Canadiens vs Senators - Playoff Series Preview

USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since the city of Ottawa was granted an expansion franchise in 1990, and they joined the NHL in 1992, the Senators will face off against the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs.

Make sure to check out Silver Seven for their perspective on the upcoming series.

Season Series

The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators played each other four times in the lockout shortened 2013 season, splitting the season series with each team winning once in regulation and once in a shootout.

Senators Wins Canadiens Wins
5-1 - January 30th, 2013 2-1 February 3rd, 2013
2-1 (SO) February 25th, 2013 4-3 (SO) March 14th, 2013

In the season series, each team won both of their home games. The Canadiens held an extremely strong possession advantage and shot differential in spite of being outscored (entirely in Peter Budaj's first start of the year).

However it's tough to put too much stock in the season series, as stud Sens defenseman Erik Karlsson played only two games of the four. His effect on the outcome of the remaining two games is impossible to parse, but even then, it's just a four game sample. What we're left with then is to break down the rosters.

Top Scoring Forwards - Ottawa

Turris_medium

Kyle Turris
Goals 12
Assists 17
Points 29
Fenwick % 51.1
Fenwick Close % 51.7

Turris was forced into an unfamiliar role with Jason Spezza out for the season as the first line center, and he'll continue playing that role since Spezza will be unavailable to the Sens in the first round. Turris is by no means an offensive juggernaut, but he plays tough competition while staying on the positive side of the ledger.

Conacher_medium

Cory Conacher
Goals 11
Assists 18
Points 29
Fenwick % 49.7
Fenwick Close % 47.2

Acquired in exchange for Ben Bishop at the trade deadline, Conacher did most of his scoring for Tampa Bay. One of the older top rookies in the NHL this season, Conacher's production was largely percentage driven, scoring on 16.42% of his shots on the season. It's unlikely he continues that trend, but a high percentage shooter is exactly what Ottawa needs in this series.

Alfredsson_medium

Daniel Alfredsson
Goals 10
Assists 16
Points 26
Fenwick % 53.3
Fenwick Close % 53.4

The elder statesman of Ottawa's forward corps, Alfredsson still has it at 40 years old. His production has dipped, but a large part of that is some poor puck luck in a shortened season. Unfortunately, he's also absolutely amazing against Montreal over his career, with 105 points in 89 games. Alfredsson is likely the player to watch offensively, as the wily vet always finds a way to contribute.

Top Scoring Forwards - Montreal

Pacioretty_medium

Max Pacioretty
Goals 15
Assists 24
Points 39
Fenwick % 61.1
Fenwick Close % 60.2

Pacioretty is a possession demon, but he was also used in an exploitation role all season. His points per game rate is higher than it's ever been, but it's fair to say that his goal scoring was less than expected. Luckily for Habs fans though, that isn't because of a reduced shot rate. Pacioretty finished top 10 in the NHL in shots in spite of missing 4 games due to an emergency surgery to remove his appendix.

Ryder_medium

Michael Ryder
Goals 16
Assists 19
Points 35
Fenwick % 51.6
Fenwick Close % 53.0

Like Conacher, Ryder rode the percentage wave this season to some excellent scoring numbers. The luck ran out for him towards the end of the season as he went 9 straight without a goal. Unlike Conacher though, Ryder put up some solid possession numbers, with a lot of time playing tough minutes with Plekanec and Gionta.

Plekanec_medium

Tomas Plekanec
Goals 14
Assists 19
Points 33
Fenwick % 52.4
Fenwick Close % 52.8

Mr. Everything for the Canadiens, Plekanec drove possession against tough minutes all year long, and managed a resurgent year in goal production after being saddled with horrible linemates for 70% of the previous season. Plekanec will draw the shutdown role against the Alfredsson line most likely, and while this used to cause huge production dips in the playoffs, better linemates may allow him to play shutdown and produce at the same level he has all season.

Top Defensemen - Ottawa

Gonchar_medium

Sergei Gonchar
Goals 2
Assists 24
Points 26
Fenwick % 52.2
Fenwick Close % 52.3

After looking like a done player in his first two seasons in Ottawa, Gonchar is up to his old tricks with some excellent production. The 39 year old Russian was especially important to the Sens this year with Karlsson missing so many games. Then again, Gonchar is the guy that let this happen.

Karlsson_medium

Erik Karlsson
Goals 6
Assists 8
Points 14
Fenwick % 56.4
Fenwick Close % 55.3

Keep in mind that Karlsson only played 17 games when looking at his scoring numbers. The guys is everything to the Senators, he runs their offense. He is a game changer for them both at even strength and on the powerplay. We've already covered how good Karlsson is in other posts though.

Top Defensemen - Montreal

Subban_medium

P.K. Subban
Goals 11
Assists 27
Points 39
Fenwick % 58.5
Fenwick Close % 60.6

What can we really say about Subban that we haven't already said this season? Outstanding both offensively and defensively, a physical presence, completely owns possession, draws penalties, wins puck battles like they're easy. The guy is a beast in every way. And if the Sens are determined to block his shots... Well ask Tyler Myers how that goes.

Markov_medium

Andrei Markov
Goals 10
Assists 20
Points 30
Fenwick % 51.2
Fenwick Close % 48.7

From 20 games played in two years to not missing a single game in a cramped schedule. Montreal's own 'elderly' Russian blueliner also had a renaissance season. His possession metrics aren't equal to the impressive season that Gonchar put up, but they didn't have to be as Subban was there to make up for it. Where Markov will kill a team is the powerplay.

X Factor - Ottawa

Silfverberg_medium

Jakob Silfverberg
Goals 10
Assists 9
Points 19
Fenwick % 51.8
Fenwick Close % 50.9

This was a tough choice, because Milan Michalek could be used for all the same arguments and has put up better possession numbers this year, but I'm going to use the eye test a little bit and say that Silfverberg is the Sens' X Factor for the series. My reasoning is pretty simple, Silfvergberg put up 134 shots this year, more than any other Sen, and played just 16:13 per game. He also scored on just 7.46 percent of his shots, which I find absurd. Why? Silfverberg has an elite release. He gets the puck off his stick blindingly fast, and he's beat the Habs a couple times this year with that deadly release. Watching him play, he reminds me a bit of Vanek.

X Factor - Montreal

Eller_medium

Lars Eller
Goals 8
Assists 22
Points 30
Fenwick % 51.7
Fenwick Close % 52.7

Looking at Eller's stat line is impressive enough on it's own, but when you add in the context that he outpointed every Ottawa Senator and missed two games as a healthy scratch to begin the year, it's even more impressive. The possession numbers are also solid, and again startling when you realize that Eller was a 46.5% Fenwick close player in the first half of the season, which means he's been running at 58.9% Fenwick in close situations in the second half. Eller has been a force, and all the while he's scored on just 9.52 percent of his shots, lower than expected. Eller also factored into 6 of the Canadiens' last 10 goals of the season.

Starting Goaltender - Ottawa

Anderson_medium

Craig Anderson
Statistic 2013 Season 2013 vs Montreal Career Career vs Montreal
Save % 94.1 95.3 91.5 90.7
GAA 1.69 1.51 2.71 2.82
Record 12-9-2 1-1-0 143-119-32 5-6-1

Anderson missed nearly half the season with an ankle injury, but when he did play he was flat out brilliant. He led the NHL in save percentage, though with only playing half of the seasons' games, he probably isn't going to win the Vezina Trophy. In two appearances this season he played brilliantly against the Canadiens, but his record over his career leaves a lot to be desired.

Starting Goaltender - Montreal

Price_medium

Carey Price
Statistic 2013 Season 2013 vs Ottawa Career Career vs Ottawa
Save % 90.5 94.4 91.5 92.7
GAA 2.59 1.58 2.56 2.11
Record 21-13-4 2-0-1 145-117-39 14-5-3

Price wasn't having his best season this year, but it looks a whole heck of a lot worse than it actually was due a horrid streak near the end of the year that dragged him from equivalent to last season to the worst year of his career. What's notable though, is that this drag on his numbers was not present against the Sens. In fact Price has an excellent record against the Senators in his career, putting up some of the best numbers that he's put up against any team.

Advantage - Ottawa - Defensive System

The Senators play an extremely tight checking system that cuts down on scoring chances against. This is evidenced most strongly by all three goaltenders that rotated into their lineup this season having career years. While Montreal allows 3.1 fewer shots against per 60 minutes at even strength than Ottawa does, their sloppy play in the defensive zone was heavily exposed towards the end of the season when Alexei Emelin was injured and Price failed to continually bail them out.

Advantage - Montreal - Offensive Depth

Montreal has one of the strongest top 9 forward groups in the NHL, with 8 different players hitting the 10 goal mark in this shortened season. Two defensemen hitting 30+ points creates a dynamic offense that can hit you in multiple ways. Ottawa lacks scoring depth, especially with Jason Spezza out, and even if both Michalek and Silfverberg shoot to their talent levels, they don't have as many high percentage shooters or as many high volume shooters as the Habs do.

The two teams are closer to each other than what Habs fans would like, but the Canadiens should have the advantage going into the series, even if it is slight.


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