Game 7 preview: Canadiens @ Senators

Can these two carry the Sens? - Ezra Shaw

A preview of the game between the Ottawa Senators and Montréal Canadiens on 30 January 2013.

Note: Tonight is an early start at 7:00 since it is a TSN game. Don't be late.

The Ottawa Senators will once more play without Jason Spezza as they host the Montréal Canadiens. The Senators had an optional skate today, which means I have no idea what the lines are. The only confirmation is that the first line will be Milan Michalek, Kyle Turris and Daniel Alfredsson. Craig Anderson will start in goal.

The one break for Ottawa is that the Habs will rest Carey Price, with Peter Budaj in net. The lines will be updated if they become available, but for now, here are some things to note for tonight:

  • Scoring the first goal: Ottawa has only done this once this season, but they still have a 4-1-1 record. I guess they are still pretty good at overturning deficits, but it would be nice to lead from the start for once wouldn't it?
  • Cut down on penalties: It is only six games into the season, but Ottawa is once again taking a lot of penalties. They have been on the penalty kill for 14 more minutes than they have been on the power play. That is second worst in the NHL. It is a good thing the Senators are scoring on 26% of their power plays and killing off 88% of the penalty kills. Of the 17 goals scored by the Canadiens, eight have been on the power play.
  • Dealing with Andrei Markov: Markov may be injury prone have had problems with injuries, but he's had a great start to the season. I don't actually know how he has played, but he has four goals and three assists for seven points. That's one more than Erik Karlsson. However, the four goals have come on only 10 shots.
  • Zibanejad possibly in top six: After a good game last night that impressed Paul MacLean, will we see Zibanejad in the top six? If Ottawa wants to keep him around this season, it would make sense to see if he can contribute in the top six in the few games they have before the 5-game threshold.
  • Spezza's absence: Paul MacLean's comments regarding Spezza didn't sound too optimistic. If he is out long term, can Erik Karlsson and Kyle Turris carry the offence over a significant stretch? Turris is going to see a lot stiffer competition without Spezza, but his early form suggests he might be up to the challenge.
Here are the players stats. If you are not familiar with any of these terms, please check this excellent guide at Arctic Ice Hockey. All stats are from Behind the Net.

Defencemen

NAME GP Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Relative Off Zone Start %
Mark Borowiecki 3 -0.786 17.4 66.7
Marc Methot 6 1.097 14.2 55
Erik Karlsson 6 0.635 12.1 55.6
Patrick Wiercioch 4 -0.212 8.8 48.6
Andre Benoit 5 -1.85 4 60.5
Sergei Gonchar 6 1.335 -17.6 44.1
Chris Phillips 6 0.504 -28 50

A couple notes here. Mark Borowiecki while shielded, has done well in his possession numbers so far. The competition numbers will probably swing wildly at this point, as a significant chunk of the competition's numbers are based on the game against Ottawa. Also, interesting to note that Paul MacLean starts Sergei Gonchar in the defensive zone 44% of the time (ignoring neutral zone starts). Gonchar and Phillips seem to be the go to guys in defensive situations.

Forwards

NAME GP Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Relative Off Zone Start %
Mika Zibanejad 1 0.283 60.1 28.6
Erik Condra 6 -1.346 37.2 38.9
Peter Regin 6 -0.593 22.3 46.4
Jim O'Brien 6 -0.391 15.8 33.3
Chris Neil 6 1.127 2.6 47.7
Jason Spezza 5 -0.807 -2 64
Colin Greening 6 1.473 -3.2 53.8
Daniel Alfredsson 5 1.868 -6.2 54
Jakob Silfverberg 6 -0.369 -6.3 67.4
Zack Smith 6 0.784 -8.5 43.6
Kaspars Daugavins 2 1.177 -9 70
Milan Michalek 6 -0.387 -9.1 62.5
Kyle Turris 6 1.275 -18.2 55.4
Guillaume Latendresse 5 1.768 -18.7 56.1

The one thing I am flabbergasted about is that Kyle Turris has absolutely horrendous possession numbers. I would not have expected that at all. Latendresse-Turris-Alfredsson are the only line that has been outshot so far. The reason everyone's relative corsi is negative is because of how much the fourth line has been better than anyone else.


As a special bonus, our very own Peter had a question and answer session with Andrew from Habs Eyes on the Prize

Peter: The Habs have surprised a few people by starting the season by stringing together a few wins and, even more surprisingly, putting up some decent offensive numbers--even without Subban, for the most part. How has the team changed from last year?

Andrew:The biggest change has been top down competence. I'm a big proponent of the concept that as management goes, so goes your team. This isn't even really about moves, but about attitude and general feeling in the organization. Last year's management team was panicky, and that trickled down onto the ice. Bergevin has been calm and clear about what he wants the team to be from day one, and that has translated.

Other than that, I think there's a big difference in depth. For the first time in however long I can remember, the Canadiens have 4 lines that can play. The 4th line especially has been extremely impressive, especially Ryan White.

Peter: How long will it take for P.K. to get into game shape again, after holding out through the lockout and only this week signing a contract extension?

Andrew: I don't think very long. Subban is a training fiend, and really he could probably have played against the Jets on Tuesday, but I understan why he isn't. I think there's a slight shot that he plays in Ottawa, but it would make sense if he didn't as well. When Subban first gets back into the lineup, all he has to do is be better than Yannick Weber and Tomas Kaberle, something he could do if his diet consisted of only french fries.

Peter: How's the team going to compensate for the loss of Max Pacioretty for a third of the season (or more)?

Andrew: I don't know if they can compensate. The loss of Pacioretty really exposes David Desharnais as a top line pretender, and Erik Cole's slow start is all the more obvious. Pacioretty is easily the Canadiens' best offensive forward, and the only saving grace they really have is that the other 3 lines are playing well. I don't think the Desharnais line does much damage without him, especially since Lars Eller typically struggles on the wing. The Habs have also been pretty lucky to start the year from a PDO perspective so we could see some regression at some point soon.

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