The Montreal Canadiens hold a 3-2 series edge over the Ottawa Senators, but in many ways it seems the Senators are in the driver’s seat after a convincing Game 5 victory at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens 3-0 series stranglehold has turned into a slight one game advantage, and storylines of the impossible to kill Senators, who were once 14 points out of a playoff spot and went 23-4-4 in the final 31 regular season games, have re-emerged.
Since the keys to the Sens crease were handed from Andrew “Hamburglar” Hammond, to veteran Craig Anderson, the Habs have scored just three goals in three games, winning Game 3 in overtime by a 2-1 score, being shutout 1-0 in Game 4, and once again failing to close out the series by being blown out 5-1 in Game 5.
Montreal Dominant On Ice, Dominated On Scoreboard
Digging a little deeper into Game 5, instead of looking at the score and drawing the conclusion that Montreal was dominated throughout the contest, you see that the Habs actually controlled the play for most of the game. Montreal came out flying to start the game, and were leading the shot count 7-0 before a Bobby Ryan shot from nearly 75 feet away floated through Carey Price and gave the Sens a 1-0 lead. The goal seemed to take some wind out of the Habs sails, and the Senators extended their lead to 2-0 on a perfect Patrick Wiercioch shot late in the frame.
— Dan Séguin (@SeguinSports) April 24, 2015
However, the Habs bounced back with a dominant second period, but once again could not beat Anderson, and Ottawa made it 3-0 on an Erik Karlsson power play goal. The Canadiens swarmed the Sens goal throughout the 20 minute stanza, out shooting their opponent 11-5.
The Montreal firing squad continued in the final period, as the Habs unloaded another 20 shots on goal in the third, and a Tom Gilbert goal less than two minutes in to the final frame gave the team life. Although the Gilbert goal was the only once Montreal scored, it’s a very encouraging sign that the Habs, who were outshot and out chanced most of the regular season, outshot Ottawa 46-25 in a do-or-die game for the Senators.
If the Canadiens continue to control the play as much as they did in Game 5, it won’t be long at all before they begin to find the back of the opponent’s net with far greater frequency. Had the Habs been outshot by a wide margin, or made it easy on Anderson to post such impressive numbers, fans of the Habs would have the right to be concerned. But that is simply not the case in this series, and one can make the assumption the Canadiens are about to break out on the score sheet.
More specifically, not only are the Habs on the cusp of breaking out offensively, but their top forwards Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller have been generating plenty of chances and getting pucks to the net, but haven’t been rewarded for their efforts recently. Each of the three Habs forwards have fired eight shots on goal in the past two games, and none have gone in.
Montreal is averaging 38 shots per game during regulation in this series. The team that won 50 games in the regular season has actually stepped its game up several notches offensively in this series. It’s just a matter of time before multiple players get a lucky bounce or squeeze a puck through Anderson like Dale Weise and Tom Gilbert have been able to do.
Expect the Best of Carey Price in Game 6
The Habs biggest boost for Game 6 will come from a slightly embarrassed Carey Price in goal. The Habs netminder had very few off nights this year, and was recently nominated for the Vezina Trophy because of his dominant season. Only three times in the regular season did Price allow five goals, like he did in Game 5.
The first two came on back to back nights in November against the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks. Price responded by stopping 30 of 31 shots he faced against the Minnesota Wild, then shut out the Winnipeg Jets, before slamming the door on the Boston Bruins in a dominant 5-1 Habs win.
— Robby (@MoiseevRM) April 25, 2015
Price’s only other five goal night came against the Ottawa Senators on March 12th. His next game? A sizzling 35 save night against the New York Islanders in a 3-1 Habs win. Later that week Price posted back to back shutouts over the Carolina Hurricanes and San Jose Sharks.
History Still Points to Habs Winning Series
History is also very much on the side of the Montreal Canadiens. You will hear a lot about the Los Angeles Kings from a year ago who came back and beat the San Jose Sharks after falling behind 3-0, but the reality is, in over a hundred years of NHL hockey, only four times has a team come back from such a deficit. The other 174 times a team took a 3-0 lead, they found a way to close out the series, whether it was in four games, or in overtime of Game 7 like the Vancouver Canucks in 2011. Even just looking at teams that have a 3-2 series edge, like the Canadiens currently, and over 78 percent of them have come out on top in the past.
Besides, even if the Senators win in Ottawa on Sunday, they would have to win a Game 7 in Montreal to take the series. An opponent has finished off the Canadiens in Montreal in a seventh game only three times in the long history of the Habs. The Habs are 8-3 all time as Game 7 hosts, winning the last four, and the only one at the Bell Centre in 2008 over the Boston Bruins. The last team to win a road Game 7 in the province of Quebec, were the provincial rival Quebec Nordiques in 1985.
This series may not end an quickly as it appeared it would when Dale Weise beat Anderson in overtime of Game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. However, the Senators still have a huge mountain to climb if they are going to complete the comeback, and the Canadiens are very much still in the driver’s seat. Take a deep breath Habs fans, with the way the Habs are playing and with Price in goal, it is not yet time to panic.