Friday, March 14, 2008

The Return of the Senators

Ottawa was flat out the better team last night at the Bell Centre. The Montreal Canadiens had a difficult time handling Ottawa's speed and ferocious forecheck, while the Sens were able to break out the Habs transition game in the neutral zone essentially hamstringing their ability to produce opportunities off the rush. Anytime Ottawa failed to accomplish that objective, Martin Gerber was there to back them up. It's a winning formula and it's the exact formula that resulted in Ottawa's astounding start to the season.

In fact, this game reminded me quite a bit of the Pittsburgh Penguins - Ottawa Senators first round match up last year. Ottawa was perfectly content with softly chipping the puck into the corners and either out-skating the Habs to the puck or simply out working them in the corners. They wore down Montreal's defense, forced turnovers in the offensive zone and ultimately controlled the pace of the game as a result.

Montreal was much better in the third as they were more decisive and quick to move the puck in their own zone but Gerber held his ground on 11 third period shots. This was one of those games where the shots on goal don't give an accurate picture of what transpired. Montreal was able to actually out-shoot the Senators 28-24, mainly due to an 11-5 shot differential in the third, but the game never seemed in doubt. Carey Price was solid and can't be faulted for any of the goals allowed and Montreal struggled to get quality scoring chances through most of the game. Many of the attempts on Gerber were unscreened and from the outside as Montreal had a difficult time establishing possession in Ottawa's end and setting up any kind of consistent offense. Ultimately the Sen's powerplay and Jason Spezza's two goal night were too much for Montreal to handle as the Habs fell to the Senators 3-0. Perhaps Ottawa is finding their stride at the right time as they've now moved into second in the East and are one point behind the conference leading New Jersey Devils.

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