Montreal Offensive GVT: -4.4
Montreal Defensive GVT: 6.8
Ottawa Offensive GVT: -10.6
Ottawa Defensive GVT: 16.5
Let’s get the blatantly obvious out of the way. The Canadiens have Carey Price, who is pretty much a lock to win the Vezina trophy as the league’s best goaltender, and the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP. Montreal is tied with Chicago for the league’s highest save percentage because of him, and he himself leads the league in save percentage. He is very good at stopping pucks.
They also have P.K. Subban, who has a strong case for the Norris Trophy, and along with Andrei Markov, forms one of the league’s most dominant top pairings, especially in comparison with the rest of the team’s defensive corps. They each have a relative score adjusted Fenwick of 3.5% or higher.
Besides that, however, this team also has a number of skilled forwards who can drive possession while on the ice. The most notable is Max Pacioretty, who is second in the league in shots and sporting a 5.15% relative scoring chance for percentage. He’s currently day-to-day with an injury, however, meaning that other strong possession forwards such as Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, and Tomas Plekanec will have to step up.
They also have a good penalty kill, as they are tied for 7th in the league in success rate, and 9th in the league in Fenwick against/60 while shorthanded.
This is a team that relies heavily on the top half of its roster, and that lack of depth could prove deadly in the playoffs. The bottom half of their roster consists of forwards Brandon Prust, Dale Weise, Torrey Mitchell, and Brian Flynn; all four are negative possession players. Devante Smith-Pelly is also a drain on possession (-5.21 rel SCF% in 20 games with MTL) while playing on the second line. After that, they don’t really have players who can fill in if there are injuries; Manny Malholtra has a -18.78% rel SCF%, and he’s played 58 games for the team.
The same goes for the defense, as after Subban-Markov comes Alexei Emelin-Jeff Petry and Nathan Bealieu-Greg Pateryn. Petry and Emelin together is a nightmare; when on the ice together (139 minutes), their Corsi for percentage is an absurdly low 38.7%. Bealieu and Pateryn have played well so far, posting a 57.0% CF%, but they’ve only played 79 minutes together; when apart, both of their CF% numbers drop below 50%.
All of this adds up to Montreal being one of the weaker possession teams in the NHL, having finished 22nd in the league with a 48.6% score adjusted CF%. They’ve haven’t improved down the stretch, either, as their 47.4% sc-adj CF% in their past 25 games is 23rd in the league over that timespan.
Their power play isn’t anything to get excited over, as it’s a mere 23rd in the league in terms of conversion rates, and only 27th in FF/60. That type of weakness could result in a quick out for Montreal, especially if Ottawa outplays them at even strength.
Ottawa is a team that is trending upward. Though their season long sc-adj CF% of 50.4% is only good for 19th in the league, when Dave Cameron took over behind the bench, the team’s numbers jumped to over 50%, and have hovered around the 52% mark since.
(score adjusted Corsi for percentage, rolling 25-game average)
Though they haven’t been elite in their last 25 games, they’ve certainly been better than Montreal, with a 51.5% sc-adj CF% over that span of games, the 14th best percentage in the league.
Just as Montreal has P.K. Subban, Ottawa has Erik Karlsson, who partners with Marc Methot to dominate possession of the puck. Though Ottawa has better defensive depth, Karlsson still manages a 3.4% relative Fenwick for percentage, and also currently leads all defenseman in the league in points.
Their power play could also prove to be advantageous, as it ended the year 7th in the league in FF/60, even if it was only 22nd in its conversion rates.
Ottawa’s last strength is a tough one to pin down: their goaltending. There’s Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond, the undrafted free agent signed two years ago out of Bowling Green University, who had an .898 save percentage in the AHL this season before being called up as an injury replacement and going 20-1-2 with a .941 SV% in the NHL. There’s also Craig Anderson, who has a .923 SV% on the year, and has an NHL career SV% of .915. Both are solid options, given that Hammond can continue his incredible streak and Anderson can be ready to go after having been on the bench for so long.
Though the team’s goaltending should be considered a strength, it should also be considered a weakness. Just because Hammond has been amazing in the NHL doesn’t mean that his success is going to last. Consider the fact that his AHL save percentage this year was .898, and for his career, was .905. His NHL SV% this year is an absurd .941. Looking at AHL SV% vs. NHL SV%, Hammond is a ridiculous outlier compared to other goalies.
Can that continue in the playoffs? Maybe. If it doesn’t, is Anderson enough to get this team past Montreal? Maybe… That uncertainty is what makes Ottawa’s goaltending a weakness.
Besides their goaltending questions, Ottawa’s penalty kill is nothing to get excited about. Though they’re 7th in the league when it comes to success rates, they’re 19th in the league in FA/60. Most of their success is percentage driven, and if those percentages start to swing in the other direction, the penalty kill could be a problem for Ottawa.
This series boils down to whether or not the Senators will be able to out-possess the Canadiens to the point where Carey Price isn’t able to steal 2-3 games outright for the Canadiens. Andrew Hammond may be able to keep stopping every puck that comes his way, and he may not. If he isn’t Craig Anderson should be able to give Ottawa a chance to win, so long as they out-play the Canadiens.
A possible X factor is Ottawa’s power play. It hasn’t been scoring tons of goals for the team, but it is generating a lot of shots. If they start to get a couple more bounces, they could swing the series in their favor.
In the end though, I have to go with Montreal in six. Carey Price has had an amazing season, and has been absolutely dominant throughout. With the team getting Max Pacioretty back at some point in the series, the team in front of Price should give him enough support to win four games.