Series Preview: Montreal – Ottawa


 

(2) Montreal Canadiens 29-14-5    vs.    (7) Ottawa Senators 25-17-6

 Game 1: Thursday, May 2, 7pm – Ottawa @ Montreal

Game 2: Friday, May 3, 7pm – Ottawa @ Montreal

Game 3: Sunday, May 5, 7pm – Montreal @ Ottawa

Game 4: Tuesday, May 7, 7pm – Montreal @ Ottawa

Game 5: Thursday, May 9, 7pm – Ottawa @ Montreal*

Game 6: Saturday, May 11, TBD – Montreal @ Ottawa*

Game 7: Sunday, May 12, TBD – Ottawa @ Montreal*

*if necessary

This is the matchup the team, fans, and probably the media wanted. Despite beating Boston at home in game 48 I'm not sure any Senator supporter wanted the Bruins, and another first-round exit at the hands of the Penguins would have been a real lousy way to go out. Both Ottawa and Montreal like to have the puck, and play with skill ie. hockey. Should be a fun series.

Even-Strength

Over 48 games the Habs were the superior possession team, at times in the top five league-wide, and finished eighth by Fenwick Close. After losing Karlsson Ottawa had the puck a lot less and were a sub-50 possession team between the time Karlsson was injured and the time Conacher joined the roster. Since then Ottawa's been a 60.1% team by Fenwick Close, but that's only 12 games so let's not go too crazy.

Ottawa outscored Montreal at even-strength in the season series 5-4, but it should be noted 3 of the 5 Ottawa goals for came against Peter Budaj. Not to mention Montreal had a better 5on5 goal ratio, despite getting much worse goaltending at even-strength.

Special Teams

While Montreal generates about a league average amount of shots per 60 at 5on4, they are very efficient, finishing with the 5th best mark in the league at 20.7%. Condra and the gang will have their work cut out for them containing Subban and Markov.

One would hope Karlsson's return to jump-start a dormant power-play, it did look somewhat better in the three games he played. Still obvious how much they miss Spezza when you watch their puck movement with the man advantage.

Key Matchups

- Michalek-Turris-Alfredsson on the Plekanec line seems logical.

- Can Subban-Karlsson be a matchup? I'm not sure, but it's a narrative we're going to hear all series anyway.

- There are also a crapload of rookies in this series and presumably they can't all be sheltered at all times, plenty of opportunity for mismatches for those with last change.

- Anderson is playing the best hockey of his career and Price had a pretty forgettable season.

Who's The New Peter Regin?

In the sense of being a surprise playoff performer, not due for a series of crippling shoulder injuries.

Smart money would say Pageau here, who's call up in itself was a surprise and who looked great in 9 games. Scoring a late winner at Boston to secure the seventh seed makes JGP a trendy and downright reasonable pick for this title.

Zibanejad, Silf, Conacher, Wiercioch (if he gets in) also great choices. And a more long shot pick I have some unfounded hope for is Colin Greening.

On the Montreal side there are no shortage of choices either, but let's go with Lars Eller as he's had a solid year and is Danish.

Intangibles

Youppi is awesome.

This MS Paint drawing of Mac. (sticktap SebFromHawk)


Bold Predictions

@Brochenski – Sens in 7

My biggest criticism of the Sens during the season was their defence. Now that Karlsson and Cowen have returned, I'm not as worried, especially after the Habs lost Emelin to injury. The Sens still have their weaknesses, most notably their inability to score. On the bright side they've been getting plenty of chances, so maybe they'll start getting more bounces go their way. With Karlsson back I"m more confident about the offence and power-play. I think the difference in this series will be goaltending. MacLean has options with two goalies playing at an elite level. Anderson and Lehner have to continue their strong work, especially on the PK, since Ottawa gives up a lot of chances while down a man, and tend to give the opposition plenty of PP opportunities. I think shutting down a hot Montreal PP powered by Subban and Markov is key. The thing I like most about Montreal is their top three lines, all of which are a threat to score. I think these teams are a lot closer in talent than the standings suggest, so I think will be a very close series. I'm giving Ottawa the edge in this one.

@steffeG – Habs in 5 (l'antijinx)

*steffeG gets right to the point*

@Wham_City aka me – Sens in 6

A month ago I was dreading facing the Canadiens in the playoffs. In the two games Ottawa played Montreal without Spezza or Karlsson they had been outshot 90-56, and made the Senators look very slow in the process. I just seemed like a bad matchup. Since then, Ottawa traded for Conacher, called up Pageau and have Michalek and Karlsson back in the lineup. As I wrote about earlier today, the final 12 games of the season saw the Senators playing their best possession hockey of the season. As a result, I"m much more confident they can win this series. I might still give the possession edge to Montreal but it's marginal, and on the goaltending side I think the Senators have a clear advantage…though I wouldn't be surprised if Price plays real well. As Brochenski mentioned above, the key will be staying out of the box, which might be hard at a raucous Bell Centre. Sens in 6 cause Ottawa don't really do game 7's.

@GraemeNichols – Habs in 6

The absence of Alexei Emelin and recent struggles of Carey Price make me hesitant to pick the Habs to win. But, as much as I believe the return of Karlsson can give the Sens a lift, concerns about the team having the worst shooting percentage in the league and doubts Spezza will return in the first-round make me think twice about Ottawa's chance to advance.

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