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Senators win 6-2 over Maple Leafs in pre-season opener

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Sens skill shines through against young Leafs lineup

NHL: Preseason-Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Ottawa Senators jumped out to an early lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs in this season’s pre-season opener, and never looked back. It was a messy game, with young players learning systems and old players getting their legs back, but the good news is that Ottawa won a game that—based on the respective lineups each team iced—they definitely should have won.

As expected, Ottawa’s top players—Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Craig Anderson—were very good. Dion Phaneuf was his typical, physical, dependable self. Most of the other veterans (Zack Smith, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Cody Ceci) looked like they were just getting their legs under them. Ottawa was heavily outshot, but their skill shone through because they had more of it in the lineup.

There were some nice goals, including Ceci’s—which was assisted by two spinorama backhand passes. But none was nicer than Hoffman’s second of the night:

This wasn’t just a pretty finish for Hoffman, though; he battled in the neutral zone to retrieve the puck after a lost faceoff, brought it back around, and set up a give-and-go with Christian Jaros before making every Leafs player on the ice look like they were standing still.

But more important than the (expectedly superb) performance of guys like Hoffman and Stone are the impressions of the young and new Senators players. So I’ll jump straight to those guys:

Thomas Chabot: Chaboy looked good, especially when on the offensive—as we could have guessed. His highlight was Ottawa’s fifth goal: Chabot carried the puck with speed through the neutral zone, banked it off the boards to himself, then retrieved it and started the cycle that led to a (rather flukey) Gabriel Gagne goal. In front of Ottawa’s net, though, Chabot looks very much like a rookie; for that, I wouldn’t be too surprised (or disappointed) if he spent some time in Belleville this season. Hey, even Erik Karlsson spent some time in the AHL as a rookie...

Gabriel Gagne: Speaking of Gagne, I noticed him early—he’s a big fella, and he stands out when he’s on the ice, even if his 6’5”, 192-pound frame has a bit of a Bambi look to it. But he made an impression, and ended up leading the Sens with a Rel CF% of 15.48. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in his sophomore season with the B-Sens.

Danny Taylor: With some stellar career numbers in the AHL and KHL, Taylor was an interesting acquisition for the Senators. He looked great in his first bit of action in the organization, stopping 14 of 15 shots faced, including some tough ones—he stymied Auston Matthews three times in the third period. It looks like Belleville is lucky to have this guy.

Francis Perron: Didn’t stand out too much, but he had one nice chance late in the second period when he cut into the slot to take a hard shot on net—and then got decked by Matt Martin. He also drew a penalty early in the game by getting in on the forecheck and finishing a check on Connor Carrick, and the sequence led to Tyler Randell’s game-opening goal.

Pius Suter: Suter is an interesting player, and there were some glimmers of skill shining through in the game. (I noticed three plays, in particular, that stood out, including a breakaway in which he beat Garrett Sparks but was robbed by a backchecking Leafs defender.) He looks like a defensively responsible player who might have something to his offensive game, so I hope he gets a contract and an opportunity in Belleville. I’d definitely like to see more.

Tyler Randell: He’s a seventh-year pro who you’d expect to know the ropes, and he didn’t disappoint in his Sens debut. In fact, he looked more like a skilled player than his resume would lead you to expect—Randell finished with a goal and an assist and put up a Rel CF% of 10.99 in just over 11 minutes of ice time, hardly any of which was with experienced NHL linemates. He’ll do well in Belleville, and might be high on Guy Boucher’s list of call-ups.

Colin White: I didn’t notice him much, but he apparently finished the game with a couple of shots and was... okay possession-wise (Rel CF% of 3.50). Late in the game, he took a shot in the arm and left—hopefully it’s not serious, but we’ll find out.

Johnny Oduya: I thought it was a great debut for the veteran, even if he posted an ugly Rel CF% of -10.50. You could clearly see his savvy play, and it sure looks like he’s still a smooth skater. If he ends up playing with Karlsson, he’ll be a different type of partner than Marc Methot, but I think he’ll be a suitable complement.

There were a few obvious standouts, but the surprise standouts (in my eyes) were Gagne, Suter, and Taylor. I’m looking forward to seeing more of those three, in particular, as the camp goes on.