Recap – Canadiens vs Senators: A Loss to a Non-Playoff Team, Who Do You Blame?

(Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game 57, Away Game 27 | Wednesday February 18, 2015
Canadian Tire Centre, Kanata, ON.





(Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)



Lineup scratches: Manny Malhotra, Mike Weaver, Sergei Gonchar (upper-body)

Game Notes:

Another Canadiens loss to a non-playoff team. The Ottawa Senators are 23rd in the league. It was also another loss for Dustin Tokarski.  Following the game, social media lit up with comments urging GM Marc Bergevin to make an immediate trade. And many were trashing Tokarski.  So what is the truth? Are the Canadiens as bad as they looked or do they lack an adequate quality backup?

The Habs did have 44 shots on goal but they also gave up 39.  Can the offense be criticized for scoring just twice on 44 shots?  Should Tokarski be blamed even though he made 35 saves?

Goaltending for the Canadiens was indeed suspect at times in this game but it was not the sole reason for the loss. The Habs did throw plenty of (perimeter) shots at the Senators goal but did little to test Andrew Hammond, who was making his first NHL start. Hammond looked shaky early on but escaped the first period without giving up a goal. As Max Pacioretty noted post-game, the Canadiens failed to get traffic in front of Hammond and had few second and third shot opportunities.

But the question remains, just how much do the Canadiens depend on Carey Price for their wins?  For that we will turn to the Goals Saved Above Average statistic (GSAA.)  It is the number of goals that a particular goalie has saved (+) / given up (-) when compared to a league-average goalie in the same situation.  It is a very good way of assessing the degree to which a team relies on a goaltender to win.

After 12 starts Dustin Tokarski’s GSAA is 0.29 (credit That is, he is performing similarly to what you might expect from an average goalie in the NHL.  By contrast, Jaroslav Halak has a GSAA of -3.03 and Jonathan Quick is at -4.27.  That is Halak has given up three more goals than an average goaltender would playing for the Islanders.  You get the idea for Quick.

Carey Price leads the league in GSAA at an astounding 29.26.  Price has saved 29 goals more than an average goaltender would have playing for the Canadiens.

With a just plus-25 goal differential, where would the Habs be right now with an average goaltender? Or even worse with Halak or Quick?  Even more illustrative is the fact that Montreal has 16 wins by just one goal, 26 wins by two goals or less.  Allowing 29 additional goals would have changed their won-loss record considerably.  A detailed analysis is beyond the scope of this recap, but inductively, it’s safe to assume that the Canadiens would not be a playoff team without Carey Price.

So back to our original set of questions.  It likely means that the coach and the rest of the team get too much credit when the team wins.  Conversely, Dustin Tokarski probably gets too much blame when the team loses, anything beyond what should be expected from an average goaltender who spends his time as a backup.

But Price can’t play every night.  And the once-healthy, ‘non-playoff’ team who plays in front of him are losing bodies.  Add Alexei Emelin to the injury list along with Sergei Gonchar and P.A. Parenteau. And P.K. Subban was hobbled.  Jarred Tinordi has been recalled from Hamilton but it will be interesting to see if this motivates Marc Bergevin to make a move.

Plus / Minus

▲     P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuk, Greg Pateryn, Max Pacioretty

▼     Dustin Tokarski, Michael Bournival, David Desharnais

44 Shots 39
0 for 2 Power Play 1 for 3
43% Face-offs 57%
11 Penalty Mins 9
26 Hits 38
52 Fenwick For 51
63 Corsi For 69
 FINAL 1 2 3 OT SO T
 Canadiens  (37-16-4) 0 1 1 2
 Senators (23-23-10) 0 2 2 4
Scorers Goalies
  • MTL:  Pacioretty (27), Beaulieu (1)-EN
  • OTT:  Michalek (11), Pageau (3), Stone (14), Turris (13)-EN
  • MTL: Tokarski (W) 5-5-2
  • OTT: Hammond (W) 1-0-0
 NHL Three Stars
  1.  Andrew Hammond  OTT
  2.  Mark Stone  OTT
  3.  Erik Karlsson  OTT

 Video Highlights

 Post-game Press Conference
Coach Michel Therrien

  • “We were playing the type of game we should never allow ourselves to get into. It’s fine to have 44 shots but not when you’re also giving up so many scoring chances. Limiting chances is just as important as creating them, and we gave up way too many tonight.”
  • “Playing with just five defensemen is a lot to ask from our guys. You never want to lose veteran players, but at the same time, it gives the young guys a chance to prove themselves.”

Max Pacioretty

  • “I think we made it a little bit too easy on their goalie. We have to get some screens and some second and third chances. It’s the same story too often. We have to find ways to put the puck in the net especially when we have (Dustin Tokarski) back there. We’ve left him out to dry too many times this year.”
  • “It could be a times we didn’t manage the puck well, our coverage was not good enough and we left Tokarski by himself a few times. If you expect to win games in the National Hockey League, you can’t do that.”
  • “We keep making it too easy on goaltenders. We’re not getting dirty goals. I personally need to get more screens – more second and third chances – against division rivals when we’re playing tight-checking physical games like tonight. They were able to score dirty goals tonight and now we need to do the same.”

Senators head coach Dave Cameron

  • “When you see a goalie like that come up from the minors, and he’s been here for two-plus weeks, with all the shots he’s taken every day in practice … with everybody who stays out extra, he stands out there and helps out in whatever way he can … he’s a real easy guy to cheer for, and real excited for him.”
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