In just their second road game of the season, the Montreal Canadiens take on their toughest opponent yet, the Ottawa Senators. Can they keep the winning streak alive?
1) There has been no shortage of hot starts on the Senators this year, but former Hab Guillaume Latendresse has just 1 assist in 4 games. Do you see him fitting in for Ottawa and improving soon, or has he just been unlucky?
I think Latendresse's slow start is perfectly understandable given how little he's played in the last few seasons, but time to find his game is a luxury neither he nor the Sens have--especially since he doesn't play a style that fits Paul MacLean's system very well. But playing with Kyle Turris and Daniel Alfredsson is a pretty good position for him to be in, and he brings a good element to that line with his size. I think MacLean will give him a few more games before making any judgements, but he's probably not far from being a healthy scratch.
2) Erik Karlsson tore it up in Europe, and is at a point per game already in the NHL. Do you ever see this guy slowing down offensively?
Well at some point in his career he'll slow down, but right now he looks like he's improved in a lot of ways since last year. The one thing that could cause problems for him is the blue line depth, which is pretty lacking due to Jared Cowen's season-ending injury. Karlsson is now playing on the penalty kill, which means he'll get less powerplay and even strength time to put up offence. But that hasn't cause problems for him yet.
3) Paul MacLean has said that he doesn't want Daniel Alfredsson to play all 48 games this season, how do you think that conversation will go?
I think it will go fine. Alfie's already missed one game, although it was due to the flu, but even once he's healthy I think Alfredsson will be somewhat glad to skip out on the back-end of some of the back-to-back games in a compressed schedule. Especially since I'm sure he realizes that once the playoffs start, he's going to be relied on heavily and he'll need to have some energy left over.
Erik Cole is beginning to wake up from his usual preseason slumber, and just in time to face his favourite opponent from last season. Cole blitzed the Senators for 6 goals last year, including a natural hat trick in the last meeting the teams had in 2011-12. Cole was so happy when he played against Ottawa last year, he literally high fived a referee after a goal.
It's tough to know exactly what it means after just 5 games, but right now your Montreal Canadiens are the strongest possession team in the NHL. With a Fenwick Tied of 61.82% (1st) and a Fenwick Close of 58.39% (2nd). Also encouraging is the dominance the Canadiens have exhibited while up one goal, with a 59.46% Fenwick (3rd), showing that they won't be sitting on one goal leads this season.
Carey Price gets the night off after a couple of starts where he wasn't his regular dominant self, with Peter Budaj set to play his first game of the year. Budaj didn't play the Sens last year, and Price was absurdly dominant against them with a .950 save percentage and 1.61 GAA. We'll see what Budaj can do.
The Canadiens get a huge break coming into the game since the best player on the Senators and their top scorer against Montreal last season, Jason Spezza, is out with an injury. Spezza is day to day but definitely out for tonight.
That leaves the offensive chores for the Senators up to reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson. Karlsson put up 4 points against Montreal in 6 games last year, but he was also a -6 and often looked overwhelmed.
One thing to watch for is Plekanec on the penalty kill. He scored 2 shorthanded goals on the Sens last year. He seems to know what Karlsson is going to do before he does it, and he took advantage of that a lot. Then again, last year the Habs were good shorthanded and this year, no so much.
The Canadiens face the NHL's hottest goaltender tonight in Craig Anderson, who boasts a .967 save percentage so far and has allowed under 1 goal against per game. And the Andrei Markov lead powerplay help Anderson regress to the mean? We'll find out shortly.
Game time is 7:00PM EST on RDS and TSN.
I also answered some questions for Peter at Silver Seven, so check them out.
If you're in Ottawa tonight, check out this link for Montreal Canadiens tickets.