Montreal Canadiens – Ottawa Senators Series Preview


The Canadiens and Senators will face off in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs again this year in a rematch of 2013, with the Habs once again winning the division and the Sens looking to knock them off as underdogs. Here’s the schedule as we know it so far:

Game 1: Wednesday, April 15, 7:00. CBC, TVA, NHLN-US
Game 2: Friday, April 17, 7:00. CBC, TVA, CNBC
Game 3: Sunday, April 19, 7:00. CBC, TVA, NBCSN
Game 4: Wednesday, April 22, 7:00. CBC, TVA, USA
Game 5: Friday, April 24, TBD. CBC, TVA
Game 6: Sunday, April 26, TBD. CBC, TVA
Game 7: Tuesday, April 28, TBD. CBC, TVA

Mar 24, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Montreal Canadiens goalie

Carey Price

(31) makes a save during the first period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

How They Got Here

Canadiens: Despite lackluster possession numbers, the Canadiens have managed to rack up points all year. If they weren’t occupying the spot at the time, they never fell too far from the top of the division, the conference, or even the league as the NHL season rolled along. After the trade deadline the Canadiens faltered a bit and ended the season second overall with 110 points, just 3 shy of the New York Rangers.

Senators: To put it bluntly, the Senators are where they are because of the late season heroics of Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond. Hammond started for the first time in the NHL against the Canadiens on February 18 at a time when the Senators were 22-23-10, 10 points out of a playoff spot and 11th overall in the conference. By the time the season ended, Hammond had a record of 20-1-2, a .941 save percentage and a 1.79 goals against average.

Jan 15, 2015; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens center

Alex Galchenyuk

(27) battles for the puck with Ottawa Senators center

Jean-Gabriel Pageau

(44) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Match Up

The Canadiens and Senators squared off four times this season, and the Habs only managed to win the first meeting, a home game in December.

Despite allowing a strange shorthanded goal early, Carey Price stopped 24 of 25 shots and the Canadiens got goals from Brandon Prust, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Plekanec, and Alex Galchenyuk to beat the Sens 4-1 on December 20.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored his first goal of the season, the eventual game winner, when the Senators beat the Habs 4-1 in Ottawa the second time Montreal and Ottawa squared off. Dustin Tokarski took the loss allowing 3 goals on 34 shots.

Mark Stone scored the game winners in each of the final two meetings, with the Senators fighting to claw their way back into the playoff race. Andrew Hammond made 42 saves in a 4-2 victory the first time he faced the Habs and 27 in a 5-2 win to close out the season series.

Erik Karlsson had three goals and three assists against the Habs this year, Max Pacioretty picked up four goals and two assists against the Senators.

Oct 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens defenceman

P.K. Subban

(76) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at the Air Canada Centre. Montreal defeated Toronto 4-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens Keys to Success

It goes without saying that the Canadiens will need Carey Price to do what he’s done all season. Price has given the Canadiens a goaltending advantage through most of the games he played this year, rarely being outperformed by his adversary in the opposing crease. If the Canadiens have a chance of moving on Carey Price must be better than Andrew Hammond, or whoever else gets thrown at them by the Senators.

After that, the Canadiens will need to remain disciplined, both in terms of the penalties and the chances they take. Speed and counterattack are still Montreal’s two greatest weapons offensively, and the Canadiens will be able to wait for their opportunities if Price plays up to his expected level.

The defensive pairing of P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov will be leaned on heavily and they’ll need to be the best defensive pairing in the series both offensively and defensively in order to help their team. Expect the pair to log between 25 to 30 minutes a game, or more if overtime becomes a factor.

Finally, the Canadiens can assure a series victory by clamping down defensively and keeping Price free from traffic, rebounds, scrums and deflections as much as possible. Some timely scoring on the power play could also give the Habs the boost they need to move on.

Ottawa Senators Keys to Success

The Senators have speed and talent throughout their lineup and have caused the most trouble to the Canadiens when they’ve spread out their offense over several lines. The Senators will need contributions from more than just their veterans, Erik Karlsson, Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris, youngsters Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Mika Zibanejad will need to rise to the occasion as well.

Speaking of Erik Karlsson, watch for the Sens captain to be buzzing around the Habs net, charging in on rushes and finding shooting lanes at 5-on-5 and on the power play. He’ll be tightly watched, but if Karlsson can’t be contained, the Sens have a good chance of moving forward.

Andrew Hammond will need to be every bit as impressive in the playoffs as he was down the stretch. The Senators can expect to face a test in their offensive end, Hammond will be relied on to keep things together in their own zone while the team looks for ways to get a puck or two by Carey Price.

Jan 4, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) makes a save against Ottawa Senators right wing

Erik Condra

(22) as Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) defends during the third period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Edge

When all else fails, keep calm and Carey on. It will be up to the Senators to crack the fortress that is Carey Price. If they can do that, or if Andrew Hammond is equal to the task of matching Price save for save, the Senators will have a good chance to advance to the second round, but that’s easier said than done. The Canadiens have enough offensive weapons to keep pace with the Senators and Carey Price is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy for a reason.

The Habs have the experience of a long run last season and the confidence in a goaltender that’s won at all the highest levels to fuel them. Give the slight edge to the Canadiens but strap yourself in for an exciting series.

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