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Canadiens @ Senators: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

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Montreal needs to keep its foot on the gas to dispatch an improving Ottawa squad.

Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ Ottawa Senators

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet (English)
In the Canadiens region: RDS (French)
In the Senators region: RDS (French)
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live, RDS Direct, Sportsnet Now

The Canadiens had been doing a decent job of shutting down the Maple Leafs’ top players this season. Through three games, Auston Matthews had no goals, and the Habs were holding their own in the season series. Last night, however, the penalty-killing issues that have plagued them in recent weeks conspired against what was solid five-on-five play all night long, responsible for the three goals against that proved the difference.

The positive news is that it wasn’t the same lack of discipline that has led to the parade to the penalty box this year. A three-on-five kill was brought about after Ben Chiarot stole the puck along the wall but sent it over the glass while trying to clear it out of the zone. Victor Mete’s penalty that led to the third man-advantage marker was the result of him containing his man’s path to the net in the offensive zone, with that player stepping on his stick and falling down. Those were two infractions that were more unfortunate than worrisome, and just came with devastating aftereffects.

Strong play at five-on-five highlighted the majority of the play, and that should be the main positive takeaway from the night, especially after a sequence of games when the Canadiens looked completely baffled as to how to get the puck from their own end into the opponent’s. And they’ll need to carry that same play into tonight’s game, because the Ottawa Senators have already proven that they’ll take advantage of any indecision.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Senators
Canadiens Statistic Senators
9-5-2 Record 4-14-1
54.8% (3rd) Corsi-for pct. 51.3% (12th)
3.44 (6th) Goals per game 2.32 (28th)
2.69 (13th) Goals against per game 4.11 (31st)
20.4% (16th) PP% 11.6% (28th)
76.6% (22nd) PK% 73.0% (27th)
1-1-0 Head-to-head 1-1-0

It is true that the Senators are dead-last in the NHL with a mere nine points, and only four wins, from 19 games this season. Looking solely at that record, you’d expect they’d pose little threat. Yet teams — Montreal included — have discovered that Ottawa is far from a pushover, and is actually just outside the top third of the league in terms of possession, and even better when looking only at the shots that get on target (the ninth-best five-on-five shots-for percentage). The team certainly plays with the effort level needed to compete, and those numbers reflect that tenacity.

However, what the team isn’t good at is converting that possession into meaningful opportunities, or preventing them in their own zone. Their scoring-chance and expected-goals percentages drop down to well under 50%, and (with the exception of Matt Murray’s brilliance two weeks ago), the goaltenders are providing little resistance for shots from anywhere close to the net.

At this point of the rebuild, the Senators are full of heart and hustle, but don’t have the talent to turn that into results, or even many goals (unless of course they’re one of the clubs facing a Leafs team with a sizable advantage). If a team has the confidence to make a play with an opponent bearing down, Ottawa’s biggest strength, the forecheck, is neutralized, and you can get to work in their zone.

That was the biggest issue Montreal faced when it met Ottawa at the start of February. There were panic moves with little decision-making taking place other than to get the puck off your stick as quickly as possible, and the Senators capitalized. Where Montreal has found the most success this year is beating an opponent one-on-one, whether that’s a defenceman getting past a forward to carry the puck through the neutral zone or a forward working the puck around a checker to open up a new lane. That type of individual skill is what Marc Bergevin targetted in the off-season, and Ottawa has no answer for the talent level on Montreal’s roster. The Habs just have to have the same confidence they showed at even strength on Saturday to make it the deciding factor tonight.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Jonathan Drouin Nick Suzuki Josh Anderson
Tyler Toffoli Phillip Danault Brendan Gallagher
Tomas Tatar Jesperi Kotkaniemi Joel Armia
Paul Byron Jake Evans Corey Perry

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Ben Chiarot Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson Jeff Petry
Victor Mete Alexander Romanov

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Jake Allen Carey Price

Scratched: Brett Kulak, Artturi Lehkonen

Ottawa Senators projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Brady Tkachuk Josh Norris Connor Brown
Nick Paul Colin White Evgenii Dadonov
Tim Stützle Derek Stepan Drake Batherson
Matthew Peca Chris Tierney Austin Watson

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Mikey Reilly Artem Zub
Erik Brannstrom Erik Gudbranson
Braydon Coburn Nikita Zaitsev

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Matt Murray Joey Daccord