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Canadiens search for missing power play

Friday, 12.19.2008 / 1:09 AM / Inside the Numbers

By John Kreiser - Columnist

The Montreal Canadiens let defenseman Mark Streit leave as a free agent last summer — he signed a four-year contract with the New York Islanders. The Habs' power play is really feeling his absence.

Streit was a key element two seasons ago, when he and Sheldon Souray formed a devastating point combination that helped Montreal lead the NHL in power-play percentage at 22.8. Souray left as a free agent in the summer of 2007, but with Streit manning the point again, the Habs actually improved to 24.1 percent last season, again the best in the NHL.

However, with Streit now on Long Island, the Canadiens' power play is just a shell of its former self.  Through 31 games, Montreal has converted just 13.7 percent of its power plays (20 of 146), putting the Habs 28th among the NHL's 30 teams.

Meanwhile, the power play has been one of the few areas in which the struggling Islanders are better than last season. With Streit and newcomer Doug Weight on the points, the Isles were 14th in the League at 18.8 percent — a big jump from the 14.6 percent performance that put them 29th in 2007-08.

Streit's 24 points (7 goals, 17 assists) in the Isles' 31 games are already more than their highest-scoring defenseman, Bryan Berard, managed last season. Berard, now playing in Russia, had 5 goals and 22 points.

Third-period blues — Unfortunately for the Islanders, not even Streit's presence has kept them from being dreadful in the third period.

The Isles are by far the NHL's worst team over the final 20 minutes. They've been outscored 46-24 in the final 20 minutes; the 46 goals are the most allowed by any team in any period, as is their minus-22 disparity.

The Islanders actually outscored Washington 2-0 in the third period Tuesday night, overcoming a 4-2 deficit to force overtime before losing 5-4. It was only the second time in 31 games that the Islanders outscored their opponent by two goals in the final 20 minutes — the other came on Oct. 23, when they trailed Dallas 5-1 entering the third and got a pair of garbage goals in a 5-3 loss.

Capital punisher — When the Islanders put forward Jon Sim on waivers last week, maybe the Capitals should have taken him just to get him out of their hair.

They didn't, and he continues to haunt them.

Sim scored the goal that forced overtime Tuesday night before the Caps won 5-4 on Alex Ovechkin's goal with 10.7 seconds left in OT. It was the 58th goal of Sim's career — but 12 (21 percent) of them have come against Washington, including six against Brent Johnson, who was beaten by Sim's game-tying tip-in.

Offensive bonanzas — Though scoring is up slightly from last season, the NHL went through more than a third of the season (413 games through Dec. 10) without a team scoring more than seven goals. Then, in a span on eight days, four teams did it.

Pittsburgh became the first team to break seven by beating the New York Islanders 9-2 on Dec. 11. One night later, New Jersey won an 8-5 track meet against the Rangers, and on Dec. 16, the Chicago Blackhawks became the first road team to break seven goals this season by routing the Oilers 9-2 at Edmonton — and two nights later, Boston put up a "snowman" in an 8-5 victory over Toronto

In contrast to the lack of big scoring nights in the first third of this season, there were seven games in the same span during 2006-07 in which one team scored eight or more goals, and nine in that time frame season.

Be-deviling New Jersey — Toronto's Vesa Toskala has never been among the best goaltenders in shootouts — he's just 4-10 lifetime, and his .286 winning percentage is the eighth-lowest of all goaltenders who've taken part in 10 or more shootouts during their careers.

But Toskala has been flawless this season against one team that's generally excellent at the breakaway competition — the New Jersey Devils.

The Leafs and Devils have played two shootouts this season, and Toskala has won both of them, beating Martin Brodeur — the winningest goaltender in shootout history — on Oct. 29 and Scott Clemmensen on Dec. 16. Toskala has played in three other shootouts this season, and lost all three. He's faced eight shots from the Devils and stopped six; he faced eight more in the other three shootouts — and stopped just two.

Great Scott — Despite the shootout loss to the Leafs this week, it's been a great season for Clemmensen, who played in the Toronto organization last season after spending time parts of four seasons as Brodeur's backup.


Clemmensen improved to 9-3-1 by beating Buffalo 5-3 on Wednesday night. That's more NHL victories than he'd managed in his limited playing time (28 games) in his five previous seasons.

Clemmensen is also the first Devils goaltender other than Brodeur to win as many as nine games in 15 years. The last one to get that many was Chris Terreri, who had 20 wins in 1993-94 — when he and Brodeur (27 wins) divided the work.

Circle the date — Bet that the Calgary Flames will make sure to have a game on Dec. 16, 2009. Flames captain Jarome Iginla certainly will want to play that night, because on December 16, he turns into Superman.

Iginla had a four-point night (2 goals, 2 assists) on Tuesday in the Flames' 6-3 win at St. Louis. Incredibly, it was the third year in a row that he piled up four points on Dec. 16. Two years ago, he had 2 goals and 2 assists against Phoenix, and he did it again last Dec. 16 against St. Louis.

The Blues certainly don't want to see Iginla next Dec. 16 — and they'd rather not see him at all. Calgary's captain has 56 points (20 goals, 36 assists) in 46 career games against St. Louis.

Quote of the Day

It's cool when you think about how many great American players have played the game and the two players that were at that 18-game point streak and what they've done in their careers. It's pretty cool right now, but it was kind of overshadowed by the loss.

— Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after breaking the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Kings
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