Round 1, Game 1 preview: Ottawa Senators @ Montréal Canadiens

The Senators return to the postseason and will open in Montréal tonight. Puck drop is at 7:00 pending Canadiens' self congratulating.

It begins. After much anticipation, the Ottawa Senators will open their first round series in Montréal tonight against the Canadiens. Having done incredibly well to get to the playoffs with a depleted roster, the Senators will ice a full roster tonight minus Jason Spezza. However, players like Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek and Chris Phillips could be playing at less than 100%.

There is only one change from the team that won in Boston, with Eric Gryba coming in for Patrick Wiercioch. Here are the lines and pairings from the Senators website.

Michalek - Turris - Alfredsson
Latendresse - Zibanejad - Silfverberg
Greening - Smith - Neil
Conacher - Pageau - Condra

Methot - Karlsson
Phillips - Gonchar
Cowen - Gryba

Anderson (starter)

Here are the Habs' projected line from TSN:

Ryder - Plekanec - Gionta
Pacioretty - Deshernais - Bourque
Galchenyuk - Eller - Gallagher
Moen - White - Prust

Markov - Subban
Gorges - Diaz
Bouillon - Tinordi

Price (starter)

Some notes for tonight:

  • The Habs have last change but I would expect Methot/Karlsson to be on against the Plekanec line. Therien starts Plekanec in the offensive zone 48% of the time, and with Karlsson so often on the ice, this is the match-up I would expect. Ryder was third in team scoring while Plekanec was fourth with 35 and 33 points respectivley.
  • Pacioretty and Deshernais are used heavily in the offensive zone and I would expect Phillips and Gonchar to be used on them. It is possible that Cowen/Gryba are used in this role, but so far Paul MacLean has chosen to protect Cowen with a 62% offensive zone start. Pacioretty leads the Habs with 39 points and this line will provide a handful.
  • The Galchenyuk-Eller-Gallagher are no slouches with 27, 30 and 28 points respectively. Kyle Turris led the Senators with 27 points. Hopefully Cowen and Gryba are up to the task. While Wiercioch has done incredibly recently, Gryba is getting a little bit better and Paul MacLean chose to go the conservative route with Montreal's scoring depth. Gryba's presence might also allow Ottawa to keep both Gonchar and Karlsson off the penalty kill.
  • It will be interesting to see how the game is called. Referees become less inclined to call the rules of the game in the playoffs, which might make Montréal's power play less of a concern, although it would also make it less likely to take advantage of their penalty kill. Sergei Gonchar has been known to hack and slash with impunity in the playoffs.
  • Carey Price had a below average season and for the last month he was downright awful with an 87.6 save percentage. If Ottawa can keep the shots and scoring chances close, they have the better goaltender to win the game.
  • This will be the first career NHL playoff game for Mika Zibanejad, Cory Conacher, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Eric Gryba and it will be the third for Jakob Silfverberg.
  • EK versus PK: much has been said on this topic. Who will outplay the other? When fully healthy, Karlsson is the better play, but is he healthy enough? He has been playing a bit more conservatively since his return and has been less inclined to jump into the rush and take risks. He is going to only get better with more games played as he returns to normal.

5-on-5 #fancystats below:

NAME TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Relative Off Zone Start %
Turris 14.84 0.631 -1.9 53.5
Alfredsson 14.14 0.225 5.5 55.1
Michalek 13.8 -0.081 5.4 61
Smith 13.63 0.618 -2.6 49.4
Silfverberg 12.9 0.642 -0.8 61.9
Latendresse 12.73 0.646 -2.1 56
Greening 12.71 0.57 0.9 54.5
Neil 12.32 0.602 1.4 50.3
Conacher 11.73 0.176 -0.1 57.7
Zibanejad 11.18 0.218 1.6 66.1
Condra 10.83 -0.301 5.7 52.7
Pageau 10.38 0.452 9.3 50

Zibanejad and Silfverberg are going to get their chances to score. They will start in the offensive zone and have the tools to be able to get goals for Ottawa. The Turris line can hopefully hold their own but it is the third line where there is a big mismatch.

NAME TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Relative Off Zone Start %
Karlsson 19.8 0.702 20.1 58.3
Methot 18.15 0.933 -4.8 51.6
Gryba 17.26 1.155 -18.3 50.4
Gonchar 17.16 0.238 -1.3 55.8
Cowen 16.31 0.052 -6.3 62.2
Phillips 15.77 0.292 -6.3 52.5

Världens bästa Karlsson is going to be asked to do a lot and he is almost always up for it. The Habs' style of play shouldn't trouble him much. I would expect him to more than break even against the Plekanec line. His presence on the power play can tilt things Ottawa's way, especially with the state of Montreal's penalty kill.

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