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Game 21 Preview: Ottawa Senators @ Columbus Blue Jackets

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Time to get the Sens rolling again

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Ottawa Senators Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t been a pretty last couple weeks, has it? After scraping out (or at least overcoming their goaltending in) a pair of 4-3 wins in Sweden over the Avalanche, the Senators returned to North America to drop four straight: a regulation loss to the Penguins giving them their first second-half back-to-back win of the year, an OT loss to the league-worst Arizona Coyotes, a shutout at the hands of the Rangers, and then Wednesday’s collapse against the Capitals. The Sens look to get back on track tonight against a team I often forget exists, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Sens claimed Gabriel Dumont off waivers a couple days ago, which means Boucher will play 12 F and 6 D for at least one game. Per Sens Media, Claesson will sit (!!) and Andy will start. Boucher keeps his lines intact for about a shift so lines don’t matter, but anyway, here’s the initial assumption of lines and pairings:

Dzingel - Brassard - Stone
Pyatt - Duchene - Ryan
Hoffman - Pageau - Burrows
Thompson - Paul - Dumont

Oduya - Karlsson
Phaneuf - Ceci
Harpur - Chabot

Anderson (starter)
Condon

Here are some thoughts on tonight’s game:

  • Brace yourself: lots of hate coming. If you don’t like negativity, just skip to the stats section
  • First of all, why is Fredrik Claesson scratched? I thought after last year he proved himself. In terms of Erik Karlsson’s partner, he’s been about as good as Dion Phaneuf in terms of improving Karlsson’s already gaudy stats, and Johnny Oduya has managed to drag Karlsson down to break-even in terms of shot metrics (all stats via Natural Stat Trick) in about 100 minutes. I think I’d sit every defenceman on this team other than Karlsson and maybe Phaneuf for Claesson
  • Also it’s Claesson’s birthday. Scratching him for the first time this season on his birthday is a dick move getting up there with Paul MacLean scratching Patrick Wiercioch in Vancouver, or Torts sitting Roberto Luongo during the Heritage Classic
  • I guess, at least Chabot gets to play? And quarterback his own PP2?
  • The Lightning claimed Chris DiDomenico on waivers today, so effectively the Sens traded DiDo (6 points in 15 career games, 6 in 12 this year) for Gabriel Dumont (7 points in 64 games career, 0 in 7 this year). I don’t know how DiDo so quickly went from Duchene’s wing to “get him out of here at all costs”
  • Boucher’s insistence on shuffling lines frustrates me. Partly because it often involves putting grinders like Pyatt and Thompson (who have been fine this year, mind you) with scorers like Brassard and Duchene. I don’t get why you dilute your offence, especially when this team went almost five periods in a row without a goal
  • I think Matt Duchene will score soon. He’s looked so dangerous since coming over. That being said, I think it would be nice of Boucher to give him Mark Stone at least once. If you want to get Bobby Ryan going, why not try Ryan-Duchene-Stone for a shift or two? It worked wonders with Brassard, and Duchene is (hopefully) the better player.
  • What has Nick Paul done to stay in the lineup? I guess he’s been killing penalties, but I’d still like to see a bit of Colin White at the NHL level
  • I’d also like to see Craig Anderson play well in consecutive games. He looked downright awful at times against the Capitals. I think he took a nap on the Evgeny Kuznetsov goal. We know Andy’s better than this, I’d just like to see it
  • According to resident auto-rec-receiver Ian Mendes, the Sens haven’t lost three games in a row in regulation since Boucher took over. That’s on the line tonight. As NKB pointed out, this is kind of the first stretch of adversity Boucher’s Sens have faced, and responding by scratching Claesson is exactly what I would’ve expected someone like Dave Cameron or Mike Milbury to do
  • Dave Poulin made an odd comment on the broadcast a couple weeks ago that I think bears repeating because it’s so false and because Boucher seems to believe it: he argued the Sens have some good pairs in Brassard-Stone and Hoffman-Pageau, so they want to get Duchene-Ryan going. Let’s remember: Stone is really, really good. Every centre he’s played with (Brassard, Turris, Pageau) has been the no. 1 centre. Hoffman is a scorer, and I don’t know where this Hoffman-Pageau nonsense came from, but it needs to stop. Hoffman plays best with skilled players - Hoffman and Stone with any of this team’s top-three centres would be a killer line. I think it’s just that good players look good, so guys like Stone and Hoffman can make a specific centre look good. I don’t think this team is well-served by playing Thompson with Brassard and Stone or Pyatt with Pageau and Hoffman even once. It’s taking your best players and making them drag around guys who aren’t going to score. I know very little about hockey, so I can’t imagine why a student of the game and all-around smart guy like Guy Boucher thinks something like this. He puts Hoffman with Stone-Brassard every time he needs a goal, so I ask myself “Why doesn’t he just do this more? Why does he insist on playing Hoffman on a checking line until the Sens are losing?” I don’t have any answers, just complaints
  • OK, some positives: this team still has the best player in the world in Erik Karlsson, Thomas Chabot played 15:36 against the Caps and looks to be getting more responsibility tonight, there’s no way a powerplay with this much talent can be this bad for this long, we all know Anderson’s capable of more, and Mark Stone is great at everything he does

Alright, here are some stats for tonight’s game, via NHL.com except for Corsi and Fenwick from NaturalStatTrick.com:

Team Stats

Category Ottawa Senators New York Islanders
Category Ottawa Senators New York Islanders
-- Value Rank Value Rank
Goals/GP 3.10 10th 3.68 2nd
Goals against/GP 3.24 24th 3.27 25th
Shots/GP 30.7 22nd 31.1 18th
Shots against/GP 29.6 4th 32.7 23rd
Corsi (5v5, Score & Venue Adjusted) 47.87 23rd 50.53 15th
Fenwick (5v5, SVA) 50.02 16th 49.98 17th

Player Stats

Category Ottawa Senators New York Islanders
Category Ottawa Senators New York Islanders
-- Player # Player #
Goals Mark Stone 13 John Tavares 15
Assists Erik Karlsson 16 Josh Bailey 22
Points Mark Stone 22 Josh Bailey 27
Shots Mike Hoffman 73 John Tavares 68
TOI/GP Erik Karlsson 25:13 Nick Leddy 22:16