Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Playoff Preview: Montreal Canadiens – Ottawa Senators


Montreal Canadiens (2) vs. Ottawa Senators (7)

Some hockey fans in Canada will certainly be disappointed that the Montreal Canadiens won’t meet the Toronto Maple Leaf in the first round of the playoffs, but that’s not going to happen, in the first round at least, as the Habs will face the Ottawa Senators. The close division rivals will face each other for the first time ever in the playoffs since the arrival of Ottawa in the NHL in the early 1990s. This series will probably turn into an epic goaltending battle and low-scoring affairs between two of the league’s strongest netminders in Craig Anderson and Carey Price.
Jason Spezza missed most of the season with a back injury (Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports)
Both teams had successful regular seasons for different reasons. The Canadiens, who finished dead last in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12 and went through a complete overhaul of their off-ice personnel in the off-season, managed to win the Northeast division when the Boston Bruins stumbled against those same Senators last night. As for the Senators, they were tormented by serious injuries to key players, but they never lost faith or intensity under Jack Adams trophy candidate Paul MacLeanErik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Craig Anderson, Milan Michalek and Jared Cowan all missed significant time due to injury. The Canadiens and Senators split four games this season, with both teams winning one game in regulation and one game in a shootout, which gave each team five points (2-1-1 record) in the season series, both teams winning their games on home ice. Overall, the Canadiens finished with a 29-14-5 record earning 63 points in 48 games, while the Senators posted a respectable 25-7-6 record for 56 points during the lockout-shortened campaign. The Canadiens finished with the third best offense in the NHL, scoring 149 goals, or 3.04 GF/G, in comparison to the 116 goals, or 2.33 GF/G, the Senators managed to score. On defense, the Senators were dominant, allowing the second fewest goals in the league with 100 goals, or a 2.08 GA/G, compared to the 124 goals, or 2.58 GA/G, allowed by the Canadiens. On paper, the Canadiens have the best team, but we all know that surprises can happen and this series is no exception, yet, let’s have a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each team.
(Photo: Andy Martin Jr)
Goaltending: Craig Anderson had a very strong season for the Senators and had he not missed extensive playing time, he would certainly be a top candidate for the Vezina Trophy. The veteran netminder finished with a 12-9-2 record, posting a very solid 1.69 GAA to go along with an excellent .941 save percentage. In Anderson’s absence, back-up Robin Lehner and now-departed giant Ben Bishop posted great numbers and kept the goal-starved Senators in playoff contention. For Montreal, Carey Price faltered down the stretch after a great start, seeing his overall statistics balloon at a 2.59 GAA and a less-than-stellar .905 save percentage. Price, who posted a solid 21-13-4 record despite his recent struggles, will need to avoid giving up bad goals early in the first period, something that has plagued him in the Canadiens’ past ten games. Second violin, Peter Budaj, had a great season for the Canadiens, posting a solid 8-1-1 record with a great 2.29 GAA and a .908 save percentage in 13 games played. His solid play earned his a two-year contractextension with the organization and Michel Therrien is not afraid to use him in big games, so don’t be surprise to see him start a game if Price struggles early. Edge: Ottawa
Defensive corps The Canadiens boast two of the best offensive-minded defensemen in the NHL with PK Subban (11 goals and 27 assists for 38 points in 42 games) and Andrei Markov (10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points in 48 games), while the Senators can count on the return of a healthy Erik Karlsson, the 2012 Norris Trophy winner, who is back from a serious Achilles injury that forced him to miss most of the shortened season. Both defensive brigades boast a solid group of defensemen that provide leadership and experience on the blue line, Josh Gorges and Francis Bouillon for Montreal, and Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips for Ottawa. With similar offensive punch of the power play and great defensive prowess on the man advantage, both teams match evenly in this department. Edge: None 
Forward lines The injury to Jason Spezza has left head coach Paul MacLean scramble for offense, which has been the most obvious shortcoming for the Senators this season: the team only had four players with 20 points or more (Alredsson, Turris, Conacher and Zibanejad) this season. Injuries to Milan Michalek and Guillaume Latendresse have hampered Ottawa’s offensive production from its forwards all season long, but now that both have returned, and with the addition of rookie Cory Conacher acquired at the deadline, the Senators can count on a more balanced group of forwards.
On the other hand, the strength of the Canadiens and head coach Michel Therrien has been their ability to consistently roll three productive lines all year long. Eight forwards with 25 points or more for the Bleu Blanc Rouge, including ├╝ber-talented rookies Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Gallagher. Rene Bourque would certainly have made it nine if he had not missed 21 games because of a concussion. Overall, the Canadiens will benefit from their balanced line-up, especially since they don’t have a clear-cut first line, which makes it harder for the opposing coach to match up his defensive specialist against the Habs’ top weapons.
Edge: Montreal
Special units The power play of the Canadiens has been deadly at times because of the dynamic duo of Andrei Markov and PK Subban on the point, who have combined for 49 points on the man advantage, helping the Habs’ PP to produce at a 22.4% rate, good for 9th in the NHL. As for the Senators, they have struggled all year on the power play, especially with Karlsson out of the line-up, producing at a paltry 15.8% clip, good for 24th in the league. As for the penalty kill, Ottawa was the best team in the NHL this season, killing penalties at an excellent 88% clip. On the other hand, the Canadiens struggled with a man down, finishing 23rd with a dismal 79.8% rate, costing them more than one game down the stretch. A good measure to assess the quality of a team’s special units is to add both percentages and come to a rate better than 100%. For Ottawa, the rate comes down to 103.8% with is very good. As for Montreal, it is slightly inferior at 102.2%.
Edge: None
After analysing both teams, we can conclude this will be a pretty even matched up series, and it will probably come down to home-ice advantage as both teams won at home against the other team during the regular season.Fearless prediction: Montreal wins in 7 gamescanadiensProbable lines: 
Michael Ryder-Tomas Plekanec-Brian Gionta 
Max Pacioretty-David Desharnais-Rene Bourque 
Alex Galchenyuk-Lars Eller-Brendan Gallagher 
Travis Moen-Jeff Halpern-Brandon Prust 
Healthy scratches: Colby Armstrong, Ryan White, Gabriel Dumont 
Defensive pairings: 
Andrei Markov-P.K. Subban 
Josh Gorges-Raphael Diaz 
Francis Bouillon-Jarred Tinordi 
Healthy scratches: Tomas Kaberle, Davis Drewiske, Yannick Weber 
Injured player: Alexei Emelin (knee, out for the season) 
Goaltending: Carey Price Peter BudajOttawa Senators LogoProbable lines: Milan Michalek-Kyle Turris-Daniel Alfredsson 
Guillaume Latendresse-Mika Zibanejad-Jakob Silfverberg 
Colin Greening-Zack Smith-Chris Neil 
Cory Conacher-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Erik Condra 
Healthy scratches: Matt Kassian, Peter Regin, Jim O’Brien 
Injured player: Jason Spezza (back, out indefinitely) 
Defensive pairings: Marc Methot-Erik Karlsson 
Sergei Gonchar-Patrick Wiercioch 
Jared Cowen-Chris Phillips 
Healthy scratches: Andre Benoit, Eric Gryba, Mike Lundin 
Goaltending: Craig Anderson Robin Lehner 
Calendar of the series: 
1 OTT @ MTL May 2, 7pm et/4pm pt 
2 OTT @ MTL May 3, 7pm et/4pm pt 
3 MTL @ OTT May 5, 7pm et/4pm pt 
4 MTL @ OTT May 7, 7pm et/4pm pt 
*5 OTT @ MTL May 9, 7pm et/4pm pt 
*6 MTL @ OTT May 11, 7pm et/4pm pt 
*7 OTT @ MTL May 12, 7pm et/4pm pt

7 comments:

Carey Price is a sieve.

Canada's gold medal at the World Juniors proved it.

The shootout that went on forever... for one reason... Carey could not stop the puck.

3 goals in 4 shots against the Leafs a few weeks ago.

He lost 5-1 in a game against Ottawa this year.

Budaj won both games against Boston.

Halak took us past Pittsburgh and Washington. Price was on the bench.

He's too slow. He can't react. He can't get across the crease fast enough.

Budaj takes us to the eastern final.

First of allm I takes a real fan to put his name behind his comments.

Let's look at your points.

1. Price at the WJHC - the shootout was in the semi-finals, and he was outstanding in the final vs. Russia.

2. The Ottawa game happened early on this season, when the entire team sucked moose nuts.

3. Budaj played well against Boston, but he too had a crappy start during the 2 week stretch when Price was struggling. While Price needed to be better, the entire team needed a wake up call.

4. Halak is gone, and so is his wonky groin.

5. Price's technique is such that movement is minimal. While he needs work on his replexes and tracking the puck, he'll be just fine.

When you say us, I hope you aren't talking about the Habs. The team needs to play as a collective, and pointing the finger solely at the goaltending isn't being an objective fan... it's being a hater!!!!

This anonymous troll seems to be copy-n-pasting the same Price comments from every post on here. We get it, you hate Price.

Back to the analysis. Both teams are fairly evenly matched, so I think it will come down to the PP/PK. Even strength goals should have a decidedly Habs edge, but if we can't kill off penalties, we're in trouble. If we can improve our PK rate to about 85% and score on the PP about 20%, I think we can take it in 5.

I was never a fan of hockey or polo but when I saw a colleague holding a folder with a hockey team printed on it I was kinda curious about and began watching an episode of it, there on I become to engross in watching it. I just hope that the Ottawa senators will make through the finals.

I'm back. Yes, it's me.

Carey Price will ruin us.

Goal 1 = Weak (between his legs, almost let another similar one in too)

Goal 2 = Terrible

Goal 3 = Not his fault (Screened)

Goal 4 = Terrible (bad rebound on a very easy shot)

He is simply not a money player.

Mr Anonymous The Habs last night showed guts and courage. With the walls collapsing around them and every excuse to pack it in they played with such high emotion never say die attitude there most spirited game of the season led by the cool cucumber in the back end there leader CAREY PRICE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am not ashamed to put my name for the public to see

Leo. Cormier.

You. Are. A. Buffoon.

Carey Price made no more than 3 or 4 real saves last night.

2 big ones.

Yes, yes, YES...a THOUSAND TIMES OVER...YES...his team played well and with tremendous courage. BUT...Carey Price's playoff record is 9 wins and 15 losses. That will not take the Canadiens far. We should be up by TWO games. You know it. I know it. AND Carey Price knows it. Instead, we have given Ottawa the home ice advantage.

Price is too inconsistent.

1) Canada won Junior Gold DESPITE Carey Price's play. The shootout in the semi final went on and on and on because he couldn't stop the puck.

2) Halak took us passed Pittsburgh and Washington three years ago. Price was BENCHED!

3) Budaj won twice against Boston this year, ...once, having to take over from Price going into the third period down by two goals.

Again, think about it, we should be up 2 games to 0. Instead, the series is tied. Who's fault is it.

1 answer. Carey Price's fault.

He's too slow. He relies entirely on positioning and technique. The sliding butterfly. Pucks are flying past him, 5-hole, top corner. He's has no reactionary ability. He's a sieve.

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