After a 3-1-3 start, there are some mixed feelings about the Senators right now. Which reflects my five thoughts on this Friday:
The King is back
Erik Karlsson failed to get on the scoreboard during his first game back on Tuesday, but he made his presence known on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils. His three assists reminded us that he can singlehandedly win a game for the Senators. I just love watching his highlights:
Unfortunately, Ottawa could not hang on for that statement to be true. Nevertheless, having Karlsson back is a game-changer, and I’m curious to see the team’s underlying numbers in the next few weeks since he completely changes the dynamics of everything.
I wonder how quickly he can take the lead in points by defensemen...I’ll say he reaches the top by mid-December.
Logan Brown should be sent back
Brown has played just twice in Ottawa’s first seven games and his average TOI is 7:50, but a large chunk of that time (6:13) is on the powerplay. I understand that being at the NHL level can be good for young players, and he’ll certainly gain some confidence for next season, but why even put him in the lineup if they aren’t going to trust him one bit?
I’m assuming that once Colin White comes back, Brown will head back to the OHL. I don’t think it was the wrong decision to keep him with the Senators, mainly because they don’t have much depth right now. But I think it’s a mistake to not at least see what he can do in maybe 10-12 minutes a night.
Instead, he’ll most likely play a total of 20 minutes or so at the NHL level, which is not nearly enough to show to the organization that he can play at this level.
And let’s be honest, I don’t think he’d be that much worse than someone like Nate Thompson if he was given more ice time. I just don’t think Guy Boucher trusts these younger players, and I’d be shocked if Brown played more than say four games.
Hopefully he can have a monster year in Windsor and come back even better.
Mark of consistency
After seven games, Mark Stone has a solid three goals and three assists. He looks like he’s fully healthy and it’s great to see him producing up front. However, even if he isn’t getting on the scoresheet, he’s remarkably consistent.
Every game, he amazes me with how many puck battles he wins. There will be times where an opponent is about to step out of the corner with the puck, and I just expect Stone to take it right back, and he will. Some players like Mike Hoffman and Bobby Ryan rely on their scoring prowess to be effective players, but it’s a real treat to have Stone, who has such a high baseline that he will probably be very solid every single game.
He may not get many scoring chances in a certain game, but he’ll at least be effective all around the ice in many different facets. The good news is that he has his scoring touch back as well, which Ottawa desperately needs. I don’t understand how he does it, but it’s incredibly fun to watch.
Reminder that all coaches are bad
There isn’t a single coach in hockey (or any sport for that matter) that is perfect. In fact, most make some terrible decisions frequently. I like Guy Boucher overall, but he has a common blindspot: his over-reliance of sub-par role players.
He opened 3 on 3 overtime with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Tom Pyatt, and Cody Ceci, and it is absolutely predictable that the Devils scored 1:20 in OT without Ottawa even getting solid possession. Pageau is a fine player to put out in overtime (and not sub-par), but starting the period with Cody Ceci over the best defenseman in the league makes no sense. Additionally, there should be six or seven other forwards ahead of Pyatt.
As Mike points out, you have to play overtime with urgency:
3-on-3 is like extra innings. You have to treat every shift like it's your last. Put your best players on the ice.— Social Gathering (@gosensgo101) October 20, 2017
That trio is rarely ever going to score a goal, and at 3 on 3, it is incredibly hard for anybody to “slow the other team down.” The game last night was eerily similar to the season opener vs. the Washington Capitals, and it’s frustrating seeing them drop two points from those two games.
A 3-1-3 record is still decent, but this team should easily be at 5-1-1.
Tough test tomorrow night
The Senators will have their first Battle of Ontario tomorrow night, and it will be a big game in terms of bragging rights amongst the fan bases. More importantly though, it should be a good measuring stick for Ottawa. They are pretty much healthy at this point, so there are no excuses for a poor performance.
Even at home, it shouldn’t be an easy win though. As much as we don’t want to admit it, the Leafs are quite good. They have a 6-1-0 record, good for 2nd in the league, plus they’re first in goals for and goal differential. Their defensive play is still suspect, but it will be a real test for the Senators to try to shut down that offense.
I just really hope Ottawa wins because their next meeting isn’t until January 10th. That’s a long time for bragging rights.