How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Senators region: TSN5 (English), RDS (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
We were without Canadiens hockey for nine days following a positive COVID-19 test on the roster, but in the end it was worth the wait. The players were fresh, and committed to a hot start that had eluded them in many of the games preceding the pause. Just 18 seconds in (plus about five minutes for a frame-by-frame offside review), Montreal had all the offence it needed off the stick of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, backed up by the first shutout of the season from Carey Price, a rather easy 17-save night.
One thing we’ve learned from the Ottawa Senators this seaosn is that they rarely have off games — the goaltending notwithstanding. With zero expectations, there’s nothing to get discouraged about, and they just put their full effort into each game. It’s only resulted in 12 wins in 36 tries so far, but some of those victories have been proper upsets, and three of them have come versus Montreal.
Tale of the Tape
|55.9% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||49.5% (15th)|
|3.24 (8th)||Goals per game||2.51 (25th)|
|2.58 (11th)||Goals against per game||3.73 (31st)|
|22.0% (14th)||PP%||14.3% (27th)|
|76.6% (23rd)||PK%||77.0% (21st)|
The last two of those wins were in a two-game series sweep that saw Ottawa win both games beyond the regulation 60 minutes, extending the Habs’ infamous overtime record, until they finally slayed that demon in the last game before entering the COVID protocol. The most recent game between the two teams went Montreal’s way, as they took care of business early with two power-play goals in the first period, and coasted to a 3-1 win.
The insurance goal was scored late by Tyler Toffoli in that one, but it seems unlikely he’ll be able to add to his goal total this evening as he works his way back from a lower-body injury. Despite the long pause he was unable to play on Tuesday night versus the Oilers, and may need at least tonight’s game off to get back to 100%. A game against one of the lowest-ranked teams in the league isn’t the time to rush a player back into action.
With Toffoli out, we saw the first game of the year for Michael Frolik on Tuesday. It was a quiet night for him as he simply went about his business on the fourth line, getting 12 minutes of playing time to reduce the burden on the top three trios. He was around the team average in every possession metric on the night, and that’s a positive thing for a player the team may need to trust for a few games when the post-season rolls around.
As seems to be the case a lot for a team with twice as many losses as wins, Montreal catches Ottawa on a hot streak. The club has points in its last six games, taking three out of four points versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, and lending Montreal a big hand with two regulation wins over the Calgary Flames while the Habs were quarantining. In the month of March, the Sens actually defeated Calgary four times, virtually ensuring Montreal’s spot in the post-season.
Ryan Dzingel, who returned to Ottawa after disappointing stints in Columbus and Carolina, has been leading the charge with three goals and an assist in the six-game run. Rookie Josh Norris is right there with him, notching three goals in that time, and after a rough start to his NHL career, Tim Stützle has been a positive-impact player for the team with four assists and a plus-four rating.
Unlike some of the teams Montreal has faced, there isn’t just one line you can key on and exploit the other units. Like the Habs, all four Ottawa lines try to grind you down, but at this stage of their rebuild they don’t quite have the finishing ability to take advantage of the effort. That will begin to change in short order, but right now Montreal has the greater firepower. It will just be a matter of not getting surprised once again by how hard their outmatched opponent plays.