Monday, April 13, 2015

Ottawa Was To Be Avoided By The Canadiens In The First Round

Andrew HammondFor the last few weeks of the hockey season, I was worried about who the Canadiens were going to play against in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. As I watched the Eastern Conference wild card position take shape, it was assumed that Montreal was going to finish in the top two spots. Ottawa was playing great hockey, and their goalie, Andrew "The Hamburglar" Hammond, was providing some outstanding goaltending. The Senators continued to win night after night, and went from being an after-thought in late January to a serious playoff contender.

Fast forward to Saturday, when the Senators faced the Philadelphia Flyers in the early afternoon, while the Canadiens were to play Toronto later that night. After Ottawa beat the Flyers in the afternoon, a win for the Habs meant facing the Senators.

I don't know about you, but I would much rather have the Habs play Detroit than Ottawa. Montreal has handled the Red Wings this relative easethsi season, while Ottawa has had Montreal's number. Ultimately, the Habs won 4-3 in a shoot out, and now have to face  the Senators in the first round, starting Wednesday, April 16th.

In their brief playoff history, Ottawa has owned the Canadiens. The painful memory of the 2013 playoff match up has many Habs' fans concerned. Personally, I DID NOT want Montreal to face the Senators in the first round. 

What do I think will happen? Well lets examine the results so far:

- Ottawa finished the season on a 22-4-4 run, one of the best in the league. Their goalie, Hammond posted a sparkling .941 save percentage and we thought Price's average was good. What is even more alarming is that Price seemed to be less focused in the last four or five games he played. And his average showed it; he had a poor .895 save percentage in his last half dozen games. Not the way you want to go into the playoffs.

- The Canadiens' leading goal scorer and point leader, Max Pacioretty, may be unavailable to start the series against Ottawa, while the Senators' rookies lit it up and carried the Sens into playoff positioning.  Mark Stone has led the Senators with 26 goals ( +/- 21) and played some outstanding hockey. Mike Hoffman, another great find for Ottawa, has chipped in with 21 goals and a +/- of 16. The Canadiens' rely heavily on goaltender Carey Price to win close games. Ottawa, on the other hand, has scored 238 goals to our 221. Despite a recent scoring spurt by the Habs to end the season, how long can that last without Pacioretty's contributions?

 - Finally, there is the question of team toughness. Every time the Senators play the Canadiens, they seem to get the best of them physically. The Habs lack the nastiness that Ottawa comes to the rink with every game. If Ottawa starts the series and establishes their physical domination early, then some players may be intimidated, as has been the case in the past with forwards David Desharmais and Tomas Plekanec.

For the Canadiens to win the series, they need:

  • Carey Price can bring his A+ game
  • Offensive contributions from the third and fourth lines.
  • The power-play must continue to be 20+% efficient, as they have of late.
  • To show some backbone, and not fear the Senators' physicality.
If not, the Habs may find themselves on the golf course after the 5th game. 

What do you think the Habs will do? Do they have it in them to continue past first round? 



The Sens are a physical team which we are not.I sure like this kid Jeremy Gregiore and Charles Hudon for us as prospects along with McCarron and Scherkek.

If they don't bring their A games with them ,then they will find themselves golfing after 5 games!

I fear Ottawa will take the series. They are on a roll.

Well this looks like it is just the authors opinion.
The habs could have lost to the leafs and easily avoided Ottawa if this were true. Ottawa has been playing play-off hockey for a month now and you got to wonder how much gas is left in the tank.
If Montreal just plays their game they will be fine.

If Max PAC does not return then indeed the Canadiens are in trouble. And for Ottawa playing playoff hockey for a month, their engine is in full throttle right now where Therrien's troops have looked very sluggish. Which again spells trouble for Montreal.

Hey Anonymous at 8:08 am. What a silly comment "Well this looks like it is just the authors opinion". Of course it is just his opinion! Who did think wrote the article; Therrien and MB did it over lunch?! LOL

If Eller can step up his game like he did in the playoffs last year, then Patches absence might not be as bad in this first round match up. Oh yeh, Eller keep your head up this time and don't get clocked like you did in 2013 playoffs against these same Send.

Great points Mike. You really paint a good picture of the playoff series coming up with our Habs. I do feel, however, that the Habs will pull it out. While the damn Sens have played well in the regular season, I believe Montreal's playoff experience will take them by surprise. It's a different game come playoffs.

I'm encouraged on how Eller and DD have both played over the past couple of weeks. Petry and DSP, too. This year, the Habs had several 20+ goal scorers, which I think, puts them in better position to score this playoff season.

The Hamburglar is still unproven, as he's only shown good play for a small sample size. Price is more reliable. The Habs that were here two years ago, remember, and I think the Habs will play very well this playoff season.

If being concerned about Ottawa troubles you, how about playing Tampa Bay? Or, the Rangers? No matter what, the Habs will have to beat good teams to win the Cup.

My 2¢...

It has been confirmed, Pacorietty will not play the first game. So there is an opportunity for Eller to take a leadership role on this team. It is time for him to step up.

Everyone is talking about Eller, but what about Galchenuk? This is his second playoff year. It is time for him to earn that big contract that is just around the corner.

Hey Mike, you obviously have been a loyal hab fan for years, so why are you always so down on them?. Just asking.

Hi everyone! I appreciate all the views and comments. I would like to answer or comment on some of the feedback above. I agree that Pacioretty will be missed if he is out for more than one game. Yes, Eller and Galchenyuk need to step it up, this could be the year they shine in the playoffs. Both have tremendous talent and both need to deliver.
Why am I so hard on habs now? Well like I had stated in a previous article of mine, I was raised on the habs of the 60's and 70's. Those teams were unbelievable to watch. They could score, they could defend, they could stand up to any team, they had great goalies and superstar forwards and defensemen. I was extremely spoiled by cheering on such great teams for years on end. I came to expect a Stanley Cup run every May and got it. So now I have to compare today's team to the teams I grew up with, and I am always disappointed. No matter how good the habs become they will always be compared to the great dynasties of the 60's and 70's. So there you have it. Thanks everyone, and keep the comments coming. I look forward to reading each one of them

this match-up could be tough but I think Montreal can beat anyone if Price stands on his head (even TB).

Well Thursday's game was too close for comfort. Here is hoping that tonight Montreal makes all their fans proud.

Now if Montreal is to win the series, they should do so properly by their skill. Let's not have all the Canadiens jump on the goon van with Subban.

So my advice to you Canadiens is to not go off the deep end, keep your noses clean, keep on the inside track, and go for the grand slam!

Hi Mike,

Great post! I always enjoy reading your articles. I have a couple comments that I'd love to share.

First off, before the series began, I agreed with you that Ottawa is a scary team for the Habs to play against. They're big, physical, and have been riding off the success of Hammond for the last 5 weeks. I think that the Sens have a lot of potential with Stone and their Karlsson. If there were to be any upsets in the first round I would have to have given it to the Sens or the Jets.

Secondly, I am glad and thankful that we're both wrong on this, but the Habs clutched a very important home victory in game 1. There is a lot of pressure on the home teams for game 1 because if they can't pull it off there, they need, NEED to win the next one or risk going 0-2 heading into a very hostile enemy crowd. We lost Subban, but they lost Stone. An unfair trade for a veteran defenseman who eats a lot of ice-time for some rookie playing sub 20 minutes. We got the clutch win and headed into game two with some momentum.

Game two was scary because I was fearing a strong push back from the Sens. The resistance came but the speed and resilience of the Habs with Pac, Galchenyuk, and Gallagher really helped them get a crucial win.

Now that the series is 2-0, I'm thinking that the Habs have the upper edge. Despite going into enemy territory, the Habs can focus on their game without the added pressure. We have some insurance and I think the Habs can close the series without having to break a sweat.

Just watch out for the Sens... they still want revenge for what Subban did to Stone. We might lose a guy from injury in these next coming games that might sway our playoff chances.

My advice: close out the series early to avoid injury. We need our guys fresh for when we go up against the other big teams in the later rounds.

Go Habs go!

Well my dear HabAddicts that was a horrendous game to watch!
And this is exactly why I did not want the habs to face Ottawa. They've had our number since that very first game they played against us when they joined the NHL and they embarrassed us 4-1. We had them down 3-0 and now we are going back to Ottawa for game 6 up only 3-2. I fear this will go to game 7 and Anderson will the star of that game and not Price.

Wow! I am glad that series is over; too nerve racking. I am happy the habs were able to prove me wrong this time. Now who will we play, Detroit or TB? I would prefer Detroit, since TB has owned us this year. Bring on round two.

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