NHL Playoffs: Ottawa Senators vs. Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens open their first round series against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.  It will be an emotional and hard-fought series between the only two Canadian teams that qualified for the post-season in the Eastern Conference.

Here’s what you need to know about the series ahead:

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Regular Season:

The Habs finished 1st in the Atlantic and 2nd in the Eastern Conference with 110 points and a 50-22-10 record.

The Senators qualified for the 1st wild card spot on the last day of the regular season, and thanks to a remarkable 21-3-3 record over the final stretch.  Overall they finished 7th in the Conference with 99 points and a 43-26-13 record.

Regular Season Match-up:

The Ottawa Senators took the season series against the Canadiens 3-1-0.  They outscored the Habs 14-9.  Shots were essentially even and each scored 2 power play goals.

Playoff Match-up:

This the second time in three seasons that the Habs and Sens have met in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

In 2012-2013, the Habs also clinched the Atlantic Division in the lockout shortened season and fell to the Sens in 5 games.  The series was a mismatch with the relatively young Habs team missing valuable players and experience going into the post-season.   The Sens, though they manhandled the Habs in that series, were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 5 games in the 2nd round.

Rivalry:

There isn’t enough history between the clubs to warrant a rivalry equal to that of the Habs vs. Bruins.  Still, when the two clubs met in 2013, a nasty hit by Eric Gryba that took Lars Eller out of the series was enough to create a lasting hatred between the clubs and the series devolved into a gong show. Expect a physical series once again, with one or more players from either team hitting to hurt.

The Players: 

The Senators have relied heavily on 27 year-old rookie goalie Andrew Hammond, rookie forward Mark Stone and All Star defenseman Erik Karlsson, who seems to have come into his own as Captain.

Hammond, the “Hamburgler”, has come up from nowhere and therefore does not have the weight of expectation on his shoulders, as the Habs do. They also have an exceptional amount of momentum with a goaltender that lost just 1 regulation game in 23 starts.  However, momentum or no, the Sens are going up against the likely Vezina Trophy winner in goaltender Carey Price, who has also been speculated to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP.  Price has the benefit of experience on his side, as do the Habs as a whole after making a run to the Conference Finals last season, when the Senators failed to qualify for the playoffs.

After two months of must-win games, it will be tough to guess whether or not the Senators rookies and stars will have enough in the tank to pull off the upset. Price who was run out of last year’s playoffs by New York Rangers forward Kris Kreider will be playing for a Stanley Cup Final appearance, and nothing less.

Game 1: Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 at Centre Bell

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