So far this has been quite the entertaining series, particularly if you are a fan of the Montreal Canadiens. Game one brought a regulation win that led to a decent bit of controversy the following day, while the second act featured a thrilling overtime win. While the unlikely heroes of game one were the members of the fourth line, the Habs' stars stepped up and took over to win game two.
The Canadiens now find themselves in a position to take a stranglehold on the series in their first away game of the playoffs. Going into this series, it was tough to predict that they'd take the first two at home, but they did so convincingly, and now is the time to really put the Senators in a hole.
The return of Max Pacioretty was huge for the Canadiens in game two, and equally huge was P.K. Subban, who played like a man possessed following his ejection from game one. If the Canadiens are to go 3-0 so far in these playoffs, a couple of repeat performances from those two would go a long way to that end.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT
In Canada: CBC, TVA Sports
In the United States: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter
Tale of the Tape
|.70||5v5 Goal Ratio||.33|
Keys to the Game
Well, simply put, more of the same. They've managed solid possession numbers at even strength, they're putting more pucks on net than their opponent, and as long as that remains true, the difference in goaltending puts them in an ideal position to win.
Pucks on net is something that Michel Therrien loves to say, and one would have to call this sound advice with the way Andrew Hammond has played. He has shown a bit of a penchant for allowing somewhat weak goals, so the Habs would do well to fire away at the inexperienced netminder and see what they can get. Even when he makes saves, his rebound control is not great, and there will be second chance opportunities to take advantage of.
As it has been for the better part of the season, the powerplay is an issue for the Tricolore. They were afforded six such opportunities in game two compared to only two in game one, but managed only one goal. The puck movement looked good, and they did achieve a decent level of pressure, but there was simply a lack of finish outside of Pacioretty's goal to tie the game in the second.
Conversely, they need to stay out of the box as much as possible, as Ottawa's powerplay has been rather lethal. Operating at a success rate just shy of 40 percent, this is one area that could prove hugely beneficial to the Senators if the Canadiens should fall into penalty trouble. It all boils down to discipline, and the Canadiens had better show that in Ottawa if they hope to come away with win number three.
Personally, I'll be watching Devante Smith-Pelly closely in this game. Playing opposite the returning Pacioretty in game two, he was granted a number of quality scoring chances, but couldn't cash in, although he did manage an assist on the Subban goal. If Smith-Pelly can find the handle to bury those chances should they come again, he could be a major offensive boost that helps to avoid things like sudden-death overtime.
While taking a 3-0 series lead certainly doesn't guarantee them the series, it does grant significantly better odds of sending the Senators to the golf course, and moving on to round two. If they can take even just one of the next two games in Ottawa, you have to like their chances.