How to watch
With 30 games to go in the regular season, the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators are now meeting for the first time. The opening game of the season series takes place at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata to kick off a five-game Canadian tour for the Habs, following a stretch of 10 of their past 11 games being contested at the Bell Centre.
The two teams needed an extended break from each other after the 10 times they played as North Division opponents a year ago, when the Senators took the series 13 points to 10. It featured plenty of physicality with 10 roughing minors, six cross-checking infractions, and four fights. The personnel may have changed significantly on Montreal’s side since those games, but you can expect the atmosphere to be similar again this year.
Montreal is one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now with its four-game winning streak. The Senators are also getting decent results as of late, winning half of their games since the All-Star break, just not getting enough offence in losses to the Boston Bruins (twice), Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Rangers. They’ve beaten some very good clubs in the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild in that timeframe when the offence has come, so they’re still going to offer a stiff challenge to the Canadiens’ new defensive strategies.
Tale of the Tape
|45.7% (28th)||Scoring-chances-for %||46.6% (24th)|
|2.29 (31st)||Goals per game||2.66 (25th)|
|3.79 (32nd)||Goals against per game||3.16 (22nd)|
|12.6% (31st)||PP%||16.6% (22nd)|
|74.4% (30th)||PK%||80.9% (13th)|
|4-4-2||H2H Record (20-21)||6-3-1|
If the Senators are going to find the goals they need, they’re going to have to get a few pucks past the one-time star for the franchise who became affectionately known as “The Hamburglar.” Andrew Hammond made a name for himself with a whopper of a performance for the Senators back in 2014-15, posting a 20-1-2 record during the final two months of the season to make the playoffs. Unfortunately for him, that magic ran out when he went up against Carey Price, who had played at a similar level for a full year, and Hammond’s post-season only lasted the first two games of the opening round.
Now he’s a teammate of Price, but currently a backup to Samuel Montembeault. Hammond handled himself well in his first game with the team, making 30 saves versus the New York Islanders to earn the shootout victory in the second game of this winning streak, and he’ll want to prove he can help to carry the load down the stretch.
It is once again Brady Tkachuk who stands as the top offensive option Hammond will face, leading the club for a third consecutive season. It was looking like he was going to have to hand that title off to Drake Batherson this time around, but a high-ankle sprain has knocked the winger out of action since January 25, allowing Tkachuk to pull out to a three-point lead. Josh Norris leads the team with 18 goals, but he was injured a game after Batherson and hasn’t played since.
With those top players out, it’s understandable how the team would have trouble scoring. The club — in fact the entire organization — has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 this season as a result of multiple outbreaks throughout the year. Only three players have dressed for all 50 games Ottawa has played, and despite the various postponements we’ve seen, only 10 have played more than 36.
Tkachuk, Connor Brown, and defenceman Thomas Chabot have been the top performers since those two key injuries, and are the players the Habs need to focus on tonight. Matching up one-on-one with the opposition has been a big factor in this turnaround for Montreal, and will be the defensive game plan once more. The Habs are slowly figuring out how to lessen the time spent in their own end so they can go on offence more often, and an effort like what we’ve been seeing for over a week now will make it very tough for the depleted Senators to keep up.