The Ottawa Senators only played two games over the past week, both of which (you may have heard) occurred in Sweden. The Sens came away with a pair of hard-earned wins over the Avalanche, and with a whole lot of games in hand to make up over the rest of the East.
- Mark Stone... again! (Will that line ever get old?) Seriously though, Stone was all over the place in both games. In the Friday game, he looked like the only Senator who played the first 10 minutes of the game. He finished with two goals, including the OT winner. In the Saturday game, he scored again, and was robbed of an assist on the game winner. Just a dominant performance by Ottawa’s best forward.
- Mike Hoffman. It bodes well when Ottawa’s top two wingers are playing like it. Hoff had a lone assist on Friday, and then a two-goal performance on Saturday. Sure one was lucky, but he was also unlucky to hit the net on so few of his chances. On Friday he looked to me like he was passing to Matt Duchene too much, but he corrected that on Saturday and drained a pair of goals.
- Erik Karlsson. It also bodes well when Ottawa’s best player was so good. Two assists in each game nets him 17 points in 11 games this season, the 1.55 points/game being good enough for third in the entire league. His skating looked off in previous weeks, and though it wasn’t quite Karlsson-esque, it wasn’t a liability in Sweden. Some non-game time likely helped. His vision seemed top-notch, with several great stretch passes to set up breakaways or chances in tight. The lone blight on the weekend was his inability to corral a bouncing puck on the powerplay, setting up a Blake Comeau shorthanded breakaway goal. Hard to find much wrong with the captain’s game over the weekend.
- Matt Duchene looked nervous in his first 40 minutes in Ottawa, passing the puck too much, and only being notable on the backcheck. As the weekend went on though, he seemed to find his groove, making some strong offensive plays and reading his teammates’ thoughts better. Should’ve got his first point on Hoffman’s game-winner, but it’s only a matter of time until it comes.
- Chris DiDomenico had a goal on Friday, and was rewarded with some powerplay time and some time on the Duchene line. He looks like a solid bottom-six NHLer, which is impressive for a guy getting his first real taste of NHL action at 28.
- Fredrik Claesson got his first goal of the year, put up 7 shots over two games, and played a bunch of time as EK’s partner. I’m excited to see more of him higher up the defensive depth chart.
- Chris Wideman didn’t crack 10 minutes of ice time in either game, despite the team finishing with 24 shot attempts for and 3 (!!) against in his 5v5 ice time. He even spent a good chunk of Saturday at forward, only really getting D time on the powerplay
- Meanwhile Ben Harpur finished with 30 minutes on ice, despite finishing 21-39 in the 5v5 shot attempts, easily the worst on the team. To be fair to the guy, he was hurt, and trying to get back into game shape in Sweden playing NHL games is a tall order. Still, maybe it’d be best to not rush him into games so much?
- The big issue of the week though was the goaltending. The Sens outshot the Avs 72-37 over the weekend, and yet managed to squeak by with a pair of 4-3 victories (one in overtime). That’s just not good enough. I don’t think you can blame Mike Condon for any of the goals he allowed on Saturday, and Craig Anderson was solid coming on in relief on Saturday, but still six goals on 37 shots isn’t going to do the Sens any favours, especially since they struggle to hold their own in the shot counts of many games.
Who to Watch For
- I know I said it last week, but I’m gonna say it again: watch for Duchene. When the points start coming for him, I’m predicting there will be a few. Maybe a Penguins squad on a back-to-back that keeps getting blown out on the back half of back-to-backs is just what the doctor ordered.