When the Canadiens last met the Ottawa Senators, the Sens looked like a weak team in the middle of a soft schedule. Tonight, they look like type of desperate team that will not make the Habs challenging March any easier.
Dominated in most facets by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, the Canadiens earned a point, and maintained first place, only on the strength of legendary goaltending. On a team supposedly loading up for a deep playoff run, the Habs need more.
The Canadiens last game against Ottawa marked their second consecutive contest in which they came out under .500 on possession. Since then, Montreal has taken more even strength shot attempts than their opponents only once, dropping their ten game rolling average possession numbers to a season low.
Including tonight's, the Habs have 15 games left to adjust and rebound. But with the degree of difficulty not to relent until the season is mere days from concluding, that rebound needs to start sooner than later.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|48.8||Score-Adjusted Fenwick %||48.8|
|1.22||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.08|
Know Your Enemy
Like the Montreal Canadiens, Tuesday represented a golden opportunity for the Ottawa Senators to gain ground on their most important playoff competitor. Like the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators couldn't close the deal.
With a huge, four point loss to the Bruins, the Senators find themselves 7 points back of Boston with only sixteen games (one in hand) to close the gap. That makes tonight's game absolutely critical for Montreal's opponent.
The big question for Ottawa is which goaltender Dave Cameron will start this evening. Incumbent Craig Anderson got the start in a hugely significant game against Boston, but couldn't find a way to steal two points. Meanwhile. stealing points is exactly what third stringer Andrew Hammond has done of late, allowing only 10 goals in eight games to make Ottawa relevant again.
Hammond's Price-like play came at an opportune time, because for a stretch, the team in front of Hammond was playing a lot like the team in front of Price. The Senators supported Hammond well through his first few games, but facing stronger, Western Conference teams, the Senators melted. Ironically, they dominated possession against the Bruins, but were stunned by another hot goaltender, Tuukka Rask. With the Habs icing the hottest goaltender in the league, and maybe ever, the Sens will need to come prepared to win the battles in front of their goalie.
Last Time Out
When the Habs were set to play Ottawa on February 18, it was suggested that there was a lesson to be learned. The Canadiens had waltzed into a seemingly winnable game in their previous match with the Sens, but failed to come out with a win.
Last time, though, the Sens were in particularly dire circumstances. Robin Lehner had been injured in Ottawa's previous game, and with Andrew Hammond starting, a man famous only for his role in a hilarious goaltending fiasco, the Sens looked ripe for the picking.
Instead, Hammond played well, and the Habs put forth an ugly performance. Erik Karlsson was his skillful self, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau filled his one goal per game quota against the Habs, and Ottawa wound up with a 4-2 victory.
With that, the Sens started their improbable run that has propelled them back to the fringes of the playoff picture. If they wish to keep that reality alive, they'll need to find a way to beat the Habs again tonight.