You'd be hard-pressed to find a person who would like to win this Senators/Canadiens series more than Guillaume Latendresse
The 25-year-old forward was born and raised in Ste-Catherine, Que., a suburb of Montreal and, as many fans will remember, came into the NHL as a member of the Habs as a 19-year-old. As a local Francophone player, Latendresse was a fan favourite and media darling before his trade to the Minnesota Wild where he flourished before injuries took their toll.
Latendresse has enjoyed a bounce back season of sorts, scoring six goals in 27 games with the Sens. That total would be just short of a 20 goal season over the span of 82 games. When ou couple his migraine troubles with the fact he only played 27 total games from 2010-2012, that rate is an accomplishment. This season was, realistically, as much about regaining a feel for NHL hockey as it was playing as a regular.
Now, after that return campaign, a second season begins with Latendresse coming full circle. He'll be getting his third shot in the playoffs against his hometown team — the only other team he ever suited up for in the playoffs — and he’ll have the opportunity to make a big contribution to the Sens in front of many familiar faces. Family, friends and longtime fans still call Montreal home where he will be trying to make the moment count.
The potential for this series never crossed his mind prior to his arrival, but now it’s propelling him to perform.
“When I signed here I didn't think about that, meeting Montreal in the playoffs. But, what else do you want for motivation? What else do you need?” said Latendresse. “For sure I'm going to be nervous. For sure I'm going to be excited, just like it was my first year, but I just want to bring that excitement and fun into the game that gives me legs and gives me a good feeling on the ice.“
When Latendresse has that good feeling he is a dangerous weapon on the Sens’ second or third line. Four of his six goals this season came in a span of six games as he got into a groove of finding open space and sending a lot of pucks on net.
Shots are the key marker to determine if Latendresse is feeling it. When he gets shots on goal, he creates problems for opponents. His most consistent stretch in that department this season came while playing alongside Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad, and it appears that they will be reunited to begin the series.
The “Swench Connection” will be a handful for Montreal’s defence corps if they stay together, given they were a dominant trio when they played together. Three big bodies who can handle the puck, let plays develop and shoot to score are cause for concern.
Playing with young, energetic linemates doesn’t hurt Latendresse’s potential production either.
“We have to make sure we play the patience game and bring that excitement and dictate the way we want to play,” said Latendresse. “We have a good mix of young and old players and we just have to mix that all together and not think ahead. Just think about the next shift.”
It goes without saying that every player is laying it all out there during the playoffs, but you can be sure that making the next shift on Bell Centre ice count will mean more to Ottawa’s number 73 than anyone else.
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