With The Montreal Canadiens in first place in the Eastern Conference, the Ottawa Senators are in town to pry that title from their grasp. After Tuesday’s 4-0 shutout victory over the New Jersey Devils, the Canadiens moved into the conference lead over the Devils by one point, a feat that many hockey pundits did not consider before the start of this season began. The Senators, who despite their recent team slide, are also two points behind the Habs for first place in the division.
Despite defeating the Devils for the 2nd time in 12 days, the Canadiens now have to focus their attention on the Senators. Over the past few weeks, Ottawa represents ‘Team Turmoil’, after firing their head coach John Paddock on February 27, despite a 36-22-6 record. The team’s GM Bryan Murray, decided on the move after the team went into a bad slump of 11-12-2 in 2008. During this season, the Senators have also struggled in goal, with various conflicts between Paddock and Ray Emery. Emery and goaltender Martin Gerber have asked for trades at different times of this season. After allowing a goal during a 4-0 shutout loss to Boston February 26, Gerber began screaming at his defenceman, Anton Volchenkov, and his other teammates on the bench, a clear indication of his own frustration.
Regardless of their recent woes, the Senators represent a dangerous team that the Habs cannot take for granted. They have one of the best offences in the NHL, currently first for goals scored, one goal ahead of Montreal. The line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza is arguably the most productive in the league, although Alfredsson is currently injured and not expected to play tonight. Their defencemen are solid, with Wade Redden, Anton Volchenkov, Chris Phillips and Andrei Meszaros combining for their top four blueliners. In their last match, Ottawa defeated Montreal 6-1 on February 9th.
Habs Bits: The 2003 draft arguably represents one of the most successful drafts over the past 20 years. Currently, there are 104 players from that draft that are on NHL rosters this season. There are two teams that tied for the most players drafted that have played this season, Montreal and San Jose. Of these teams, only Montreal has all 4 of their drafted players on their current roster: Andrei Kostitsyn, Jaroslav Halak, Maxim Lapierre, Ryan O’Byrne….Since returning from a fractured thumb on February 12th, Ryan O’Byrne has not had a minus game, representing a plus 7 over 13 games, which is impressive for a defensive styled defenceman….When the Habs defeated New Jersey last Tuesday, the win represented the first time in Martin Brodeur’s career that he has ever lost 3 consecutive matches to Montreal.
Senators Notes:Since Bryan Murray took over the reigns as head coach, Ottawa has a 3-3-1 record….Martin Gerber has started 6 straight games going into tonight’s match with Montreal. He is expected to start tonight, and has allowed only 7 goals in his last 4 games….The Senators’ offence has been hot lately, scoring 7 times in their past 2 games. They’ve rebounded well after scoring only 3 times in their previous 3 games.