Thursday marks the first time that the modern-day version of the Ottawa Senators will lock horns with the storied history of the Montreal Canadiens in a playoff series.
7:00 PM, Bell Centre
TV: CBC, RDS Radio: TEAM1200
The Senators and Canadiens played each other 4 times this season, and each team walked away with 5 points and a 2-1-1 record. Ottawa outscored Montreal 10-7 (not including shootout goals) and dominated the special teams with an 80% penalty kill and an astounding 41.7% power play success rate.
There are definitely some key matchups to take a look at when these two teams lock horns. In net, on the blue line and up front there will be intrigue. Today we will focus on the battle between the pipes:
Craig Anderson – Coming off a season that could have gone down as one of the greatest ever, and possibly capped off with a Vezina Trophy had it not been for the ankle injury that sidelined him for nearly half of the shortened season. Anderson faced Montreal twice this season, going 1-1 with a 1.51 GAA and .953 Sp, which was pretty much on par with his season numbers pre-injury. Anderson has been good since coming back, but just a notch below what he was before.
Carey Price – There was also Vezina talk about Price prior to the final 10 games of the season that saw him pulled twice and losing 6 of his last 8 games. Price faced the Senators 3 times this season, winning two and losing 1 in a shootout. His numbers almost mirror Anderson’s when these teams face each other, as Price sports a 1.58 GAA and .944 SP against Ottawa.
TOP 3 STORYLINES FOR THE GAME
1. Offense – Can Ottawa score enough to win? Since the return of Karlsson, the team has scored 7 goals in just over 3 games, and Karlsson assisted on 4 of them. The team needs to become more than 1 dimensional, no matter how good that 1 dimension might be. The first line of veterans Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson along with Kyle Turris have to lead the way for the youngsters to follow.
2. Defense – The Karlsson-Subban matchup is intriguing. The key to stopping Subban is to keep the Habs off the power play. When I figure out the key to stopping Karlsson, I’ll let you know. The only person who has really been able to do that (intentionally or not) is Matt Cooke. The rest of the Senators’ blue line corps is a nice balance between offense (Sergei Gonchar), defense (Marc Methot) and a little bit of both (Jared Cowen). It looks like Eric Gryba will get the nod over Patrick Wiercioch to start the series on the third pairing with Chris Phillips.
3. Special Teams – Ottawa’s power play was stellar against Montreal, as noted above, and they bring the league’s best penalty killing unit to Montreal. Montreal uses its power play very effectively for the most part and that is where Subban and Markov are most dangerous.
The first period, although maybe cautious, will set the tone. If the Senators can jump out to a lead early on and get the fans down on Price right away it could create a hostile home atmosphere in the Bell Centre. That would generate a lot of pressure from the media in advance of Game 2, which goes down right away on Friday. A win for Ottawa in Game 1 could make it a very short series. But these teams are so even that it will probably go 6 games, if not 7.
ENJOY THE GAME, AND GO SENS GO!