more and some random passes are about right for him.

Mathieu Dandenault
4 G 5 A 9 Pts
Second half projection: Less goals, less points
With others scoring more (Kostitsyns), Dandenault shouldn't have to find himself playing much offensive hockey this half. He may even see himself replaced altogether by year's end.

Bryan Smolinski
2 G 9 A 11 Pts
Second half projection: Same goals, less points
Unfortunately, the Smolinski signing is bound to look like a bust, statistically anyway. But, like Dandenault, he could do more, but I think he'll find himself employed in roles where he is not necessarily asked to risk much up front. On the bright side, if the Habs continue to go for a 3-pronged attack, he could quite easily pick up the third-line slack if asked to do so.

Steve Begin
3 G 1 A 4 Pts
Second half projection: Less goals, same points
If Lapierre plays, Begin might find himself watching the show. Unfortunate as that is for a nice guy like Begin, it's natural and important for the Habs to improve and with that replace old and underperforming parts. Lapierre can be a young Begin. Begin is usually an ailing Begin these days.

Mikhail Grabovski
1 G 1 A 2 Pts
Second half projection: Less goals, less points
Barring a major change, he won't play in the second half. Sergei Kostitsyn, Corey Locke and possibly some other Bulldogs have overtaken him for the time being. You're looking at his NHL career best stats right now. 1 goal man Kostitsyn showed what commitment and faith in a player can yield, so we may not have seen the back of Grabovski yet.



Andrei Markov
10 G 19 A 29 Pts
Second half projection: Same goals, same points
If he wasn't so good, I'd have him dropping off. But, this season has been a long time coming for this talented Habs draft pick.

Mike Komisarek
3 G 9 A 12 Pts
Second half projection:
Same goals, same points
Offense may not be what he is called upon to do, but he's actually a pretty decent passer and his shot isn't bad. I don't think 24 points are beyond his reach at all.

Roman Hamrlik
3 G 14 A 17 Pts
Second half projection:
Same goals, same points
If he didn't have so few goals I would say less goals. His shooting percentage is very poor, but his passing is good. 30+ points is a fine addition to the team considering the accompanying mammoth upgrade on defense.

Mark Streit
6 G 19 A 25 Pts
Second half projection:
Less goals, less points
Streit's play won't necessarily dip, but I think he'll play less at forward. With other shooting options on the PP, his numbers may go down. Also, all those increased goal totals had to come from somewhere.

Francis Bouillon
0 G 3 A 3 Pts
Second half projection:
Same goals, same points
I didn't really ponder Bouillon's numbers for long. But he's not playing for numbers anyway.

Josh Gorges
0 G 2 A 2 Pts
Second half projection:
Same goals, same points
See Bouillon above.

Ryan O'Byrne
0 G 2 A 2 Pts
Second half projection:
Same goals, same points
See Bouillon again.

Patrice Brisebois
1 G 6 A 7 Pts
Second half projection:
Less goals, less points
End of the line? With any luck we shouldn't have to see much of 71 on the PP anymore, and as such, his points will go the same way.


All that being said, if all of Ryder and Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn start to score a lot more, then the Canadiens will probably end up with more goals than they did in the first half. Thats would be the draft paying off in a big way, eh?


So, what do you all think?

48 points doable? Will Kovalev get 35+ goals? Will Ryder make amends?

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