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Week Ahead: VIII - November 19th to November 25th

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The Sens start their first big road trip of the season against the Metropolitan Division.

2017 SAP NHL Global Series - Ottawa Senators v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images

Senators @ Rangers

Sunday, November 19th 7:00 PM
SN, TVAS, MSG

Prev game : @Blue Jackets, Friday, November 17th (2-0 L)
Next game : @Hurricanes, Wednesday, November 22nd

Hot : Kevin Shattenkirk - 17P (5G, 12A) in 20 games
Cold : Jimmy Vesey - 5P (4G, 1A) in 20 games
Injured : -

Tonight’s game against the Jekyll-and-Hyde Rangers will be fascinating. There are a ton of storylines here: Ottawa eliminated New York in the 2017 playoffs, but are on second half of a back-to-back; Alain Vigneault is still on the coaching hot-seat and since the Metropolitan is so competitive, the Rags can’t afford to lose any ground (take this: with 20 points, the Rangers are second-last in their division. The Sens are in a playoff spot with 22 points); Mika Zibanejad is the team’s leading scorer.

They’ve been scoring goals like usual — with 63 being good enough for second in their division. However, they’ve given up 67 goals (!). Henrik Lundqvist (17GP) has a .908 sv% and new backup Ondrej Pavelec is at a .886 sv% in 5 starts. Craig Anderson’s line isn’t too far off from this either, so it’ll be interesting to see if this game turns out as a score-fest with no goaltending, or if one of Anderson/Lundqvist can rebound from their poor starts to the season.

A Thing To Watch Out For: the Rangers powerplay, which has been deadly in terms of generating high-danger shots when they can. Zibanejad is the big shot on this one, being used in a role that he should’ve been used more in while in Ottawa, usually slotting in between the left point and left faceoff circle like he did for Sweden internationally. Their for/against heat maps at 5-on-5 are hilarious because they’re basically equivalent: they generate shots in front of the net but allow similar chances defensively. Like Ottawa, the Rangers usually lose the shot battle outside of the first-line matchup (Zibanejad & Buchnevich) — will Boucher hard-match defensively matchup or go power-on-power?

Senators @ Capitals

Wednesday, November 22nd 7:00 PM
SNE, TVAS, NBCSWA

Prev game : Flames, Monday, November 20th
Next game : Lightning, Friday, November 24th

Hot : John Carlson - 17P (2G, 15A) in 21 games
Cold : Dmitry Orlov - 4P (2G, 2A) in 21 games
Injured : Andre Burakovsky (IR - thumb), Christian Djoos (day-to-day)

Like the Rangers, the Caps are still scoring goals (61) but are also giving them up at a higher rate than last year (66). Brayden Holtby’s still got a .921 sv% in 15 starts, but backup Philipp Grubauer has struggled out of the gate with a .876 sv% in 8 games. He’s been pulled in two of his 8 games this season and the Caps haven’t won a single game he’s started.

They’ve also been hurt by the loss of Andre Burakovsky to injury. Five of the Caps top-six have double-digit points, but their depth scoring hasn’t been there outside of first-rounder Jakub Vrana (7P). On defence, there’s a similar drop from Carlson (17P) to Madison Bowey (5P). Matt Niskanen is finally healthy again, but the Caps ability to hurt you in transition is definitely weaker compared to previous incarnations. Most Caps players are in the red in terms of shot metrics — a rare sight — and the skilled forwards (Ovechkin and Kuznetsov) are playing high-event, which has hurt the team.

In the first game of the season, Ottawa and Washington played pretty a even game until Ovechkin broke out for a hat-trick — but that was without Erik Karlsson. Expect a different matchup this time.

Senators @ Blue Jackets

Friday, November 24th 7:00 PM
TSN5, RDS, FS-O

Prev game : Flames, Wednesday, November 22nd
Next game : @Habs, Monday, November 27th

Hot : Artemi Panarin - 14P (4G, 10A in 20 games
Cold : Nick Foligno - 8P (3G, 5A) in 20 games
Injured : Alex Wennberg (day-to-day), Lukas Sedlak (day-to-day, ankle), Matt Calvert (IR - UBI)

The Jackets are second in the Metropolitan and have gotten there by keeping goals out of their net. Sergei Bobrovsky’s .933 sv% has him as one of the Vezina favourites, as his lights-out play has helped the Jackets overcome only having five players (two of whom are Jones - Werenski) with >10 points in 20 games.

As a team, the Jackets are efficient. Despite their mobile defence corps, they barely shoot from the point and instead, elect to take some ice to get the puck to the front of the net. On defence, they do an incredible job protecting almost all areas of the ice outside of Erik Karlsson’s Spot and Erik Karlsson’s Back Door Pass Spot. Outside of Boone Jenner’s “shutdown” group, they consistently win the shot battle, too.

If the Sens win this contest, it may be because top-line forward Alexander Wennberg — who’s been outstanding with Panarin and Cam Atkinson — is injured. Therefore, either Derick Brassard or Matt Duchene will be going up against a line that they could potentially beat at 5-on-5. Expect a tight game.

Islanders @ Senators

Saturday, November 25th 7:00 PM
CITY, MSG+

Prev game : @Flyers, Friday, November 24th
Next game : Canucks, Tuesday, November 28th

Hot : Josh Bailey - 23P (4G, 19A) in 19 games, Mathew Barzal - 18P (4G, 14A) in 19 games
Cold : -
Injured : Shane Prince (IR - ankle), Nikolai Kulemin (IR - shoulder)

The Islanders are coming off a game where they handed the Tampa Bay Lightning their third regulation loss of the season, and since they have games-in-hand, there’s a chance that they may be first in their division coming into Ottawa on Saturday night. The complete opposite of #Lumbus, the Isles have scored their way to success, with their 71 goals only trailing Tampa and Toronto in the East. There’s skill throughout their lineup, and it’s been interesting glancing at the boxscores because there’s a clear pattern: Josh Bailey (19A) and rookie Mat Barzal (14A) are the set-up dudes while John Tavares (14G) and Anders Lee (11G) are the finishers. Add in players like Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Ho-Sang, Brock Nelson, and co. down the lineup and the Isles can beat you in many ways.

Out of the four games this week, this matchup is probably the most interesting from a systems-level. The Isles like to funnel everything through the middle of the ice, where the Sens give up zilch. And unlike the Jackets, the Isles do give up a fair bit defensively in front of their net. Transition play will be key: if the Sens forwards are able to disrupt Bailey and Barzal through the neutral zone, they may be able to run a quick counter. However, if the Isles are free to enter Ottawa’s zone, they have the skill to dice-up the Sens defensive coverage and potentially pot a couple on Anderson/Condon, who have given up their fair share of goals this season. Although this is the team’s second back-to-back this week, the Isles will also be tired as they play the Flyers in Philadelphia on Friday.