For Ottawa Senators fans – violence is golden in this round one matchup against the Montreal Canadiens. The Senators came out of the gate looking to physically dominate their opponent, a strategy many other teams found successful this year against the Habs. Coming off a loss in Montreal two nights earlier, the Senators showed no sign of tepidness as they started the game hitting, and hitting hard. It did not take long for the Canadiens to start losing focus of their own strategy. Flyby’s, alligator arms on passes, and even some arguing on the bench all led to the Canadiens unraveling in a 6-1 loss Monday night in Ottawa. The Canadiens not only were embarrassed by the score, but most fans and media around the league talked about the embarrassing behavior of the team and their coach. Frustrated with the results of the scoreboard, emotions boiled over, and even that did not end well for the Canadiens.
By the end of the game the teams combined for 236 penalty minutes and nine players were given a game misconduct; oh and Ottawa took a 2-1 series lead. However, the Senators are in a precarious situation right now. The franchise is notorious for lacking the killer instinct needed in the playoffs to finish an opponent off. This team showed that lack of instinct after stealing all the momentum in game one by coming away with a third period rally to take the series opening, then falling flat in game two. From the start of game two the Senators played timid, conservative, and without that instinct to capitalize on their moment to take a commanding lead in the series. The Senators have to come out tonight and continue to play with the same tenacity and vitriol that had them absolutely dominating this Canadiens team on Monday. It will be up to Coach MacLeanean to get these guys ready and hold onto that momentum from Monday nights inspiring win.
Previous Senators teams have been unable to close out series, and take advantage of when an opponent is down. Perhaps it is an organizational issue, but this Senators squad has the chance to change that reputation forever tonight. Eric Gryba returns to the lineup after serving a two game suspension that left the Canadiens Lars Eller bloody and motionless on the ice. Between the physical domination suffered last game, and a desire for revenge on Eric Gryba, the Canadiens will be motivated to play to the Senators style of physical play, and the Senators must oblige and continue dish out the kind of punishment they handed down on Monday.
Many in the media, as well as fans, are calling for the Senators to tone it down and focus on playing a more skilled game tonight, lest they find themselves in a parade to the penalty box. This is simply bad advice and the kind of action this organization has resorted to in the past. Montreal did not earn the Northeastern Division title by duking it out on the ice; they are not built for that. In order for Montreal to win, they need to make this series an up and down game with lots of offense and few whistles. Although Ottawa is not the reincarnation of the Broad Street Bullies, they do have enough muscle and nastiness to completely control and shut down the Canadiens. If the Senators try and make this a skilled series, they will allow Montreal to come back and win. They need to embrace the killer instinct and put the Canadiens down for the count.
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