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Sens miss opportunities, lose Game 1

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With three of Boston’s top-four defencemen out for a majority of the game, the Sens had a Game 1 victory in their sights. The Bruins scored two third period goals to win, 2-1.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

That’s going to sting.

Sure, the referees putting their whistles away in the third didn’t help, but when you outshoot an injury-ridden Boston team and dominate for a fair share of the first 40 minutes, we expected a win.

Some narratives were right on the money tonight, like the Bergeron line being dominant, the Sens getting into penalty trouble, and a fierce goaltending battle between Craig Anderson and Tuukka Rask. However, some were flipped on its head, like the Sens (!) winning the shot battle with a 54% CF% on the back of their newfound depth.

After announcing that Methot wouldn’t play and that Dzingel wouldn’t draw in, Guy Boucher tried something new in the first period – an aggressive forecheck. The Sens pressed with two forwards for most of the period, leading to a ton of scoring chances for, but also a ton against. The first 10 minutes were even, with MacArthur – Turris – Stone and Burrows – Brassard – Stalberg generating chances for Ottawa while Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak answered for the B’s. Speaking of Pastrnak, he could’ve come away from the first period with a hat-trick.

His first chance came with a significant momentum shift due to a Mark Stone (!) tripping penalty at the ~10-minute mark. The dangerous Czech forward slid in from the left faceoff dot a few times on the Sens stagnant PKers, hitting the post with an attempt before the powerplay ended. After, Patrice Bergeron fed Pastrnak on a two-on-one, but Anderson was there to stretch out the left pad to stop him again. After Marchand and Stone (!) took minor penalties a couple seconds apart, Phaneuf and Ceci (who were disastrous tonight – more on that later) ran into each other and Pastrnak came away with the puck. Despite a breakaway from the blueline in, Anderson was there once again.

The Sens had their fair share of chances as well, with Bobby Ryan – who started on the 4th line – getting a pair of shots in tight on Rask and Derick Brassard being a recipient of a 4-on-4 breakaway as well.

The period did end with a decisive edge in play to the Bruins, further encapsulated with Marchand deking Phaneuf out in a 1-on-2 situation before forechecking Pageau into a delay-of-game period in the final minute. Luckily, the Sens came out unscathed, partly due to a Cody Ceci won battle at the goal line to prevent a Ryan Spooner PP goal in the dying seconds.

We saw an entirely different Senators team in the second period. Boucher, likely not happy with what he saw defensively in the first, went back to the “frustrating” neutral zone system that got the Senators into the playoffs and it paid dividends. The Senators outshot the Bruins 12-0 in the period – the first time in franchise history that they shut a team out of the shot clock in the playoffs.

Momentum swung when Mark Borowiecki took Colin Miller out of the game with an aggressive pinch in the neutral zone that ended up with a knee-on-knee collision and a Borowiecki minor penalty. With Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo already out, the possession-wizard Miller was tasked with a heavier workload but was unable to return.

You really saw the impact on the Bruins, with the team unable to move the puck through the neutral zone and the Sens backchecking hard as a five-player unit to turn the puck over quickly. Erik Karlsson, who still led the Sens with ~19 minutes of 5-on-5 time despite skating gingerly all night, managed to still have an impact, as he flipped the puck from the defensive zone up the left boards. The guy to skate into it? Bobby Ryan, who pressured Adam McQuaid into the turnover, took the puck to the net, and stayed with it for a wonderful second-effort goal that had chants of “Bobby! Bobby!” ringing throughout the Canadian Tire Centre. You know what they (especially Sean Bergenheim, Bryan Bickell, and Bruins F Matt Beleskey) say, the playoffs are an opportunity to re-write narratives. With his first goal in areallylongtime, Bobby put the home team up 1-0.

Throughout this dominant stretch of the play, the Sens rolled all four lines and it seemed like almost every player had a scoring chance at some point during the period. Tuukka Rask and the Bruins kept them at bay though, and the game entered the third with a 1-0 Sens lead.

After around 25 minutes of game-time without a shot on goal, the Bruins tied it up on their first scoring chance. With Clarke MacArthur and Mark Borowiecki giving the puck up twice without clearing, Riley Nash ends up with the puck near the right face-off circle and finds a wide-open Vatrano, who has some space to skate into the puck and fire it Anderson to knot the game at 1.

You could feel the relief on the Bruins bench, as they began to counter the Sens and get the puck into the offensive zone. With the game mostly at a standstill and many fans thinking overtime, Bruce Cassidy managed to take advantage of Guy Boucher’s puzzling Hoffman – Pageau – Pyatt; Phaneuf – Ceci matchup against the Bergeron line and leave the game with the last laugh. Get this: there were only four Bruins forwards to finish the night winning the shot battle, and Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak were at ~65%. After the initial shot from Bergeron was blocked, Anderson had no chance and Marchand beat Phaneuf to the open puck to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead with only 3 minutes to play.

Erik Karlsson, despite being on the ice for over half of the Sens 51 5-on-5 shot attempts for the night (bless his soul), just didn’t have the speed or the time to dice the Bruins up. The Sens managed to get decent zone time and Craig Anderson out for the last minute and a half, but other than a Mark Stone chance near the buzzer, they were unable to get any good looks at the net.

Remember how we were talking about narratives that were flipped on its head tonight? The Senators, despite scoring the first goal and entering the third period with a lead, gave up two to a depleted Bruins squad to lose Game 1.

Ouch.

Sens Hero: Bobby Ryan

Unfortunately for Ryan, the team’s losing record with him in the lineup continues, but it definitely wasn’t because of his play. Despite being 11th in forward ice-time at 5-on-5 (just being Tommy Wingels), Ryan showed his skill in scoring the first goal and was relentless all night. Among other things, he took the puck to the net a ton. The Sens really need their depth forwards to win matchups if they plan on taking this series, and since that’s what Ryan is now, he’s one of the players that will be counted on to deliver. Good start.

Honourable Mention: Guy Boucher

Imagine getting your team into the playoffs, proving the haters wrong, and winning a majority of Game 1, only to have your team collapse? I’m mixed on Boucher tonight. Some of it isn’t his fault: his biggest weapon – Erik Karlsson – is clearly playing on one leg so he kind of has to play Phaneuf – Ceci against the Bergeron line. However, as fellow writer NKB mentioned during the game, hard-matching doesn’t seem to work. The best line in hockey have played all season together and can see the ice with tremendous vision – therefore, you’ll likely need a structured team effort to limit their effectiveness fully. By hard-matching though, the Sens managed to win almost every other matchup tonight (see this visualized below via the wonderful @IneffectiveMath) Regardless if Colin Miller is out for Game 2, the B’s still have a bruised up D corps. The Sens should’ve taken advantage in Game 1, but will still have a similar opportunity in Game 2.

Sens Killers: You already know

…but I will mention that Charlie McAvoy, teammate of Sens prospect Colin White at the USA World Juniors and the defenceman who went up against Thomas Chabot, was impressive tonight. He played almost 20 minutes of 5-on-5 action, mainly with Zdeno Chara, and was close to even in the shot count. Although he bobbled the puck a fair bit in the first and second – expected for your first freakin’ NHL game – he was also the blueliner who kept the puck in multiple times on the Bruins game-winning goal. His play was impressive, and something we should keep in mind when Boucher and co. try to make up some sort of excuse as to why Thomas Chabot isn’t “ready” to play decent NHL minutes next year. If McAvoy can play this well in Game 1 of the playoffs (!!), then Chabot can likely play quality minutes.

Game Flow and Heat Map via Natural Stat Trick