Remember when games against the Coyotes used to be boring, or ended up in Mikkel Boedker hat-tricks? This one was anything but, with 11 goals, and a combined 77 shots and 100 attempts on net.
We started with a bit of deja vu to last night’s game against Detroit, in which the Sens started well, but gave up the first goal on a bad play from their goaltender. The first 10 minutes were almost all Sens, with Methot and Tommy Pyatt getting a couple of scoring chances, and the team successfully killing off a(nother) Dion Phaneuf penalty after the blueliner took down Max Domi in front of the Sens net. The ‘Yotes started to go to work around the 10 minute mark, using their cycle game down low to penetrate the Sens defence and generate wraparound chances to Craig Anderson. The first goal was eereily similar to last night’s, where Arizona’s kids (Reider, Strome, Duclair) cycled off of the pairing of Phaneuf - Ceci. The puck ends up at the point, where Connor Murphy nicely one-touched it to Dylan Strome, who quickly fires it on net. Craig Anderson, perhaps borrowing Andrew Hammond’s glove, is unable to catch the puck, and Tobias Reider is the first on it to deposit it behind the Sens netminder.
Unlike last night, the Sens quickly respond, with Coach Boucher’s favourite line of Pageau - Kelly - Pyatt and the team’s first pair. The momentum shift eventually results in a Ryan White interference penalty on Chris Neil with 6:23 to go, and for the first time, the Sens cash in on the powerplay. Off of a set play, Brassard wins the faceoff at the left dots and Karlsson quickly passes it to Hoffman, who wires it on net. The puck hits Bobby Ryan, who listened to Coach Boucher and crashed the net, and ends up past Mike Smith for a PP goal 4 seconds in.
Crucially, the Sens keep pushing and score again off of another play that Boucher has been stressing. Marc Methot wheels behind the net to grab a loose puck and quickly skates it out for the controlled exit. He quickly delivers a bullet pass to Ryan Dzingel, who enters the zone and tries to flip the puck to a streaking Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the middle of the ice. The pass doesn’t make it to Pageau, but hits Martin Hanzal’s stick and ends up with Tom Pyatt, who backhands it over Smith for a go-ahead goal 95 seconds after the Sens tied the game up. Because the pass hit off of an opponents stick, Dzingel and Methot don’t end up with assists on the play, but were surely deserving of one.
The second started the opposite way of the first, in the sense that the Coyotes jumped out of the gate before the Sens rebounded and played the final ~10 minutes to a tie possession-wise. It starts, again, with strong cycle shifts on the Phaneuf - Ceci pair with Jordan Martinook getting a couple of quality scoring chances. The Sens start to fight back after Mark Stone, who was hit hard all night, and Connor Murphy take coinciding minors and force the game into some 4-on-4 action. Here, Ottawa uses their speed with players like Dzingel, Hoffman, and Karlsson shining and the team forcing Smith into 3 nice pad saves.
After the penalties expire, the game settles down. In my opinion, this favoured Ottawa more as they started to prevent shots against and close down gaps to prevent the Coyotes from creating anything with their speed. In turn, the trio of Hoffman - Turris - Stone started to get more offensive zone time and force turnovers to generate chances. Arizona finally sees some light after Chris Neil goes off for interference with 7:20 left after hitting Radim Vrbata late, but the Sens manage to turn it into something positive. The Sens PKers converge on the ‘Yotes entry through the middle and Cody Ceci manages to poke the puck to Zack Smith. Smith quickly gets it to Pyatt, who begins to drive wide, while Zack engages in a footrace with Shane Doan through the middle of the ice. Smith ends up using his speed to win the middle and has time to get his stick ready to perfectly one-time a pass from Pyatt past Mike Smith for the team’s second shorthanded goal of the year.
Unfortunately for our heroes in red, the period doesn’t end on a good note. With 45 seconds left, Dylan Strome is taken down by a backchecking Bobby Ryan, and soon after, Chris Kelly trips Max Domi in the high slot to give the Coyotes a 5-on-3 to start the third.
How did 3 - 1 become 7 - 4? It’s like all of the evenness of the first two periods went into the wind from the beginning of the period. First, on the 5-on-3, Oliver Ekman-Larsson shows why he scored 21 goals last year by wiring a slap shot high glove past Craig Anderson to make it 3 - 2. Crucially, the ‘Yotes 5-on-3 did a really good job of spreading out the Sens PK triangle by moving the puck swiftly from high to low, then back to high while still having a screen in front of Anderson (*cough* take note Sens 5-on-3 unit *cough*)
The Sens manage to kill the 53 seconds left on the powerplay, and the game opens up right afterwards. After Ekman-Larsson and Hoffman exchange chances, Derrick Brassard sets up Zack Smith and Erik Karlsson for two of the Sens 8 high danger scoring chances in the period. The key moment of the game, for me, came off of a strange looking play where Tom Pyatt dug the puck out of the low corner and passed it to Chris Kelly, who was waiting quietly in the slot. Kelly’s shot beats Mike Smith, hits both posts, but stays out. In turning for the puck though, Smith seems to twist something in his left knee and screamed audibly for the trainer. Arizona’s backup, Louis Domingue, comes in and due to NHL rules, doesn’t get a chance to warm-up. Now, I’m not saying it’s because of that, but poor ‘ol Domingue lets in two goals in 52 seconds to give the Sens a 5 - 2 lead with 10 minutes to play.
The first goal was a bit of revenge from Chris Kelly, who handled a poor Marty Hanzal turnover in the slot and wired it past Domingue for his first goal in a Sens uniform in five years.
Kelly with the steal and snipe. pic.twitter.com/RqSjqrp20v— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) October 19, 2016
The second goal is Mark Stone’s first of the season, and like he always does, Stone did most of the work himself. First, he dumped the puck into the left corner for retrieval, which the ever-loyal Kyle Turris does. From there, it’s a quick flick to Domingue’s left pad which he spits out right to Stone, who puts the rebound.
The celebrations don’t last long, though, as two minutes later, the ‘Yotes respond courtesy of a learning moment from Thomas Chabot. The Sens rookie receives the puck in the defensive zone and is skating with it under control, but for some reason, he goes to make a bank pass to a streaking Sens forward and is intercepted by Alex Goligoski. Gogo quickly gets the puck to Jordan Martinook, who finally pots what seems like his 4th scoring chance past Anderson stick-side to bring the score to 5 - 3.
The second biggest moment of the period came courtesy of the Sens PK, who were excellent tonight despite giving up the 5-on-3 goal. Two shifts after Martinook’s goal, Cody Ceci turns the puck over to Shane Doan, who tries to create a chance for Max Domi but the rookie forward is taken down by a recovering Ceci, who gets called for interference. On the ensuing kill, the Sens are hyper aggressive and don’t let the Coyotes set up, resulting in no shots on net. Interestingly, for any Karlsson detractors who read a Sens blog, the Captain played a team high 5:10 on the PK tonight and performed extremely well. It’s like he’s always been good defensively and has the best stick on the team while also having the speed to win puck battles and the hockey IQ to read plays. Who knew!
With momentum after the kill, the Sens manage to take the play to the Coyotes and are led by Hoffman - Turris - Stone, who end up potting another goal. This time, it’s Kyle Turris who’s a beneficiary of a Mike Hoffman pass (his third assist of the night), as the New Westminster native wires a shot top-shelf by Domingue to give the Sens a 6 - 3 lead.
Jordan Martinook responds again with a deflection goal off of another defensive miscue by the Senators, this time via the failed puck clearance of Cody Ceci, to make it 6 - 4.
However, all this does (other than decrease Craig Anderson’s already poor save percentage), is create an opportunity for some Sens history. Erik Karlsson, on the ice for the last minute of the game, blocks a shot and then powers through two Coyotes players to win a race for the puck in order to pot an empty net goal and become the Sens all-time leader in goals by a defenseman with 102. Just watch the gif below over and over and over and over:
"You wouldn't want Karlsson on for the last minute defending a lead" pic.twitter.com/gmwKUrxXC8— Kevin Lee (@BringBackLee) October 19, 2016
Casually took him...355 less games than Wade Redden to get there. https://t.co/wvSOMz1h8f— Bonk's Mullet (@BonksMullet) October 19, 2016
Sens Hero: Mike Hoffman
The Sens best forward tonight in all areas of the ice, Hoffman was singled out by Coach Boucher in his post-game comments as a player who’s been using his speed constantly. 3 assists, 8 shots on goal, and supporting his linemates to all have a >60% CF% at 5-on-5 tonight are definitely good signs.
Boucher likes Hoffman's game "both ways." He's working hard defensively which will help his offensive game.— Murray Pam (@Pammerhockey) October 19, 2016
Sens Hero(es): The speedy trio of Zack Smith, Ryan Dzingel, and Tommy Pyatt
When Clarke MacArthur went down, we knew that the Sens depth players would have to step up. I don’t think anyone would’ve been able to guess at the level of production we’d see right off the bat, though. Smith had a shorthanded goal, Dzingel generated two goals (despite no points), while Pyatt had a goal and an assist while leading forwards in PKTOI. Importantly, all three seem to have bought into Boucher’s system the most, and Smith & Pyatt are trusted in all situations while Dzingel is surely getting to that point. Surely, it helps Pyatt’s case that he’s the most acquainted with Boucher’s system, and we can’t expect him to continue putting up points, but it’s definitely helping the team’s case to start off the year.
"I'd love to say I'm surprised, but I'm not." - Boucher on the impressive play of Tom Pyatt.— Callum Fraser (@CallumFraser18) October 19, 2016
Sens Zero: Cody Ceci
When Cody Ceci was on the ice tonight at 5-on-5, the Senators generated 11 shot attempts for and gave up 29. If you care about scoring chances (as per Natural Stat Trick), Ceci was on the ice for 15 (!!!) against in ~21 minutes of play tonight. He was surprisingly an even in +/-, which tells you more about that stat than the quality of his play. To me, it just looks like he tries to get rid of the puck as fast as possible, and consistently puts it into poor plays on the ice. He will sometimes look good because of his skating and hard slap shot, but can’t ever get himself into a position to use those two skillsets effectively. It’s hard to blame the kid when Bryan Murray’s rushing him surely didn’t help, but how many more mistakes can the team take with Ceci playing such important minutes on the team?
Rookie Watch: Thomas Chabot
I’m sure -2 and a team-low 7:09 wasn’t what Thomas Chabot was expecting in his first NHL game, but you did see some flashes when he was transitioning the puck in the neutral and offensive zones. Chabot took turns with Karlsson, Ceci, and Borowiecki tonight and had a couple of good shifts in the first, and a couple chances to get his first point after getting his hard shot through in the second. It’s clear that Boucher doesn’t trust him, whether you listen to his public comments on Chabot needing to (duly) improve his defensive play or whether you look at the evidence on how these first four games have played out, but it’s also clear that the Sens are extremely weak at defence and may need some help sooner rather than later. Expect Chabot to stick around for another couple of weeks before the team decides to burn his ELC or send him back to Saint John (QMJHL) in the middle of November to get his confidence up for the World Juniors in December.
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick: