Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman writes in this week’s 30 Thoughts on how the Canadiens are proving everyone wrong:
A lot of us figured they’d drop without Carey Price. Instead, they’ve got eight of a possible 10 points, with no regulation defeats. Mike Condon is showing why the organization chose him as the understudy over Dustin Tokarski.
And it’s not just the goalie:
The Canadiens do one thing you have to do (control the puck in the offensive zone) and one thing people frown on (throw it out of your zone). But they turn that supposed negative into a positive, because it plays to their strengths. And it gives a clearer idea of why they are more than a one-man team.
He may be right–and honestly, I’m willing to defer, since I haven’t watched a single minute of a single Habs game all season, and I suspect Elliotte Friedman has.
But the Habs are 13-2-2. A league-best 13-2-2 and 28 points (the Rangers and Stars have 24; the Rangers only have two losses as well and have two games in hand), but they’ve only played 17 games. That’s 20.7% of an NHL season. In baseball, that’s 33.5 games. In baseball, this is early May.
Joe Sheehan, baseball’s self-described “sample-size police,” observed this past April that
baseball fans would be smarter if no one paid to write about baseball wrote a thing before May 15 or so. Myself included. Baseball is hard enough to figure out in season-long chunks, and most timeframes less than that are, as much as this has become a cliché, a small sample size. We can get fooled over half a season, and certainly over two months or a month
[T]eam performance is volatile…Past performance is a leading indicator of future results, but it’s by no means gospel. Teams can fool us for a month, for two months, for four months. That’s a feature, mind you, not a bug. It’s one of the best things about the game.
Hockey isn’t baseball, of course. (Canadians don’t even play baseball, right?) But Sidney Crosby has 2 goals. He, Claude Giroux, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Marleau are tied for 107th in the league in scoring with Francois Beauchemin and Jared Spurgeon. Joel Ward and Dale Weise are tied for fifth in goals, two behind the league lead. Reto Berra leads the league in goals against (1.50) and save percentage (.952). It’s November, and it’s early.
I don’t think the Habs will collapse, or miss the playoffs, or not make a run. I picked Tampa (now 7-8-2 with a negative goal differential) to win the division, and still think they can, but I picked Montreal second, and they were my East finals pick (losing, correctly, to the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks) only a year ago. (Don’t worry, I went back to picking the Blues again this season.) And Condon is a great story so far, undefeated (in modern terms) at 6-0-2, .936, 1.73. But it’s November, and it’s early. And regression, like the snow, can be merciless on poor old Montreal.
Image courtesy of Semiotext(e) Canadas, Autonomedia 1994.