The Ottawa Senators return home after a disastrous 1-6 road trip, but they do so on something of a high note after their lone victory came in their last game against the rival Montreal Canadiens. Even if the team’s hopes of play-off contention may already be dashed by their wretched start to the year, there remains much to play for and nowhere was that more obvious than during Thursday night’s win. Matt Murray turned in his first strong performance of the year, Erik Brännström looked like the stud defender we’ve all been hoping for, and Tim Stützle might have been the best player on the ice for either team. And, as any Sens fan will tell you, any victory over the Habs is a good victory indeed.
Meanwhile, Montreal has been one of the surprises of the early part of the season, looking every bit like legitimate contenders for the North Division throne. It seems like virtually every move made in the off-season has paid off in spades, particularly the addition of Tyler Toffoli. It took everything the Sens had to keep Montreal from tying it up during Thursday’s night onslaught of a third period. If the Sens want to take home another two points tonight, they’ll need to repeat their efforts from the first and second period of the last matchup — and try not to turtle quite as hard as they did in the third.
Here’s how DJ Smith lined ‘em up on Saturday, with the caveat that this could change as we get closer to game time:
Paul - White - Batherson
Stützle - Stepan - C. Brown
Galchenyuk - Tierney - Watson
Chabot - Zaitsev
Reilly - Zub
Brannstrom - Gudbranson
Murray ( Likely starter)
Some stats on the two teams, courtesy of NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick:
|Goals||Tim Stützle||4||Nikolaj Ehlers||9|
|Assists||Nikita Zaitsev||6||Mark Scheifele||12|
|Points||Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris||8||Mark Scheifele||17|
|Shots||Brady Tkachuk||62||Nikolaj Ehlers||46|
|Time on Ice/GP||Thomas Chabot||25:02||Josh Morissey||23:58|
|Penalty Kill %||74.1||25th||80.6||15th|
|Corsi % (5v5 SVA)||48.46||19th||48.2||21st|
|xGF % (5v5 SVA)||48.63||21st||43.46||30th|
- Boy was it ever a relief to have Murray turn in the kind of performance he did on Thursday. Yes, the season is still young but the Sens were staring at a real goaltending crisis if one of Murray or Högberg didn’t put together a solid outing. I’m sure the whole organization was breathing a big sigh of relief when the final buzzer sounded in Montreal.
- Stützle has been so good the last few games that he forced Smith to have him on the ice in the last minute of the third period of Thursday’s game. There’s no higher distinction a coach can give to his young superstar than that.
- It has been remarked upon by others already, but boy did the Sens ever look a lot smoother breaking the puck out of their end on Thursday than in prior games. The aforementioned Brännström obviously played a big role there, but Artem Zub has also been quietly effective in his limited action. If the Sens are gonna hang with the Habs again this afternoon, they’ll need that same smooth transition play that they got last game from their blueliners.
- Montreal has been absolutely dominant at 5v5 so far this season, but they’ve been far more pedestrian on both the power play and the penalty-kill. Meanwhile, the Sens’ PP, now featuring Stützle, looked much more menacing than it has in the past. Maintaining the special teams advantage could be another key to getting a postive outcome for Ottawa.
Puck drop is 1PM ET. You can watch on TSN5, RDS, or follow along on TSN1200 radio