Round One Odds: Montreal Canadiens (-140) vs. Ottawa Senators (+140)
Though they finished first in the Atlantic Division and will have home-ice advantage, the Montreal Canadiens can’t feel good about their first round playoff matchup, as they run head first into the hottest team in the NHL, the Ottawa Senators. The series will get underway on Wednesday, April 15, at 7:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre in Montreal. (Scroll to the bottom for the full schedule.)
Ottawa finished the season with an impressive 21-3-3 record in their last 27 games, including two wins over Montreal (4-2 in Ottawa on February 18 and 5-2 at the Bell Centre on March 12).
The team clinched its playoff berth on the final day of the regular season with a 3-1 win over the Flyers, capping a miraculous second-half which saw them crawl back from 14 points out of the playoffs.
The win over Philly was the sixth in seven games for Ottawa to close the regular season.
“Here we are at the end of the year, we made an unbelievable run for the past 30 games,” Senators captain Erik Karlsson said.
Ottawa’s late-season run was largely fueled by the play of goalie Andrew Hammond. The 27-year-old rookie, who was thrust into action when Chris Anderson got injured, went 20-1-2 in 24 starts with a .941 SV% and a 1.79 GAA.
“I’ve never had a stretch of hockey like this in my life,” Hammond explained. “It’s something I don’t think anyone can really explain.
“I don’t know if it’s completely sunk in yet … but tomorrow when we wake up, we’ll be in the playoffs. That’s a really special feeling for this group from where we were.”
Ottawa ended the season with 99 points and similarly good home (23-13-5) and away (20-13-8) records. They averaged 2.8 GPG for the year (ninth-best in the NHL) while giving up just 2.5 (13th). They were decent but not spectacular on special teams, with the PK (11th) outpacing the powerplay (22nd).
Despite the hot-streak, Hammond and company remain +140 underdogs to trump Montreal in the best-of-seven series. While Hammond is a nice story, he remains an untested playoff commodity, whereas the Habs are backstopped by proven playoff performer and Hart Trophy frontrunner Carey Price.
There is reason for bettors to be cautious of Montreal, though, as leading scorer Max Pacioretty has been dealing with an upper-body injury. His status heading into game one is unclear.
“He’s reacted really well to the treatment that he got,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said after the Habs’ practice at the Air Canada Centre. “But I don’t have much more news because I haven’t talked to the doctor yet.”
The Canadiens won the Atlantic Division with 110 points but slumped a bit down the stretch with “Patches” missing some time. They finished the year 5-2-3 in their last ten, though they did take three straight to close the year.
Stats-wise, Montreal averaged 2.6 GPG on the year (20th in the league), but surrendered an NHL-best 2.2 goals against. The special teams followed that trend with the power play finishing 23rd in the NHL and the penalty kill ranking a much higher seventh.
Montreal is -140 to win their first-round series against Ottawa, +475 to win the Eastern Conference, and +1000 to win the Stanley Cup; the Senators, meanwhile, are +850 to win the East and +1600 to win it all.
This series truly feels like a toss-up given the way the Sens have been playing. That makes Ottawa (+140) look like much better value.
Montreal vs. Ottawa Playoffs Series Schedule:
Wednesday, April 15, 7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal
Friday, April 17, 7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal
Sunday, April 19, 7 p.m. Montreal at Ottawa
Wednesday, April 22 7 p.m. Montreal at Ottawa
Friday, April 24, TBD Ottawa at Montreal (if necessary)
Sunday, April 26, TBD Montreal at Ottawa (if necessary)
Tuesday, April 28, TBD Ottawa at Montreal (if necessary)
(Photo credit: Lisa Gansky from New York, NY, USA (IMG_8259) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)