The all-Canadian matchup in the first round of this year’s NHL Stanley Cup playoffs has the surprising Montreal Canadiens up against the also surprising Ottawa Senators. While the ranking difference of number two versus number seven might throw some people off, this is the series that has the biggest potential for a first-round upset.
Montreal Canadiens – regular season record 29-14-5. Good for 63 points and the second seed in the east.
The Habs finished dead last in the eastern conference last season and as a result the expectations for this season were to improve and possibly compete for a playoff spot. No one outside the organization saw the Canadiens winning the Northeast division and now they have home ice advantage for at least the first two rounds.
They’ve played consistent hockey all season long and are scoring by committee. Their goaltending that was at one point a year ago a cause for concern has been the best it’s been in recent memory. Carey Price is the clear number one goalie in Montreal despite not convincing all the critics given his year where he posted a 21-13-4 record with a 2.59 GAA and a .905 save percentage. Decent numbers but not great and he’ll need to be great to help this team make a deep playoff run.
Keys to the Habs success:
Some might say that Price is the key to the Canadiens success in the first round against Ottawa and while he certainly will be an integral part, the more important key is defenseman P.K. Subban.
Subban is playing the best hockey of his young career and he must carry that over into the playoffs. Considered to be a favorite to win the Norris Trophy for top defenseman in the league, Subban excelled after a lengthy contract hold out to score 11 goals and add 27 assists for 38 points in 42 games. He is the spoke to the Habs wheel and whether it be on the power play or five-on-five, Subban’s play will be critical in defining the Canadiens success in this series.
Ottawa Senators – regular season record 25-17-6. Good for 56 points and seventh place in the east.
Anybody that truly follows the game of hockey knows what type of season the Senators had this year; an injury plagued one. Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson are three of the team’s most valuable players and all missed an extended period of time this year to serious injury. Other role players like Milan Michalek also battled to stay healthy and as a result it left a depleted Senators lineup that many thought would crumble from their early season success and miss the playoffs.
But this team defied the odds and here they are playing in the second season. They are the most dangerous team to pull off an upset this year and here’s the key to their success:
Keys to the Senators success:
Simply put, it falls on one player – Craig Anderson. He will have to steal a game or two in Montreal in front a rowdy french Canadian crowd that feeds off the success of their hockey team. Anderson and the Sens will have to weather the storm in game one for the first ten minutes and if he can keep it close than I like Ottawa in the opener.
I’m taking the Ottawa Senators to upset the Montreal Canadiens in six games in this series. A healthy Sens group that plays “pesky” hockey is a dangerous bunch already an now throw on the underdog role and this team is a great pick as a sleeper.