Mike Condon put on his best Craig Anderson impression by stopping all 27 shots that came his way in his season debut with the Senators. No, it’s not a 47-save shutout in your debut against your team’s hated rivals, but it’s a result that’s bound to put a couple extra bounces in GM Pierre Dorion’s steps. For a team that’s used four goaltenders in their first ten games, only allowing one goal against in their last three must be pretty sweet.
Mike Hoffman scored the lone goal of the game by patiently outwaiting a sprawling Jakob Markstrom after Ottawa-native Erik Gudbranson turned the puck over in Vancouver’s defensive zone. Derick Brassard doesn’t earn an assist on the play, but his forecheck of Ben Hutton led to the Canucks sophomore putting the puck in a bad position for Gudbranson, which led to the subsequent turnover.
Here are a couple of thoughts on the Sens third win in a row:
1. The Sens 5-on-5 shots against totals in their last five games, in chronological order: 21, 18, 30, 26, 22. Last season, the Sens only had 4 independent five-game segments in which they kept the opposing teams to <25 shots in three of the five games. Now, the worrywart in me looks at the fact that the Sens have only won the shot attempt battle three times all season (v. Montreal, Detroit, and Calgary) and although two of those games were losses, we care about shot attempts because they’re generally more predictive of on-ice performance than a lower event variable (like shots on goal, goals, and wins). Interestingly, there seems to be a pretty stark difference in the team’s Corsi (all shot attempts) and Fenwick (unblocked shot attempts) numbers, likely owing to the fact that Boucher’s been asking all members of his team to lay out and block more shots, especially compared to recent years. As usual, Ottawa was led by their captain, who blocked 5 shots tonight and rank among the league leaders in that category. It certainly matches up to what our eyes are seeing, and in the numbers as well; Ottawa gave up 64 shot attempts tonight against compared to 39 unblocked shot attempts — a net difference of 25. If we extrapolate that to league-wide results, the Senators currently rank a poor 22nd in score-adjusted Corsi (48.3%), but an above-average 12th in score-adjusted Fenwick (51.1%).
2. The Senators powerplay looked godawful tonight in their 0/4 performance, only managing to generate 1 shot on goal total (!). The team is now 3/27 on the season. Interestingly, Ryan, Hoffman, Turris, and Brassard all played more on the powerplay than Erik Karlsson’s 2:58, but that was likely because Karlsson has been playing a lot more on the PK, where he’s been effective. Boucher has generally kept his third pair of Borowiecki - Wideman (or Claesson tonight) off of the PK, which is a much needed turn of events after last season’s PK disaster. It certainly helps that Karlsson’s been extremely effective on the penalty kill so far this year, fronting a lot of shots and reacting quick in order to get pucks out cleanly. Back to the powerplay, it really seems like the problem is due to stagnation once the team sets up. There’s very little puck movement, with the team often engaging in puck battles down low, trying a low-percentage point shot with a screen in front of the net, or sending the puck around the boards back up to the point. It’s pretty symptomatic of their offence as a whole right now, and if it wasn’t for strong goaltending, we’d likely be complaining about only scoring 5 goals in 3 games. The team’s offence, lauded as a strong point coming into the year (“We have 9 twenty-goal scorers”), is 18th in 5-on-5 GF% with 16 goals in 10 games.
Looking at tonight’s game flow from Natural Stat Trick and the team’s expected goals chart from Corsica, you can follow the game’s story. It was a timid, low action game overall, but especially in the first and second where Ottawa played Vancouver pretty equally [see game flow]. In fact, after 40 minutes, scoring chances were 13 - 10 in Ottawa’s favour, and 8 - 4 in terms of high quality scoring chances. This is why you see Ottawa’s blue ahead of Vancouver’s red in the xG graph. However, the team went into a shell for most of the third, gave up 70% of the shot attempts, and 7 high-danger scoring chances. Here’s where Condon really proved his worth, turning aside every opportunity that found its way to him. In terms of ice-time, Boucher really only played 8 forwards tonight, with Dzingel, Neil, Puempel, and McCormick all getting under 9 minutes of ice-time. Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman both played above 22 minutes tonight, and Tom Pyatt was third amongst forwards with just over 19 minutes of ice-time. Playing his first game of the year, Freddie Claesson was solid and actually led the team in 5-on-5 CF% tonight in his ~10 minutes of ice. As usual this season, Boucher rolled his top-four pretty frequently, with Karlsson, Methot, Ceci, and Phaneuf all over 20 minutes.
4. Thus, now is the time in the recap for some Mike Condon highlights, because obviously he’s a Sens Hero and I know that’s what you’re really here for:
Turning away Horvat in the second:
Stopping Hansen on a breakaway at in the middle of the third:
Showing good reaction time in preserving the Sens lead late in the third:
The team resumes play on Saturday night against Buffalo in the annual #HockeyFightsCancer game. Find out more information about the movement here, and participate if you can!