Coming into the game, the Senators ranked last in the league in terms of shots against, and the Red Wings ranked last in the league in terms of shots for. You knew something was going to have to give, but unfortunately for the Senators, it didn't go their way. Another game with 30+ shots against, especially against a division rival and also-mediocre team in the Red Wings may cost them in April. But hey, given the score entering the third, at least they got a point.
The game started off with really good shifts in succession by both teams. After the Lazar - Smith - Neil line put themselves in bad defensive position after running around in the offensive zone, the Larkin - Datsyuk pair almost capitalize if not for some timely sticks by Marc Methot and Erik Karlsson.
We are 22 seconds into the game and Chris Neil has already missed 2 hits resulting in him running straight into the boards— Steve On Sens (@SteveOnSens) November 17, 2015
Mark Stone countered this early pressure with two scoring chances of his own after swiping the puck off some unsuspecting Wings defenders. Unfortunately for the Senators, it's the Wings who strike first. Off a somewhat-broken play in the neutral zone, Larkin manages to grab the puck on the left-wing boards and streaks in on a pivoting Karlsson, who decides to Marc Methot him, but misses. Anderson, thinking he's going to get beat on the wraparound again, starts to cheat and Larkin makes him pay by tucking the puck in short-side.
Just a few minutes later, Ceci is caught forechecking the offensive zone and can never recover, as the Wings cut through the neutral zone, isolate Wiercioch, and send the puck cross-ice to Ceci's open man for Nyquist to pot the goal.
The game stagnates after the two quick goals by the Wings. Blashill's team looked structured, especially in terms of zone entry defence, and it appeared difficult for the Sens to generate any momentum through the neutral zone. That is, until Dylan Larkin took an interference penalty on a streaking Kyle Turris, who's trying to create space to receive a pass from Stone in the offensive zone. The ensuing powerplay starts off poorly -- so much so that Sens fans start to boo a unit that comes into the game going 6 for 12 in their last few games. In the last 30 seconds, the Senators finally set up. Mark Stone retrieves the puck on the right-wing boards from Alex Chiasson, who then assumes his rightful position in front of Jimmy Howard, and sends the puck to Karlsson, who puts it on a tee for Mike Hoffman to walk right in to. Howard doesn't have a chance after getting lucky on the exact same play 10 seconds prior (Hoffman missed).
Mike Hoffman has two power play goals in his first 14 games played this season. Had two power play goals in his previous 104.
Mike Hoffman has two power play goals in his first 14 games played this season. Had two power play goals in his previous 104.— The 6th Sens (@6thSens) November 17, 2015
The last real play(s) of note in the period come courtesy of Chris Wideman, who was one of the only Sens players capable of completing a breakout pass. Wideman cleanly exited the zone by softly chipping the puck to an open Senator in a tight space, despite being pressured by two Wings players, thus becoming one of only three Senators defensemen who seem capable of doing this on a regular basis. In addition, Wideman showcased his agility to cover the left-side and cut off the newly-extended Justin Abdelkader after he entered the zone, and then sent the puck to Bobby Ryan, who breaks in on Howard and delivers a hard wrist shot that Howard bobbles, but is missed by Matt Puempel on the rebound.
The period ended with shots tied at 8 a piece.
After the first period was played mainly 5-on-5, both teams each take a penalty to start the second. First, Smith drew (!) one on Luke Glendening, but the Senators cannot convert. Right after, Karlsson takes a slashing penalty on Abdelkader after fending off a couple himself, but the Wings draw nothing other than a bunch of shot attempts up top (1-3-1) from Teemu Pulkkinen.
The remainder of the first half of the second is quiet, with the Sens getting into the Red Wings zone a bit more than they were previously. Of course, Mike Hoffman's speed has a lot to do with it, and he has the team's best chance of the period thanks to Kyle Turris' stick work and body position down low. Hoffman lives for shots in between the dots, but it requires a teammate that can get him the puck, which Turris has been able to do on a consistent basis this season. I was worried that he might not dress today due to a potential upper body injury, but the Sens #1 centre looked strong all night. Up until the 7 minute mark, the shots were only 5 - 5 in the period; a ton of neutral zone play and missed shots, but not much actually getting to either goaltender.
After Zibanejad leaves the Senators bench for a few shifts after taking a follow-through stick from Jimmy Howard (non-call because you can't call a high-sticking penalty on a follow-through), the Senators start to unravel. First, a goal against. The trio of Sheahan - Glendening - Helm run amok on Wiercioch - Ceci, who were actually having a decent period until this point. A bunch of lost puck battles for both D eventually results in a broken stick for Wiercioch, who never recovers on the play. The puck eventually makes its way to the right of Craig Anderson and is high-sticked down -- but by Wiercioch and not a Wings player -- so play continues and Glendening scoops the puck to Sheahan, who pots it. It looked like Dave Cameron and co. were going to challenge the call for a second until backing off on further review.
I don't know how to reconcile the difference between Ceci-Wiercicoch last year and this year. It's like day and night.— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) November 17, 2015
The score could've ended up a lot worse than it did, if not for Craig Anderson. A couple of saves, including a fantastic pad stop on Gustav Nyquist, showing battle to smother the puck before Abdelkader tapped it in, a solid glove save on Alexei Marchenko, and a blocker stop on the wild shooting Pulkkinen keeps the score at 3-1. Notably, there were a couple times where Borowiecki tried to force the puck up the zone into places where the Senators couldn't support the puck, which really shows the importance of Wideman being a puck-mover on that pairing; if Cowen was there, that's two defensemen making consistently poor decisions that don't result in anything positive for the Senators.
In the latter half of the period, the Sens just looked really tentative, often passing away shooting opportunities to look for the 'perfect pass'. As a result, the period ended with shots favouring the Wings by a margin of 21-15. As goes the second pair, as goes the Sens.
The third started off with Dave Cameron taking out his good ol' line blender. Some combinations included Ryan with Hoffman - Turris, Stone with Pageau - Chiasson, and Lazar with Zibanejad - Puempel. None of this mattered for the next goal though -- it was all Chris Wideman. Despite being a healthy scratch 10 (!) times with this tire fire of the defence corps, the little engine that could delivered a sweet wrist shot that eluded Jimmy Howard just 3:13 into the period to breathe some life into the slumbering Senators.
Notice on the replay how the whole play starts with Wideman's hard shot initially breaking the stick of Luke Glendening, who ends up on the left boards and has no other option than trying to push the puck out of the zone with his hands after being tied up by Mark Borowiecki and Mika Zibanejad. Wideman then takes the puck to the middle of the ice and fires it home for his third of the year. I really don't know what Dave Cameron is going to do when Jared Cowen comes back after lucking into another injury to a bad player (this happened during The Streak many times), but I think keeping Wideman on the third pairing with Mark Borowiecki gives the team a pairing with complementary skillsets to play against the third and fourth lines of opposing teams.
After strong possession play for the first half of the period, the Senators start to make errors again, and again, it starts because of two issues that's really been plaguing the team as a whole: 1) poor outlet passes out of the zone (this time by the Wiercioch - Ceci pairing) and 2) poor penalties (this time, Alex Chiasson slashing Jonathan Ericsson's stick). Thankfully for the Senators, Craig Anderson was up to the task. After facing 13 shots in the last period, Anderson turns aside 15 in the third -- many difficult stops on the penalty kill -- to keep the Sens in the game.
Then, a hero appears, and it's from a player who's now on pace for 32 goals on the year.
That's right, Bobby Ryan pulls the string on Luke Glendening, Mike Green, and Jimmy Howard to tie the game with less than 3 minutes left after taking a chip pass from Mike Hoffman in the offensive zone. It's a beautiful goal, and one that caps off how well Bobby's been playing recently with the puck. He's quiet, and sometimes looks disengaged (along w/ linemate Mika Zibanejad), but occasionally you see his tremendous skill on shifts where that line hammers the opposition, and hence, both are close to point-per-game paces this season.
Regulation ends on a timid note, with both teams settling in for a point, and the Senators get set for their league-leading ninth overtime this season.
Aaaaaaaand it's not pretty. Two minutes in, the Senators grouping of Zibanejad, Ceci, and Turris lose the puck, mainly because of bad decision making from Ceci who chose to advance the puck forward when he lacked support from the forwards, and Tomas Tatar slips a quick wrist shot past Anderson on the partial break. A point is crucial for the Senators, especially because a) they're a bubble team and b) they haven't really been playing well, but it's the free passes that they've been giving their opposition sometimes that really gets on my nerves.
Sens Hero: Chris Wideman
What else can I say? Wideman looked great tonight, and Coach Cameron agreed post-game by praising both his play WITH the puck (which we knew we were getting) but also his play away from the puck. His defensive plays that I highlighted in the first were fantastic, and he's definitely been better than I expected. I really hope he gets a solid run of games here, even when everyone's all healthy.
Honourable Mention: Craig Anderson
Sure, four goals against doesn't look that great for Anderson. However, 37 shots were directed on goal (65 attempts) and many were scoring chances where his team left him out to dry. There's no way the Sens would've gotten a point if not for his heroics during the second half of the second and third periods.
Sens Killer: Poor zone exits; fanciness with the puck
Dave Cameron mentioned it post-game, but the Senators really seemed to lack energy on their forecheck, and tried to be too cute with the puck. The players word it weirdly, with Bobby Ryan saying that they play with "too much skill" -- but really, when he means is that they're trying to go east-west or forcing plays without them actually being there. Instead, playing simple and focusing on getting pucks in the 'home plate' area around the net is the formula that will win you a lot of hockey games, and the Senators aren't doing that right now. Previously, the Senators were bad defensively but were near the top of the league offensively. This year, it looks like their shots for totals are suffering.
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick (EV)
Thanks for reading!