Friday, February 10, 2012

Habs by the Numbers: The Chara Effect

In just under a month from today, on March 8th, the Habs will be in Edmonton for a late night classic against the young and talented Oilers.

What's so special about that, you say?

March 8th will be the sad anniversary of the "hit that was heard 'round the NHL"

It will be a year, on that day, that Zdeno Chara almost put an end to the promising career of young power forward Max Pacioretty.

The Chara Effect

The burning questions: how has the hit, the injury and especially the long and painful rehab period affected MaxPac? What has the impact been on his game in terms of numbers?

Also, has this incident affected the team? If so, how?

Offensive Production

The most important stats, in the case of a power forward, are his offensive numbers.

Before his injury, over a 123 game span, Max was averaging a goal production of 13 goals per 82 games. He also was generating 19 assists per 82 games, for an offensive production of 33 points per year.

Since that sad moment in Bell Center history, Pacioretty's numbers have almost doubled.

His goal production is now trending at 31 goals per 82 games, his assists are also at 31, for a combined offensive production of 62 points a year. Great news for Habs fans.

Max is also generating a few more points on the power play, and has also increased his game winning goals from one to seven a year.

Pacioretty, as illustrated above, is shooting even more than before. He was averaging 162 shots a year before the hit, and is now on his way to a season of almost 300 shots. In fact, he currently sits 7th in the NHL with 192 shots in 52 games.

Clearly, his offensive game has not suffered in spite of the potentially devastating blow to his career.

Physical Implication

People often state that Max's physical implication has diminished since his return to the lineup.

However, the numbers do not agree with that statement.

Pacioretty averaged about 90 hits a year before the incident, and is now on pace for 92 hits this year. Based on that, it can be said that he is just as physically involved as before.

His penalty numbers, which are also slightly on the rise, illustrate the same thing. He was averaging 57 minutes a year, and is now trending for 66 minutes this season.

The Incident and Team Performance

Does such a dramatic incident have an impact on the performance of a group of professional athletes?

Some numbers - of course - can provide insight into this question.

After that faithful game versus the Bruins, the Habs' record was 37-23-7 (.604).

They had the 9th best overall record in the NHL. They were 21-8-6 (.686) at the Bell Center, and 13-5-2 (.700) against teams in their own divison.

Then came "the hit".

What happened after that is both sad and surprising. The Habs went 7-7-1 (.500) the rest of that season. In 6 games at home, they managed a pedestrian 3-3-0 (.500) record.

If you look at the table below you can also notice that individual player statistics were influenced.

The above chart focuses on six offensive minded players who suited on March 8th, 2011 and who were present in most subsequent games as well.

Compared to the season's average, goal production went down almost 40% in the final 15 games. Points production also decreased by 23%.

Individually, the only player who managed better numbers in that stretch was captain Brian Gionta.

Tomas Plekanec's point production went down by almost 40%, Gomez by 31% and Desharnais by 35%.

Extrapolating a Little

As we mentionned, the Canadiens were 37-23-7 (.604) until the Chara demolition derby.

If we add the last 15 games of that season to the 54 games played so far this year, we end up with a combined record of 28-31-10 (.478).

While correlation does not imply causality, the picture presented above is telling.

What's your take? Is Montreal's poor record intertwined with the events of March 8th, 2011?

Frank Dumais is a freelance writer, currently contributing to “Habs By the numbers” weekly column. He writes on current Habs topics, but with a “numbers twist”.

Follow Frank on Twitter

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)


This is a bit of a leap, but if nothing else, the hit, as well as the game that the Habs got bullied by the Bruins in a big way, revealed how poorly the team was built. The uni-dimensional, small, fast bunch were not enough. If PG had really clued in and made a couple of trades that he has made more recently, things may be different.

Interesting analysis. As you said there isn't a silver bullet in there but I think the numbers cleary point to an effect, probably a few things combined. Good job Francois. Now do you have one on all the combinations and permutations for the HABS making the playoffs? just kidding :)


I have to permutations for the Habs making the playoffs.


and None


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