A lot can be learned from an NHL playoff series. Both teams, victor and loser, can look back upon the series and take notes about what they accomplished and what they failed to do. The Ottawa Senators – Montreal Canadiens first round matchup in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs is no exception. As the Senators head into the second round to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Montreal Canadiens are headed to the golf course – yet both have learned much about their franchises over the course of the five games which made up their round one series. Here is a look at what we have learned about both these clubs and their immediate futures.
For the Canadiens it became quite clear by the end of the series that they were simply too small of a club to endure the rigor of the Playoffs. The Senators punished the Canadiens with hit after hit, period after period, and game after game. Unlike the regular season, the NHL playoffs are battles of attrition; both individual games and the series as whole. By the fifth and final game of the series, the injuries for the Canadiens mounted with the likes of key players such as Lars Eller, Brian Gionta, Carey Price, Brandon Prust, and Ryan White banged up and out of the lineup. Furthermore, the Senators outscored the Canadiens 13-0 in the third period during this series; a clear indication that the Canadiens were simply worn down to ineffectiveness by the end of games. The Canadiens simply lacked the size and player personnel to play the kind of physical game that the playoffs require. No doubt this issue will be addressed in the offseason. Expect some larger bodies to be brought into the lineup, as well as some more physical players to bolster the lineup for future playoff appearances.
As far as the Senators go, if we learned one thing it was that the kids are alright. A lot of speculation went into the idea that the Senators young lineup would not be able to manage the intensity of the NHL playoffs versus the regular season. Contrary to that notion, the Senators kids not only thrived against Montreal – they may have made the difference in the series. With timely and important goals by players like Corey Connacher, Kyle Turris, and JG Pageau, the Senators young players proved to be crucial in accomplishing a first round victory. This bodes well for the Senators in the long term, as it has now been established that this team has an accomplished and proven core of young players that will continue to grow for a long time coming.
Perhaps even more important for the Senators franchise is what Paul MaClean described in the post series press conference as a unifying exercise for the team. MaClean explained that this Senators team had two groups of players; the veterans remaining from the 07 Stanley Cup run, and the young guys who came up through the AHL as a Calder winning team. With this victory, MaClean said that the two groups had now won something together as a group, and they were now finally one team. This experience could be the kind of catalyst that the Senators needed to really boost them at a legit cup run this season. With the kind of all-world goaltending Craig Anderson is providing, and the unity from the 18 guys in front of him, the Senators may be wearing a glass slipper for the remainder of the playoffs.
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