The Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators took to the ice on Wednesday night for game 1 of their opening round series in the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. The result from Montreal saw the Canadiens defeat Ottawa 4-3, behind an outbreak of scoring in the second period. However it was other action besides the scoring that generated the most commentary on game 1.
Firstly, let’s look at what’s ahead in this series for certain. Those following the Montreal vs. Ottawa playoff series may want to note the following schedule (all times ET).
Game 2 from Montreal: Friday, April 17th at 7pm
Game 3 from Ottawa: Sunday, April 19th at 7pm
Game 4 from Ottawa: Wednesday, April 22nd at 7pm
The series could end in four games if Montreal ends up winning games two, three, and four. Otherwise games five, six, and seven will be played from Montreal, then Ottawa, and then Montreal respectively (if necessary). The starting times for those prospective games are not yet determined however the dates have been announced: game five would be played on April 24th, game six on the 26th, and gave seven on the 28th.
The Canadiens entered the series as the favorite following a strong regular season. Furthermore, Montreal is the team with the experience winning in the playoffs as the Canadiens made the Eastern Conference finals last year. They will enter game two with a one-game cushion and they are considered mild favorites to win on Friday, priced at -140 (5/7; bet365) to win straight up.
However drama from game one promises to have an effect on this series. Noteably P.K. Subban of Montreal received a game misconduct and a five-minute major penalty for a slash against Mark Stone, a 22-year old from Winnipeg who tallied 64 points on the year. According to NHL.com, the forward for Ottawa “sustained a microfracture and ligament damage to his right wrist…and his availability for the remainder of the series is unknown.”
What could the absence of Stone mean to the Senators? Noting that he tied for second in points on the team and finished second in goal scoring, should he miss the rest of the series it would not be a small matter for Ottawa. However teams have rallied around injuries before and the incident may very well incite the Senators.
Kyle Turris, who plays centre for Ottawa, perhaps hinted at contempt for Subban. He called the slash “a baseball swing slash” and suggested that it had no part in hockey, even in the normally physical NHL playoffs.
How a sidelined teammate will affect Ottawa is not clear. It is obvious that they are down a skilled player but what emotional effect the slash will have is not so obvious.
If the Senators use their anger to focus then they may very well outwork the Canadiens. However if they look for revenge then they may play distracted with the expectation that the experienced Montreal players would punish them for that – on the scoresheet.
But regardless, the complexion of the Ottawa vs. Montreal series has changed after game one. The Canadiens remain favored however the series is now more than just a battle between conference rivals. This series could turn into a bitter grudge match and Subban, Montreal’s standout defenseman, could have a target on his back.
Friday night’s game promises to be huge, it promises to be eventful, and the games from Ottawa promise to feature a chorus of boos everytime a certain defender touches the puck.