It seems like all of Ottawa’s worst games this season have had five goals against — Winnipeg, Washington, Columbus, Vegas — so when David Backes scored a stinker on Anderson with less than two minutes to play to make it 5-1, I logically responded with a “yes, this seems right.”
For the second straight game (and my second straight recap, sorry), the Senators — outside of Filip Chlapik and Thomas Chabot — looked lost. And what’s been a striking trend thus far, the struggles started in net.
Craig Anderson’s dismal .783 sv% (18 saves on 23 shots) was indicative of how he played, as although there were some defensive lapses in front of him, there were positional errors on four of Boston’s five goals.
Goal #1: Kevan (
not Kevin) Miller with a bomb from the right point. Miller only gets that chance because Anderson failed to handle the weaker David Backes wrist-shot earlier in the play. When Anderson’s on his game (or any goalie, rather), they absorb pucks and rebounds fall safely in front of them. Anderson’s been like a Pez Dispenser this season.
- Goal #2: This is the one I don’t really fault Anderson for, but one that makes me feel sorry for Erik Karlsson (who was -2 on the night). As always, Karlsson tries to exit the zone with control but a forward can’t handle the puck. Thus, the Bruins bring the puck back into the zone and Fredrik Claesson, on his off-side, tries to exit the zone by smacking the puck off the glass (error numero uno). Ryan Spooner ends up circling back into the zone with speed, dips wide around Claesson (error numero dos) and centres the puck. It skips past Karlsson, who in my view, played the play correctly as he tried to cut off the pass in tight, and ends up on the stick of Danton Heinen, who taps it by Anderson.
- Side note: Claesson, who I think is most at fault on the goal against, didn’t have a good game. Later in the first period, he tries to be too aggressive in the neutral zone and nails Noel Acciari before the Bruins forward receives the puck. The hit catches Acciari up high, and Claesson gets a game misconduct and five-minute major for a hit to the head. He also had to fight Tim Schaller in response, and got filled in (but at least it killed two minutes off the major penalty). Luckily for Claesson, the Sens PK game to play tonight. They held the Bruins to just one chance on the three-minute PP — Heinen hit the post — and did a good job of being aggressive on entries, which kept the Bruins from setting up. A recipe for success.
- Goal #3: Some people may fault Karlsson on this one, and they’re right, but I think it’s a stop Anderson could make. Down two goals in the second period, Karlsson tries to generate offence from the point but gets his shot blocked by Riley Nash. Nash breaks away with speed, and despite pressure from Karlsson and Phaneuf, pots it top shelf 1.5 minutes in.
- Goal #4: Riley Nash again, and this one is the backbreaker. After the third goal against, the Sens started to get their legs under them and push play in their favour. They even managed to cut the lead to 3-1 (more on that later), and had numerous chances to get more — Dzingel by the left faceoff dots, Ryan in front of the net, Chlapik with a couple shots on goal. Despite this pressure, it’s the Bruins who strike again. With Dion Phaneuf retreating in his own zone to turn the puck back up ice, rookie Anders Bjork hounds him with speed, strips Phaneuf from the puck, and gets it to Nash who drives hard to the net. Nash is pressured by Nick Paul and Johnny Oduya, but Anderson bits on his deke and comes off the post, giving Nash the room he needs to score. It’s a play that Anderson is usually aggressive on, but instead, responded with hesitation.
- Goal #5: With the Bruins content to sit on the three-goal lead, the Sens had the puck for much of the third, but were unable to get anything of much quality on Rask. With less than two minutes remaining, Danton Heinen gets the puck to Matt Grzelcyk at the point and the young blueliner fires it for the bounce off the boards. Karlsson is covering in front of the net to prevent a seam pass, but Backes taps by Anderson — who wasn’t sealing the post.
Now although the Bruins controlled much of the first period (attempts: 20-9, shots 7-6 BOS), the Senators — perhaps by virtue of playing from behind — pushed play for much of the second and third. They were led, of course, by Thomas Chabot and Erik Karlsson, who were on the ice for more than half of the Senators shot attempts, played ~9 minutes of 5-on-5 time as a pairing, and put up >65% CF%.
With Claesson out of the game early and the Sens being down two after the first, we knew Chabot was going to get a ton of ice-time and he did just that: he finished with a career-high 21:17 — a minute more than Dion Phaneuf and Johnny Oduya — and looked good, too. Chabot scored the team’s only goal in the second period, and was helped by an aggressive initial pinch from Phaneuf. Dion ended up receiving the puck back at the point from Derick Brassard, and one-touched it to Chabot who bombed it on net past Rask.
It’s easy to compare Chabot to Charlie McAvoy given that just one year ago, they were starring for their respective countries at the World Juniors. McAvoy led all Bruins defenders with 21:35, and has been on the Bruins since the start of the season — earning the trust of the coaching staff during the playoff matchup with the Sens last season.
The other rookie who was noticeable tonight didn’t get any bump to his ice-time. Despite finishing with just 10:46, there were times that Filip Chlapik looked like the team’s top centre. He showcased his speed — going wide on the Bruins D on multiple occasions — and his shot, as he nearly fooled Tuukka Rask for his first NHL goal with a wicked shot in the second. He also put on display his best talent (imo), his hockey IQ. There was one play in the third where he won a puck battle down low, and instead of firing the puck up the wall to the point, he laid it softly up the boards so that Karlsson had time to skate over and receive it. For a team that lacks playmaking ability, and frankly, the skill to even receive a pass sometimes, Chlapik’s presence is welcomed and I hope he gets rewarded with increased opportunity as the season wears on. He’s been Belleville’s best and most consistent player this season.
Although they haven’t been deep in a while, the Bruins have quietly retooled and serve as a potential model for the Senators to follow. They have six rookies in their lineup, and although they’re led by their stars (Pastrnak - Bergeron - Marchand, who still haven’t been on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against in 200+ minutes this season), they give players like Heinen (2P tonight) and DeBrusk (15:45) consistent ice-time and opportunity. They certainly started off slow, but are 13-3-1 in their last 17 and are pushing Toronto for second in the Atlantic Division.
Boston’s veterans — Chara (18:10), Miller (18:52), Backes (15:53), Nash (14:23) — are quality and are often put in supporting roles. As rumours fly around Mike Hoffman, I’d much rather keep him and Stone as two pieces of Ottawa’s top-line, especially on his team-friendly contract, and look to shed some of the excess veteran depth around him instead. For a team that went 24-17-7 post-holiday break last season, the Sens have made their already uphill battle even harder by losing to an opponent that they have to chase; they play the Bruins again on Saturday.
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick
Heat Map via Natural Stat Trick