How to watch
Start time: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2, TSN GO (English), RDS (French)
In the Senators region: TSN5, TSN GO (English)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/Rogers NHL Live
The Canadiens finished October as one of the biggest surprises in the NHL. They were sitting tied for 5th place in the Eastern Conference with a 6-3-2 record that was largely fueled by the sixth best goals against per game number in the league.
Given the collapses that Habs fans have witnessed in previous seasons, a 5-6-3 November was not a terrible month by any stretch. However, the team saw their goals against per game jump from 2.67 to 3.86, with the latter number good for 29th in a 31-team league.
Unsurprisingly, last month we also saw considerable shuffling among the Habs’ rearguards. Whereas the same six—Jeff Petry, Victor Mete, Noah Juulsen, Mikey Reilly, Jordie Benn, and Xavier Ouellet—played for most of October (with Karl Alzner slotting in for four games at the tail end of the month), in November, whether due to injuries or poor performance, we saw a lot of lineup juggling along with the turbulent introduction of David Schlemko and Brett Kulak.
Tale of the Tape
|53.0% (6th)||Corsi-for pct.||43.6% (31st)|
|3.00 (16th)||Goals per game||3.63 (3rd)|
|3.26 (23rd)||Goals against per game||4.04 (31st)|
|14.9% (29th)||PP%||23.3% (10th)|
|78.4% (19th)||PK%||70.0% (31st)|
Entering December, the Habs received an early Christmas present in the form of captain Shea Weber’s return. The stabilizing presence of the Man Mountain has given the team an opportunity to send both Mete and Alzner to the Laval Rocket without significantly affecting the parent club. As expected, this has reopened the seemingly constant question of who should play on the first pairing beside him, with the current candidate being Kulak.
The Ottawa Senators also surprised pundits out of the gate. A summer of controversy and the jettisoning of both Mike Hoffman and Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks meant that early season expectations were perhaps at their lowest point since 1992-93. Like the Habs, the Sens cooled off during November. When these two teams last met on October 20, a 4-3 overtime victory for the Senators pushed them to a record of 4-3 on the season. They then proceeded to lose six of their next seven games, and eight of their next 11. More recently, two and three-game winning streaks have sandwiched a four-game run of losses.
The Senators, as has been well-noted, are one of the abjectly worst possession teams in the NHL, ranking dead last in Corsi for percentage and second-to-last in shots for percentage. The team’s supporters have pointed to shot quality, but Ottawa is also fourth last in scoring-chances-for percentage and eighth last in high-danger scoring-chances for percentage. It’s not surprising that the team has begun to hemorrhage goals since the early days of the season, ranking dead last in goals against in both October (tied with the Philadelphia Flyers) and November (alone).
It’s a good thing too, because the Habs are starting to find a bit of an offensive groove just as the Senators are settling into a defensive one. After a four-game losing streak where they allowed 23 goals against combined, the Sens have rattled off three wins where they've allowed a combined five goals against. Meanwhile, the Canadiens rebounded from four games where they scored two goals or less (all losses) by hanging five on Alexandar Georgiev and the New York Rangers on Saturday night. That said, the next night saw a meager single goal against a vastly under-performing Martin Jones and a Sharks team that had allowed six the night before in Ottawa. It’s certainly unclear which team dressed in bleu-blanc-et-rouge will hit the ice tonight.