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Game 35 Preview: Ottawa Senators @ Boston Bruins

Is it even worth calling a must-win?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins
Memories of happier meetings between these teams
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Senators come back from Christmas break in the closest thing to a must-win the team has seen this season, at least if you’re not Trevor and still holding onto hope of making the playoffs. The Bruins hold the final Atlantic Division playoff spot. With the Lightning a near-lock to win the division, and the Maple Leafs likely holding down the second spot, the Bruins are the team to chase. The Sens are currently 13 (!!) points behind them with zero games in hand. A win tonight would essentially be a gain of four points. A loss tonight would do a lot to wreck already slim playoff chances. Sports Club Stats puts the Sens at 2.5% to make the playoffs. That rises to 3.5% after a regulation win, and drops to 1.7% after a regulation loss, which is a huge change after a single game in December.

Craig Anderson starts in goal. Bobby Ryan returns to the lineup for three shifts as well as Dion Phaneuf, the latter fresh off becoming a dad. Ben Harpur was recalled but looks to be a scratch. Here are the lines and pairings:

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

Oduya - Karlsson
Phaneuf - Ceci
Claesson - Chabot

Anderson (starter)


  • The Bruins are the best Fenwick (unblocked 5v5 shot attempts) team in the league. The Sens have now slipped to almost 49%. That’s not good. I realize 51-49 is only a 2% difference, but that adds up over a season. We all know intuitively that getting more pucks toward the net than your opponent is important for winning. Data examinations have backed up this intuitive thought. Guy Boucher seemed to have found The System to beat the odds last year, but this year whether it’s a change in system, injuries to key players, or teams having figured it out, this team is playing like a team that doesn’t deserve to win most games.
  • One of Boucher’s flaws is one of most coaches: a view of veteran players as safe. Ary detailed in last game’s recap how Chlapik, Paul, and DiDomenico each got ~8 minutes of ice time while Pyatt, Thompson, and Burrows each got ~14. I’m not saying swapping those wins you the game. I’m saying swapping those gives you a better chance to win. Maybe it only goes from 40% to 43%, but isn’t that still worth doing? I assume the offence you get from a guy like Filip Chlapik more than makes up for whatever “veteran safeness” Alexandre Burrows seems to bring. The Sens may not be a good team this year, but they are undoubtedly worse if Burrows or Nate Thompson are getting top-six minutes.
  • I’ve said before that a team with Erik Karlsson is incapable of tanking. This season is testing that theory.
  • still had Karlsson as the 14th-best fantasy asset for the rest of the season. That seems generous to me considering the team’s recent trajectory.
  • The Sens have been shut out 6 times this year. For comparison, they were shut out 4 times all of last season.
  • Thomas Chabot is playing in the lineup tonight, though he’s still not trusted. Interesting to see Charlie McAvoy on the other side who’s being played as the Bruins’ second-best defenceman. You could argue for Boston it’s because of personnel needs, but can you really come up with three defencemen who deserve ice time ahead of Chabot on the Sens?
  • Even as this team’s playoff odds keep moving towards zero, I can’t stop cheering for them. Fandom is a weird thing.

Here are some stats for the team via, as always, and

Team Stats

Category Ottawa Senators Boston Bruins
Category Ottawa Senators Boston Bruins
-- Value Rank Value Rank
Goals/GP 2.68 25th 3.25 6th
Goals against/GP 3.44 30th 2.56 3rd
Shots/GP 30.7 24th 32.8 11th
Shots against/GP 33.0 25th 29.3 2nd
Powerplay % 16.7 26th 23.5 4th
Penalty Kill % 76.2 27th 83.3 4th
Corsi (5v5, Score & Venue Adjusted) 46.32 29th 53.97 2nd
Fenwick (5v5, SVA) 46.94 27th 54.01 1st

Player Stats

Ottawa Senators Boston Bruins
Ottawa Senators Boston Bruins
-- Player # Player #
Goals Matt Duchene 27 Brad Marchand 34
Assists Erik Karlsson (out) 53 Brad Marchand 51
Points Karlsson/Stone (both out) 62 Brad Marchand 85
Shots Mike Hoffman 253 David Pastrnak 236
TOI/GP Erik Karlsson (out) 26:44 Zdeno Chara 22:53