Every Habs line succeeding in transition 3 games in
Starting the season against three rivals in the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Canadiens have a perfect 3-0 record, and after a rocky first game, look like a team that has figured out most of what plagued them last season.
In fact, according to War on Ice, the Canadiens have a league-high 60.8% score-adjusted shot attempt differential at even strength, something that’s unlikely to last considering the strength of opponents they’ve faced, but encouraging nonetheless.
One reason why the Canadiens have been able to get such good results is that every line is firing at once, a rare occurrence in the NHL. Only three of four lines have scored at even strength, but in terms of gaining the offensive zone and creating pressure, every line has been up to the task.
The important things to look at in the graph are the controlled entries per 20 minutes played, sorted from most to least. The first thing that should jump out is that each forward line has a player in the top four there; Brendan Gallagher for the first line, Alex Galchenyuk for the second line, Tomas Fleischmann for the third line, and Brian Flynn for the fourth line.
Unlike last season and playoffs, where it was almost exclusive the left wingers who were bringing the puck into the offensive zone, this year there is a lot of variation, meaning the Canadiens are less predictable when gaining the zone.
The weirdest bit of this data though, is how different David Desharnais is playing as opposed to his regular decision making in the neutral zone. Of all Habs players over the last two years, Desharnais chose to dump the puck in the least, yet he has rarely entered the zone with control three games into 2015-16.
That could be random noise from a minuscule sample, or it could be that Desharnais is adjusting to playing with new linemates. Fleischmann in particular likes to carry the puck himself through the neutral zone, and Dale Weise has been choosing to carry the puck in 80% of the time himself, so it’s possible Desharnais just has had fewer opportunities with the puck himself.
With all that said, that is the one line that hasn’t found the back of the net yet, and Desharnais has displayed a particular talent in this area of the game for years now. Though it may be against Fleischmann’s tendencies, he and Weise may be better off deferring to Desharnais to enter the offensive zone a little more often, perhaps with Weise driving the net.
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