It's almost time.
With the preseason winding down, the Canadiens will finish off their preseason with a home-and-home against the Ottawa Senators. The preseason-concluding miniseries is a tradition between the two squads, going back at least three years.
The Canadiens lineup is beginning to take shape, and beyond the notable absence of a recuperating Max Pacioretty (which looks set to end soon), the roster is approaching its fully potency. With the process of establishing chemistry between linemates well underway, this evening's game may be a good opportunity to tighten up some tactics. As Andrew wrote over at SportlogIQ, the Habs continue to be plagued by the same systems issues that have appeared throughout Michel Therrien's reign. With the Senators' roster evolving as well, the Habs can count on Dave Cameron's crew provide a structured and disciplined opponent to practice against.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:30 PM ET
In the Canadiens region (French): RDS
Tale of the Tape
|49.1||Score-Adjusted Corsi For %||50.4|
|1.19||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.04|
*All stats are from the 2014-15 regular season.
Know Your Enemy
The Ottawa Senators are in a place that many NHL teams, including the Canadiens, find themselves in right now. With a tidal wave of cuts already made to the training camp roster, only the top prospects, and legitimate contenders for roster spots, remain.
For Ottawa, that list includes notable names like Thomas Chabot, Matt O'Connor, Nick Paul, Matt Puempel, and Shane Prince. Players like Paul and Chabot are likely present mostly due to their draft pedigree, not unlike Nikita Scherbak and Noah Juulsen sticking deeper into Habs camp. On the other hand, Puempel and Prince may be in more of a Charles Hudon-type situation, as they look to finally stick with the big club.
Otherwise, this year's Sens look a lot like the team we got so familiar with last season. Erik Karlsson will be the undisputed catalyst for the transition game, while last year's breakout stars, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman, will be relied on to keep scoring. Of course, veterans Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan will look to supplement the offence, as well.
Finally, and speaking of familiar, the Canadiens may have to go up against defender Mark Fraser for the third time this preseason. After two appearances against Montreal while on his PTO with the Leafs, Fraser signed a two-way deal with the Senators. Fraser likely won't be present when Montreal takes part in the Senators home opener on October 11, but it looks like the gritty defender will pester the Habs for at least one more game.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens last game against the Senators was a big one; it gave Montreal a 4-2 series victory and pushed the Habs to the second round of the playoffs. The game was a microcosm of the Canadiens' season, as Carey Price made just a single Brendan Gallagher goal stand up until Max Pacioretty ended the Senators' campaign with just one second left in the third period.
Despite what appeared to be a convincing series victory, with the Habs jumping out to a 3-0 lead before Ottawa could register a win in response, the six game stretch illustrated Montreal's greatest opportunity for improvement this year. The Canadiens struggled to enter the Senators' zone with control of the puck for much of the series, and after an overmatched Andrew Hammond was removed from the equation, the Habs were able to score only four more non-empty net goals in the four remaining games.
The Habs need to build their success on efficiency, not opportunism. With real hockey less than a week away, tonight would be a fine time to get started.