The Ottawa Senators' season is on life support.
In fact, for some time, it seems that the generally acknowledged consensus is that the Senators season is already over. It was during the most recent Habs-Senators clash that Montreal pulled off the most unlikely come-back in NHL history, scoring three goals in just over three minutes to send the game to overtime. The dramatic rally was punctuated by a memorable goal:
Ostensibly, the Canadiens have ended Ottawa's season once. Now, they'll try to do it once more and for all. According to SportsClubStats, the Senators chances of making the playoffs if they win out is 22.6%. If the Habs win in regulation, that percentage drops to 1.3%. The Senators are on the brink, and if Montreal can win, they'll push them over.
Of course, the Habs will have to accomplish this without the contributions of a player widely renowned for his ability to push things over. Douglas Murray, affectionately known as Crankshaft, will serve game one of his three game ban for a vicious head-shot on Mike Kostka of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Murray's suspension opens a door for one of the Canadiens' young guns, Nathan Beaulieu, as he's been called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs to take the hulking Swede's spot on the roster. It remains to be seen if Beaulieu will even see the ice this evening, as little is predictable under the reign of Michel Therrien. If Beaulieu gets a chance, however, look for Beaulieu to show off the speed and skill that exemplifies why he should have been with the big club all year. If Beaulieu doesn't crack the lineup, however, it's still advantage Habs. The big lug is an anchor on the Habs back-end, and virtually any lineup configuration that doesn't include #6 is better than one that does. In this case, it looks like Murray's misfortune is the Senators' misfortune, too.
Tale of the Tape
The final order of business for the Habs has to do with their position in the standings. With five games remaining, and 93 points each, the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning are in a dead heat for the second spot in the Atlantic Division, at least in terms of the first two criteria. Montreal holds the advantage in the third criterion, as they own the ROW (regular + OT wins) tiebreaker with 37 to Tampa's 35. Therefore, it's imperative on the Habs to earn at least as many point as the Lightning do in order to claim what could turn into home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Playoffs, depending on how things shake out.
While Montreal has what appears to the easier final schedule, they need a win to give themselves a chance to stay in the driver's seat for seeding. Tonight, they'll find out if Ottawa's very last chance is up for grabs.