Another game, another loss. Since coming back from Sweden, the Senators haven’t looked very great, and that carried on into tonight’s game against the New York Islanders. You could maybe forgive the Sens’ lack of jump since it was the second half of a back-to-back, but considering they’d lost five in a row, you would’ve hoped for a better effort.
The Sens welcomed back Zack Smith, meaning Nick Paul and his... penalty killing game?... will likely head back to the AHL soon. Also returning was Fredrik Claesson, who apparently wasn’t allowed to play on his birthday, with Thomas Chabot the healthy scratch.
The first period started off slow, and started the game-long trend of lots of penalties. The Senators actually held their own to start the period, but then Guy Boucher, with the power of his last change, decided to put Nate Thompson, Cody Ceci, and Dion Phaneuf out there (with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mike Hoffman) against the John Tavares line, with predictable results. The Sens were held in their own zone for a long time, and it started a trend of the Sens being behind in the game. They were forced into two penalties, but some strong goaltending from Craig Anderson kept them in the game. Ottawa did manage a post and an earned powerplay of their own late in the period, but overall Ottawa was lucky to still be tied with the Islanders.
The second period featured five (!!) more powerplays, three for the Sens and two for the Isles. However, the Isles got the only goal of the period, partly due to the Sens still looking lost on the powerplay. I’m hardly an expert on powerplays (or anything related to hockey strategy), but I can’t imagine never having net-front presence until after the shot is taken is a great idea. The Sens seem insistent on having little movement, and keeping three guys above the faceoff dots most of the time. The Sens in all honesty generated very little in terms of quality chances during the period. They played with none of the urgency you’d expect from a team on a five-game losing streak.
Also, Anders Lee was credited with the Isles’ goal eventually after being an effective net-front presence (hint hint), screening Anderson, and tipping a Josh Bailey shot home.
The third period saw three more penalties. The first went to Alexandre Burrows, who most of the time I willfully forget even plays for this team. Then Anderson sold a goalie interference penalty on Jordan Eberle just as the puck entered the net (though incidental contact was a big part of the play, and the goal shouldn’t have counted either way). Cal Clutterbuck also took a penalty I forgot. However, the Isles’ PK was great and the Sens got even less going than usual on these last two.
Jordan Eberle would all but seal it with 6 minutes left. After Matthew Barzal skated two laps around the Sens zone, he dished to Nick Leddy who found Eberle in the slot. Andy committed to the shot, and Eberle backhanded it to the open side. Ottawa would find life though, when Matt Duchene of all people finally got a point. He picked up a rebound on the doorstep and potted it, ending what was likely the most bothersome scoring drought of his career. That energized the team and the crowd, with the Sens pouring on the pressure for the last few minutes, but they couldn’t get the tying goal. It would’ve been nice to see that urgency for more than 145 seconds, but hey, it also would be nice to not have so many losses in a row.
- Guy Boucher actually seemed to start giving Duchene skilled linemates like Hoffman and Stone. Duchene’s goal came when he got to play with Brassard and Stone. Funny how playing good players together leads to good things.
- Mike Hoffman finished the night with 8 shots on goal and 1000 misses. Derick Brassard had 9 shots on goal.
- Erik Karlsson seemed to bobble the puck a few times on the night, and at least twice failed to hold the puck onside when receiving a pass at the blue line. His skating seemed off since he came back, but most of the rest of his game looked good until tonight. He smashed his stick after the game ended, so maybe he’s also frustrated he’s not playing at 100%.
- I realized mid-way through the third that I hadn’t noticed Mark Stone at all in this game. That’s a couple games of inivisibility I’ve seen for Ottawa’s best forward. This team’s not going to be good if he’s not playing well.