Staff verdict: Montreal
Ross: big edge to Montreal. With all due respect to Hammond's numbers, Price has been burglarizing games since before it was cool. Montreal's a division winner, not in the fight for their playoff lives, because they have the best goalie in the game right now.
Adnan: Goaltending edge has to go to the Habs. Price has had a great year, and while so has Hammond, Price obviously has the much larger sample.
Nate: Goaltending advantage goes to Montreal. I hate to be a Debbie Downer because the Hamburglar's story has been so much fun but Price is probably the best goalie in the league. The good thing for Ottawa is that he'll probably need to be just that for Montreal to win
Ian: Montreal. A big part of Hammond's strength has been the way that the Sens have played in front of him. But since we're doing a position-by-position, Price takes the cake in this one.
Ary: I think Montreal has the goaltending advantage. I think Price only has a sub-.900 sv% on two teams this season: Buffalo and Ottawa, and that his playoff sv% is .909. I'm going to take the larger sample of games though and say that Price's true talent is a lot higher than that, and I think he'll rebound a bit in this series back to his career numbers. Hammond is going to be fun to watch because he's basically defying all expectations right now. A similar goaltender career path is actually Cam Talbot, who's been surprising for the Rangers when Lundqvist is out. I think regardless of where you have Hammond, he's around league average or a little higher by all estimates at the end of it all, whereas Price is/should be near the top. One thing that they both do really well though? Tracking the puck. Both teams should run screens and crash the net hard to try and pot any extra opportunities that come their way.
Amelia: Advantage Montreal. I want Hammond's run to continue but if it doesn't, I'm comforted by Craig Anderson's presence as a backup. Still, with the season he's had, the advantage has to Montreal and Carey Price.
Staff verdict: Tie
Ross: slight edge to Montreal. Sure, Karlsson's the best defenseman in this game. After him though, Ottawa's drop off is much bigger than Montreal's. Especially since the Petry trade. They've got Beaulieu on their third pairing, and I'd take him over Gryba, Borowiecki, or Cowen any day.
Adnan: Defence: Ottawa has the better #1 defenceman, Habs have the better #2 and #4, #5. So you would have to give the edge to the Habs here as well.
Nate: This is a virtual toss-up to me but I'll lean slightly towards Ottawa because I think Markov's lost more of his fastball than most people are letting on. They key from a Sens perspective here is the Wiercioch-Ceci duo. They've been great together so far, if they can keep it up Ottawa has the edge. If they can't, or if Dave Cameron subs in Cowen for PW at some point, advantage Montreal
Ian: Defence: Ottawa. Both Ottawa and Montreal rely so heavily on the top defenceman (Karlsson and Subban). Over the Streak, the Sens defence have made great strides and have been limiting the high quality chances on Hammond. I'd definitely give Karlsson the edge over Subban, his speed alone is a huge game changer. Beyond the top pair, neither team has much of an edge over the other.
Ary: I'm going to agree with Nate here as I have similar thoughts. I think Methot - Karlsson will be better than Markov - Subban, but the Wiercioch - Ceci pair vs. the Jeff Petry pair will be the key matchup. Ottawa needs to win the shot battle with the second pair on the ice, and the first two games in Montreal will be key because if they do in fact lose both in a "shocking" manner, I think we can see Cowen inserted in for Wiercioch and that'll tilt the scales in Montreal's favour. Cameron and co. need to make sure not to overreact and continue to go with the best possible lineup (which is Game 1's) lineup. Both third pairs don't look impactful at all.
Amelia: this is pretty much a tie for me. Karlsson is the best defensemen in the game, but Subban is right up there. With Karlsson looking a little banged up the last couple of weeks, things are a bit more equal between the two than usual. I still like the Karlsson-Methot pairing better than Subban-Markov, but mostly because at this point in their careers, Methot is a better defenseman than Markov. Wiercioch and Ceci have been great lately, but Petry is no slouch. I don't like Ottawa's third pairing, but Montreal also has a pylon or two on the blueline (Emelin, I'm looking at you).
Staff verdict: Ottawa
Ross: edge to Ottawa. Even if Pacioretty comes back, Ottawa's got the deeper forward crew. I like Ottawa's top six more, and Lazar - Pageau - Condra is a much better third line than De La Rose - Eller - Weise
Adnan: Massive edge to Ottawa here. The Senators top line is on fire, the second line is struggling a little bit, but the third line and fourth lines aren't even close. Max Pacioretty appears to be struggling to be healthy at the moment and likely won't be 100%
Nate: Ottawa's real advantage in this series is up front where their top 9 compares very favourably to anything Montreal can roll-out. As I mentioned in our earlier predictions, I expect the Turris line to see a lot of Plekanec but that should free up the Zibanejad line and I expect they'll take advantage.
Ian: Forwards: Ottawa. I'm a huge fan of the current forward lineup for the Sens. Both lines one and two can put the puck in the net. Meanwhile, Pageau's line regularly pins the opposing team in their own zone. And with the return of Michalek, our fourth line can do some damage with Hoffman there. On the other hand, Montreal is tied for last among playoff teams in goals per game. Over their last three meetings, Montreal has 5 goals and Pacioretty scored 4 of them (Beaulieu the other).
Ary: With their Game 1 lineup, I think Ottawa has a clear advantage at forwards, and that gap is even wider with Patches out. Lazar - Pageau - Condra was a fantastic line if you look at both the shot battle AND the goal battle (which is what you'd expect to see if one is winning the shot battle), and are significantly better than what Montreal's bottom-six has to offer.
Amelia: Ottawa and it's not close. Ottawa kryptonite Max Pacioretty will probably play, but his health is a concern, but on the whole, Ottawa's Top 9 beats Montreal's. Those are the players that are going to decide this, but if Michalek coming back into the lineup bumps out a player like Zack Smith, that's fine too.
Staff verdict: Ottawa
Ross: edge to Ottawa. Cameron hasn't been perfect, but Therrien has sometimes made baffling decisions. Follow any Montreal blogger, and you'll see the same things - his systems don't make sense, and his deployment is all over the place.
Adnan: Hard to compare the coaching against a team I don't follow day-to-day but Cameron is making a lot of good decisions these days. Habs fans don't seem to like Therrien, so I'll just give Cameron the edge but I don't really know.
Nate: Ottawa's greatly benefitted from their coaching change so I'll have to say Ottawa here, I suppose. I'll note that I don't think Cameron has done anything much different from a tactical perspective but rather gained an edge via his deployment. He's said he's scratching Cowen, Neil, Smith and Greening for game 1-- if he can stick to those convictions, that advantage may be prove to be a decisive edge by series' end.
Ian: Tie. Coaching is a pretty difficult thing to compare from one team to another. I'd want to give the edge to the Sens again because I have been impressed with Cameron's deployment because it seems to make sense logically. I like to associate the coaches with the powerplay and penalty kill, but with neither of them differing much from each other (16.8% vs 16.5% and 82.9% vs 83.7%) it is hard to give the edge to either of them.
Ary: The reason for Ottawa's forward advantage is likely due to their superior tactical systems, as Therrien's Habs have always been underwhelming when it comes to puck possession numbers. Cameron's scratching of Zack Smith, Colin Greening, Chris Neil also benefits his team greatly, allowing the Sens to roll four lines more comfortably. The advantage here goes to Ottawa.
Amelia: Ottawa. I also don't follow Montreal well enough to know the technical ways in which Therrien falters, though some of his deployment seems Paul MacLean-esq. Mostly, it's hard to ignore the dramatic turnaround in Ottawa's play under Dave Cameron.