Canadiens @ Senators
TSN5, TSN2, RDS
Prev game : Rangers, Saturday, October 28th (5-4 W)
Cold : Tomas Plekanec - 1P (1G) in 11 games; Ales Hemsky - 0P in 7 games
Injured : Nikita Scherbak (LBI), David Schlemko (IR - hand)
Les Habitants have not had a good start to the season. They currently sit in last place in the Atlantic Division with 7 points in 11 games (Ottawa has 15). The diagnosis? They aren’t scoring (23 goals for is last in the East) and they’re giving up a lot of goals (only the Sabres, Penguins, and Rangers have given up more goals in the East than Montreal’s 42).
Now, the thing with on-ice percentages like shooting percentage and save percentage is that they usually creep back to the league average of ~8% and .915% respectively, and with a team like Montreal — widely predicted to make the playoffs — I expect that to be the case. The issue is that being in a funk for 10 games can be enough to sink a team’s playoff hopes given the ‘extra point’ format.
Statistically speaking, almost all Habs players — outside of Alex Galchenyuk and Ales Hemsky (big names) — are generating more shot attempts for than against when they’re on the ice; a good sign that they’re getting a bit unlucky, especially with a heat map like this. Claude Julien’s been consistent with his ice-time so far, with a small bump to Phillip Danault — Montreal’s best forward so far — and declines to Galchenyuk and Gallagher. An Ottawa win on Monday despite getting outshot will be incredibly funny and also an impetus for wider change, I think. The Habs seem to do funny things when we beat them.
Red Wings @ Senators
TSN5, RDS2, FS-D
Prev game : Coyotes, Tuesday, October 31st
Cold : Frans Nielsen - 4P (4G) in 12 games
Injured : Tyler Bertuzzi (IR - wrist), Johan Franzen (IR - concussion), Danny DeKeyser (ankle)
The Wings are pretty much the same team we saw back in Game 3, just with the added speed of Andreas Athanasiou, who was finally signed to a 1Y, $1.5M deal. Coach Blashill usually slots the speedy Greek into his top-nine, which has 7 players getting between ~13 minutes and 17.5 minutes of ice-time this season. The top two weapons remain: Zetterberg and Larkin, and it’s no surprise that they’re the Wings two top point getters at forward this season. In net, Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek were splitting starts early but Howard seems to have settled in as the team’s number one.
So far, Detroit appears to be getting very different shot results depending on who they have on the ice. If it’s Frk, Mantha, Larkin, Athanasiou? They’re one of the league’s best. If it’s their bottom-six? They look poor. This difference between their skill and depth players may be something that Ottawa could exploit, although given injuries, it’s a feature that’s also true of the Senators as well.
Golden Knights @ Senators
TSN5, TVAS2, ATTSN-RM
Prev game : @Bruins, Thursday, November 2nd
Cold : -
Injured : Reid Duke (IR - shoulder), Clayton Stoner (IR - abs), Marc-Andre Fleury (IR - concussion), Malcolm Subban (IR - LBI)
The biggest surprise of the league bar-none is the play of the Vegas Golden Knights. At 8-1-0, they’ve scored more goals than all Western Conference teams except the Kings and Blues, while having only given up a conference-best 19 goals against. A lot of that has to do with their goaltending — Vegas goalies have put up a .948 sv% at 5-on-5, a mark that’s unheard of, and have done so with three different goalies getting regular minutes: Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcolm Subban (claimed off waivers!), and Oscar Dansk.
Looking at their heat maps, we can see that Vegas does a wonderful job of keeping opponents away from the area directly in front of their crease, but still give up a fair amount of scoring chances in between the faceoff dots. On offence, Vegas really only shoots from the points and right-circle, with anemic results in front of the net and along the perimeter. Like Ottawa, Vegas is also generally on the wrong side of the shot battle. Tuch, Colin Miller, Marchessault, Leipsic, and McNabb are above 50%, but the rest of the team — including big minute eaters like Sbisa and Nate Schmidt — are sub-45%.
The Knights enter this week having played their last 7 games at home. On their first big road trip to the East, they play the Isles and Rangers on a back-to-back, Boston on Thursday, and then Ottawa on Saturday — that’s 4 games in 6 nights. With some of Ottawa’s injured players expected to be back by the end of the week, a healthy Senators team may be able to rid the Golden Knights of some of their mojo.