Week Ahead: Mar 15 to 21

Loui Eriksson helps Lars Eller line up his pool shot - Richard Wolowicz

From a week with four days since the last game to four games in a week

Fortunately for Ottawa, the light week only put them a point further behind the wild card position.  This busy week can make or break their playoff chances at this point.

Senators at Canadiens

Game 66, Saturday, March 15th, 7pm
CBC
Previous game
Bruins, Wednesday, March 12th
Next game
@Sabres, Sunday, March 16th
Hot
Nobody, really
Cold
Peter Budaj - 0.858 SV% in last 5 starts

The Canadiens are in a touchy spot right now.  It's not a particularly bad spot to be in, but it's definitely not safe.  It's a stretch to think that Ottawa will catch them, but they're only four points up on the top team outside of the playoffs right now.  They've lost three in a row, and four out of their last five.  They'll be looking for a win from the Ottawa Slumpbusters.

Montreal's power play is pretty much middle of the pack this season - not among the most dangerous, but not safely ignored either. The penalty kill, however, ranks in the top five.  The Canadiens are still struggling with possession numbers.  They rank 24th and 26th respectively for Fenwick and Corsi, at both 5-on-5 and 5-on-5 close.  They're a few points below 50% for all of those.

Carey Price is still officially day to day, but he participated fully in Friday's practice.  It's a possibility that he will start the game tonight, it will likely be a game time decision.  Peter Budaj has not been good during Price's absence, posting a lowly .869 SV%.

P.K. Subban leads the team with 45 points in 67 games, which some people probably think is good for a defenseman.  Deadline acquisition Thomas Vanek has one assist in three games with the Habs so far.

Avalanche at Senators

Game 67, Sunday, March 16th, 5:00pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
Ducks, Friday, March 14th
Next game
@Canadiens, Tuesday, March 18th
Hot
Ryan O'Reilly - 4P (1G, 3A) in last 2 GP
Cold
Nathan MacKinnon - 0P in last 4 GP

The Avalanche are the exception to this week's opponents, in that they're the only ones firmly in a playoff spot.

They certainly haven't done it on the back of a possession game - they're below 48% for 5-on-5 close Corsi and Fenwick.  It comes down to their shooting percentage and save percentage.  They've got the second highest 5-on-5 close SV%, and third highest SH%.  It's probably more the SH% that's doing the job, with the SV% just holding back the tide from the fifth worst shots against per game.  Special teams don't have the answer either, with the power play being good at ninth in the league, but the penalty kill sitting at 20th.

Semyon Varlamov has been on a tear since the Olympic break, apart from last night's disaster against Anaheim. He's posted a .924 SV% in that stretch.  The scorers continue to roll, with five players above a 0.75 point per game pace.

Alex Tanguay is out to injury.

Rangers at Senators

Game 68, Tuesday, March 18th, 7:30pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
Sharks, Sunday, March 16th
Next game
@Blue Jackets, Friday, March 21st
Hot
Derek Stepan - 11P (2G, 9A) in last 8 GP
Cold
Derick Brassard - 0P in last 7 GP

Add the Rangers to the list of teams in tenuous positions.  Sitting second in the Metro division, they're only 3 points away from being out of the playoffs.  Their March has not gone very well so far, as they've posted a 3-4-1 record.

Henrik Lundqvist hasn't exactly been posting career numbers during that stretch - while he has a shutout in there, his SV% for March is a below average .907 and a 2.86 GAA.

New addition Martin St. Louis has not been setting the city on fire so far.  He's posted a pair of assists in 6 games with the club so far.

The Rangers power play is moderately dangerous, sitting just outside the top 10.  The penalty kill is firmly in the top 10.  NYR is a possession beast at 5-on-5 close with both Corsi and Fenwick above 53%, and it's been mostly trending upwards since mid December.  They've got a dismally low shooting percentage in that situation though.  At only 6%, it's 3rd last in the league and has been even worse of late - 4.6% at 5 on 5 close since the Olympic break.  It's overdue for a bounce back towards the average, just hopefully not on Tuesday.

Lightning at Senators

Game 69, Thursday, March 20th, 7:30pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
@Maple Leafs, Wednesday, March 19th
Next game
@Penguins, Saturday, March 22nd
Hot
Ondrej Palat - 6P (3G, 3A) in last 3 GP
Cold
Ben Bishop - 0.879 SV% in last 5 GP

The Lightning are in a similar position to the Habs - pretty much the same position, actually.  They're tied with Montreal for points, and are far from safe in making playoff plans at this point.  They've got a slightly better recent record, going 1-2-2 in their last five games and they've got a three game point streak on the go.

The loss of their leading scorer St. Louis at the trade deadline hasn't slowed down their scoring at all, in fact it's averaged 0.2 G/G higher in the four games since he fled for New York as fast as he could.  The return of Steven Stamkos probably helps with that.  He was blanked in his first three games back, but put up a goal and an assist in their most recent game.  Ryan Callahan is definitely doing his part, and has three points in those four games.

Ben Bishop has been going through a rough stretch.  He's below .900 for March to date, after posting a .935 in February.  He's got a GAA of 3.4 in his last five games.

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