I have to admit, this was a game I was not really looking forward to recapping. I figured I’d be excited coming into the season after watching the Senators come within a goal of the Stanley Cup Finals, but watching this team’s defense corps without Erik Karlsson or Marc Methot wasn’t my metaphorical cup of tea. Seeing a top pairing of Johnny Oduya and Cody Ceci didn’t strike me as great.
The game opened with, what else, a faceoff violation call. Kyle Turris was waved out for a violation, and I was suddenly worried it was going to be a penalty-filled night. Mercifully, the opening draw still happened and the game got under way. It felt like a first game of the season — there was neither a whistle nor a shot on goal for the first five minutes of the game. It looked like both sides were trying to find their legs.
The Sens opened the scoring on a surprise play. After a nice pass to get into the zone by Bobby Ryan, Derick Brassard stopped up seeing he had no one keeping pace. He passed the puck back up the boards to Chris Wideman, who walked deep into the zone then threw the puck on net. It squeaked through Braden Holtby and over the line, and suddenly Ottawa had a 1-0 lead. Anyone who tells you they picked Wideman to get the first goal of the season is definitely lying. It would only last for 90 seconds though, when Brett Connolly snapped one home from the slot to tie things up. I actually noticed that the Oduya-Ceci pairing did a decent job of tying up Alex Ovechkin throughout the period.
The second period saw two notable events. The first was the Sens re-taking the lead, off Mark Stone’s stick. He stepped up on an errant pass in the neutral zone and passed it to Derick Brassard. Brassard dropped it to Stone, and Stone ripped it home. Sadly though, Oduya would also get injured and would end up leaving the game with a lower-body injury. It seemed to come off a ridiculous play when Evgeny Kuznetsov got frustrated about something and repeatedly drilled Oduya into the ground behind the Sens’ net. It was the kind of play I hope nets a suspension, because it was very far from a hockey play:
The third period opened eventfully, with four goals in the first seven minutes. Brassard picked up his first goal of the season (and third point of the night) just two minutes in. I think he was probably good to come back from injury. But then Alexander the Great would go to work, with Ovi picking up two goals in a span of just over a minute. What stung a little was Kuznetsov assisting on both of them, when it seemed to me like he shouldn’t have still been in the game after a deliberate injury on a Sens defenceman. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for Mark Stone (again!) to score, with a nice tip in front of the net.
We went nearly four minutes without a goal, before Ovi completed the hat trick. Kuznetsov picked up his third assist of the night, and rookie Jakub Vrana picked up his second. That would do it for the scoring and we headed to overtime.
In overtime, the good old-fashioned powerkill got a full two minutes to work with, but naturally Ottawa’s powerplay wasn’t going to do anything good. The best looks they got were unscreened wristers from the high slot by Kyle Turris. That sent it to a shootout, where Ryan did what he does best (score), but Ottawa’s other two shooters couldn’t sink one, and Ovechkin and Kuznetsov (sense a theme?) scored for the Caps. That did it, a 5-4 shootout victory for Washington in a game they never trailed in.
Sens Heroes: Ryan-Brassard-Stone
That line was dynamite tonight, combining for seven points. I was skeptical of putting two right-wingers on Brassard’s line, but it seems to be working for now. In particular I thought Stone looked good. It made me a little sad, thinking how off he looked all playoffs, thinking what could’ve been if the Sens actually had a healthy Mark Stone in any of those series.
Honourable Mention: The defence
Oduya’s injury meant everyone had to step up. Wideman had two points, but everyone had their contributions. Borowiecki didn’t look out of place, and the spread from most TOI (Dion Phaneuf) to least TOI (Boro) if you leave out Oduya was only 5:45. We knew it would have to be D by committee without Karlsson, and for one night at least, that happened.
Sens Zero: The powerplay
Sure, a powerplay without Karlsson hardly counts. Sure, it’s only the first game. But the powerplay looked pretty awful to me, hardly getting set up, not having any creativity once they did set up. And last year the team finished 23rd on the PP. The year before it was 26th. The year before that, 22nd. It’s been a consistent theme that the team doesn’t have good powerplays. I think this team has too much talent to have such an atrocious powerplay. Going 0/5 isn’t going to cut it against a team as good as Washington. They were lucky to squeak out a point in a game with that much wasted opportunity.
Explanation — the line moves toward the team name every time they get a shot attempt. So the Capitals got the first few shots of this game, then never really gave up their lead in shot attempts.
Explanation — The area over each team’s logo shows where they got most of their shots from. The darker the colour, the more shots. So in the left circle, you can see Washington got more shots from right in the crease and the right circle. Ottawa meanwhile got shots from higher in the slot, and towards the right point.