Friday, November 4th, 2011
Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200
Winners of their last 3 games, the Montreal Canadiens are emerging from an early season hole that had some people calling for the head of coach Jacques Martin. In a move that was widely criticized around the NHL, assistant coach Perry Pearn was fired just before the winning streak started. Prior to this streak, the Habs lost 6 in a row (including 2 in extra time), where they couldn’t put a complete game together. They seemed to lose 6-5 or 2-1. They weren’t getting blown out, but they couldn’t get the key save when they needed it. However, wins over the Flyers and then back to back against Boston has rejuvenated the club and Carey Price is providing the goaltending that was expected from him. They have been off since Saturday, so have had almost a week to prepare for this game and to nurse the bumps and bruises from the early season battles. The Habs are playing without defensemen Andrei Markov and Chris Campoli, while forwards Scott Gomez and Ryan White are also nursing injuries.
The Senators are coming off a loss to the Bruins, but before that managed a 6 game winning streak that has them in the upper half of the Eastern Conference standings, much to the surprise of about 95% of hockey fans. They have played more games than most, but putting those points in the bank early means teams are chasing them instead of vice-versa. Daniel Alfredsson will miss his third straight game with a concussion, while Peter Regin and Matt Carkner are also out with injuries. Kaspars Daugavins was recalled following his dental surgery earlier this week and will likely get inserted back into the lineup with Zenon Konopka coming out. Brian Lee will be back into the fold after sitting out for seven games, in favour of David Rundblad. Craig Anderson is expected to start against Carey Price.
This is the first meeting of the season between the division rivals, but Montreal won the season series last year, going 1-4-1 against Ottawa.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Carey Price (G), MTL – Is 8-5-0 with 3 shutouts in his career against the Senators. Price has allowed only 4 goals in his past 3 games during the Canadiens’ winning streak. The Canadiens will go as far as Price will take them this season, and he has become the face of the franchise and the club’s MVP.
Craig Anderson (G), OTT – Despite having a GAA near 4 and a save percentage below .900, Anderson sits tied for fourth in the NHL in wins (6). Anderson is 3-2-0 in his career against the Canadiens. A troubling stat is that Anderson has allowed 4 or more goals in 5 of his 11 starts so far this season, with Ottawa winning only one of those games. Anderson seemed to be rounding into form during the winning streak, but has allowed 9 in his last two games. More consistency from their goaltending is paramount if the Senators are going to stay in the playoff race.
KEYS TO A SENATORS VICTORY
1. Shining Spezza – The Senators leading scorer must get back on track if the Senators are going to win. His 6 game point streak was snapped against Boston. However, Montreal has been good to Spezza as his 54 points in 44 career games (with 5 game winners) would indicate, so there is a good possibility that he can start a new streak tonight.
2. Avoid the Sin Bin – Ottawa gave the Bruins 7 power play opportunities on Tuesday. Continuing to give that many man advantages is playing with fire against any power play, especially when your PK is ranked 27th, as Ottawa’s is. PK Subban might be a pain in the butt to play against, and he is always able to draw a crowd. The Sens need to let him be and not get wrapped up in his antics, of which there will be many.
3. All Hands on Deck – Montreal has been getting contributions from all areas of their team and each line. Ottawa must match this balance and be prepared to outwork the Canadiens. They cannot focus on one line or another one will beat you the way they are going.
This game is important for the Senators as they do not want to slip back to the .500 mark and get drawn back into the pack of the playoff race. They need to keep their heads above water and force other teams to chase them. The loss in Boston can be excused because although they haven’t been playing well, the Bruins are the Stanley Cup Champs. It was also the 4th game in 6 nights for the Senators. Now, playing after 2 nights off, there is no excuse not to play with desperation for a full 60 minutes, instead of turning it on and off. With almost every team behind them having games in hand, the Senators need to continue to put up wins to avoid falling deeper in the standings and making the improbable run a moot point.
SenShot ran a contest to have fans choose their most memorable Sens-Habs moment. There were some good entries, but I want to show you mine, so I will leave you with this:
Check back after the game for a complete recap.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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