The claim I'm making in the headline of this FanPost will probably strike you as odd. Surely the Rangers, who until they lost to the Senators last night led the league, were the biggest test of this team's mettle. Or else the Flyers were, from whom the Senators wrested 3 of 4 points in a home and home series, which, if it had ended poorly for Ottawa, would have us fans looking over our figurative shoulders at the Leafs and Devils instead of confidently predicting a play-off appearance in April.
But the Senators are winless against the Canadiens this season, and if they can't solve the Habs, two or three more losses against their division rivals could spell trouble for their play-off hopes.
Consider: During their present thirteen-game hot streak, the Sens' only regulation loss has been to the Canadiens, on December 27, and it was an embarrassment. In the two games they have played against the Habs thus far this season, the Senators have scored 3 goals and allowed 8. Craig Anderson has a goals-against-average of 4.50 versus the Habs this season, and a .818 save percentage; Alex Auld's is not much better. Erik Karlsson's plus/minus in games against the Habs is -5, his worst, so far as I can tell, against any individual team. The Habs are also one of only 5 teams whom the Sens have played at least twice against whom Karlsson has not scored any points (the others are Vancouver, Carolina, Boston, and Tampa Bay; it comes as no surprise, then, that the team's record in games played against these 5 opponents is a measly 4-5-2). And this is just to single out but a handful of players who have not looked good against the Habs.
It looks like the Senators have been able to 'get up' for tough opponents, lately, but the onus will be on them to 'get up' against lesser lights, such as the Habs on Saturday and the Hurricanes, again, next week.
The recent trade of Mike Cammalleri could help, but then again, the Sens haven't been able to take advantage of the Habs' other recent terrible decisions, like firing Perry Pearn or Jacques Martin; indeed, it was the Senators who gave Cunneyworth his first win as interim head coach of the struggling Habs.
So, strange as it may seem, it is arguably the game on Saturday against the bottom-dwelling Canadiens that will be one of the most important games for the Senators yet.