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Montreal Canadiens vs Ottawa Senators playoff preview: Players to watch

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As the playoffs get underway tonight, it's time to take a look at some of the players that will influence the series the most.

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As the playoffs get underway tonight, it's time to take a look at some of the players that will influence the series the most. We're going to use Bombay Charts for the comparisons, as it gives us a great visualization of how the players in question performed this season.

pacioretty hoffman

The top goal-scorers from each team definitely don't match up very well, and to be perfectly fair that's because Mike Hoffman played almost six fewer shifts per game than Max Pacioretty did this season. He also started fewer shifts in the offensive zone. Hoffman's most common linemates this season were Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan (13.08% frequency), whereas Pacioretty split his season with a variety of right wingers; Brendan Gallagher (6.67% of the time,) P.A. Parenteau (5.52%,) and Dale Weise (4.99%.)

Pacioretty is clearly the better player, but pending Hoffman's ice time, and of course Pacioretty's injury recovery, Hoffman may very well end up with more points in the bank once the series is all said and done. Unfortunately for Hoffman, his best chance of outproducing Pacioretty is if his ridiculously high 5 vs 5 shooting percentage (13.94%) holds throughout the playoffs, which it probably won't.

plek turris

There's really not much difference between both players in terms of offensive production, however Tomas Plekanec did play a slightly more defensive focused role this season. Plekanec scores more goals, however Turris has the upper hand when it comes to even-strength assists. They were both given roughly the same amount of ice time, and they both produced roughly the same amount of individual scoring chances. Plekanec allows fewer scoring chances when he's on the ice, however Turris produces more for his team.

Bias aside, it's really hard to claim either player has a distinct advantage over the other. If we keep defensive assignments in mind, Plekanec may have the edge, but it's really too close to call. Both players will have an incredibly important role in the upcoming series.

gallagher stone

Everyone knows that Brendan Gallagher drives offense, and considering Mark Stone is Ottawa's most productive right wing, I felt they were the best players to compare. I could have used Bobby Ryan, but his numbers did not stack up very well compared to Gallagher. Ottawa's super rookie actually outscored Gallagher during even-strength play, and he started fewer of his shifts in the offensive zone. That being said, he finished the 2014-15 campaign with 16.22% personal shooting percentage during 5 vs 5 play, which was good for third highest in the league among all forwards that played 80 games or more.

I once predicted that Stone would never make it to the NHL, due to his terrible skating. It turns out that I couldn't have been more wrong.

galchenyuk bobby ryan

If in October you had told me that Bobby Ryan wouldn't end up as Ottawa's highest-scoring right wing this season, I would have called you a dirty liar. But yet, here we are. Compared to Alex Galchenyuk, Ryan had more assists and points with the ice time that was given, however the vast majority of analytics in this particular chart support Galchenyuk having the better season, except for individual scoring chances.

Galchenyuk's shooting percentage was quite high this season (12.4), which explains his higher goal production. He was also given easier zone start assignments.

subban karlsson

These charts seem to be great for comparing forwards, however things become a little more dicey when you take a look at how defencemen stack up.

P.K. Subban holds the edge in Relative CorsiFor%, assists per 60, and points per 60. Erik Karlsson has an advantage when we look at Relative Scoring Chances For%, Individual Scoring Chances & goals. They're both deployed in relatively similar zone starts, and Corsi For % are almost identical.

Simply put, both players have their strengths, however it's very hard to state that either player is superior. The Norris trophy will be given to one of these two players, and whichever happens to win will definitely deserve it.

In the end, we'll be treated to a show from two of the most skilled, talented, and important players in the league, and that's worth the price of admission.

As you can see, there's not a huge discrepancy when comparing Montreal and Ottawa's best players, even though the Habs might hold a slight edge, which means that the difference will be probably made by the bottom-six players, an area where Ottawa has the upper hand.

Of course, we can't forget the goalies. Andrew Hammond has been good. Hell, he's been incredible. But he's no Carey Price. There are plenty of examples of goalies going on a hot-streak only to flame out, whereas a season like Price put forth is among the best all-time. If it comes down to the goalies, the Habs are in good shape. That is, until you compare the backups, where Ottawa reigns supreme.

(You can find Emmanuel Perry'Bombay Chart right here, and I strongly encourage you to take a look and have some fun with the program. It can be very addictive. As per usual with most great hockey analytics applications, the numbers are sourced from war-on-ice.com.)